Part 3: The three steps to interview success
By now, you've finished your resume and cover letter using the tips in "Writing strong resumes and cover letters" and flooded the internet with job applications based on the information in "Get out there!" Next, you're ready for the interview.
If you recall from the genesis of my career, clawing your way into a profession takes effort. The job interview is no different. Fortunately, career building is similar to strength training, running, or bicycling long distances. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. In addition, you won't need a see-through Spandex outfit, so that's nice.
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Below are the three tips I use to succeed in my interviews.
Before the interview
We've already covered the first element of pre-interview preparedness by writing a powerful resume and cover letter. Check! Now, make several copies of both. You may need them during the interview.
Next, research the company and review its job description. Knowing what they are looking for and understanding their values, mission, and culture will help you find a way to fit in.
Many interviewers ask, "What makes you want to work for us?" Suppose you don't know and say something like, "Your corporate leadership in protecting our fragile environment," when their business is to dump toxic waste into duck ponds and public playgrounds. If they sense you don't even know what they do, you will likely get a pat on the head and a polite "Run along, now."
Find a mentor and have them role-play an interview with you or look for questions the company has asked other candidates. An excellent place to find this type of information is Glassdoor.com. If you can't find someone to practice with, review your responses aloud in front of a mirror. This practice will help your answers feel natural and spontaneous.
During the interview
Dress appropriately for the interview (again, no outfits!). During your company research, you should see if they have a dress code and choose your attire accordingly. Business casual is a safe bet if they don't have a dress code. You want to avoid wearing a three-piece suit or gown while the interviewers are sporting shorts and sandals. Doing so will be awkward and show you didn't prepare.
Take several copies of your resume and cover letter. I have had many experiences where the people interviewing me didn't have copies of my resume to refer to during the interview. Being able to hand them a copy of my documents for review made the discussion flow smoothly despite the interviewer being unprepared.
Next, show up ten to fifteen minutes early for your interview. This extra time will give you a chance to relax and compose yourself. Use this time to organize your thoughts, review your notes, and ensure you have copies of your resume and cover letter organized.
If you will be late due to an unavoidable situation, such as a pile of rubber-necking rubes clotting up the freeway trying to gawk at someone else's misfortune, call ahead and let the company know the situation. Get off at the nearest exit and find a phone, if necessary. A dash of consideration will grant you an abundance of grace when problems arise.
Ask the person for their email address during the interview and write it down. We'll discuss this more in the next section.
Finally, be enthusiastic. Show the interviewer that you are excited about the opportunity and are a fun and energetic person to be around. If you get the position, you'll be spending a lot of time together, so assure them that their time with you will be productive and pleasant.
After the interview
As soon as you get home from the interview or as soon as you end the discussion, if it is online or via phone, send a thank-you email to everyone you interviewed with. Thank your interviewers for their time and reiterate your enthusiasm for the position. Let them know you're excited to work with them. By following up, you will stand out and show them that you are serious about the job.
Here is a template you may use when sending follow-up emails:
Hey, People Who Interviewed Me!
Thank you for the time you spent discussing your open Specific Job Title position with me today. I researched as much as possible before the interview. Still, our discussion gave me the details I needed to grasp the company's long-term objectives and understand how best to support the team in driving that vision.
I enjoyed our interview and am thrilled by the potential of working together on such an exciting project.
I stopped using valedictions in my emails since my email address includes my full name, and I like to buck tradition. However, if you feel this style is too stumpy, please add one.
I send two emails to the people I interview with. One immediately after the interview and another if I get an offer letter (more on that tomorrow). I usually send a group thank-you email right after the interview. However, I'll email each person who interviewed me individually if I get an offer. I like to personalize those messages.
You can send either individual or group emails for both the post-interview and post-offer missives if you wish. All that is important is that you thank those who interviewed you. Showing gratitude is valuable and gives you another chance to draw attention to yourself, which is good.
These three suggestions will help you set yourself above most of your competition. Of course, everything I've said here is old news, but few people do it for some reason. Making this extra effort will give you an edge over your rivals and could help you beat out individuals who may be the better candidate in other ways. I've seen it happen.
For today's challenge, follow all the suggestions in this post for your next interview. Did you notice a difference? If so, let us know in the comments.