We’ve all been there before. You get the call or e-mail inviting you to come in for a job interview. Great news! You’re ecstatic – until it hits you: you have an interview. Then, the panic just takes over. “What do I say?” “Will they like me?” “What is my biggest weakness?”
Before you know it, you run to the internet for help because let’s face it, we all do – which is probably why you’re reading this to begin with. The good news is, you can relax now because we’ve got you covered. Here are the ten most important things you need to know before the first handshake:
1. Remember to arrive early, but not too early.
Punctuality is key. Of course, sometimes things happen that are beyond your control, but take that into account and give yourself enough time to be there on schedule. A good rule of thumb is to get there no more than 15 minutes early, in case there’s paperwork to be filled out or other first steps. If you arrive earlier than that, you look desperate or worse – you look like you’ve got nowhere else to be, which is the last thing you want. If you get there too early, find a way to pass the time – you could walk into a coffee shop, order something and go over your prepared responses or key talking points (you do have those, right?).
2. Do thy homework in advance.
If your interviewer has to tell you basic information and details about the company you’ve applied to work at, you’re probably not getting the job. Make sure you know what the company does and demonstrate as much knowledge as you can. You don’t have to know everything, nor could you without working there, but you have to know something.
3. Dress the part.
Would you show up to play basketball without sneakers? You would? Well, okay then. But you shouldn’t be so lax when it comes to your job interview. When in doubt, a suit or fancier business attire is the way to go more often than not. If you’re applying to work at a tech startup, the rules might be different. But all of this goes back to doing your homework on the company in advance.
4. Thou shalt not be full of thyself.
You want to show confidence, but nobody likes a showoff. Communicate your skills and the things that make you a good fit for the company, but don’t start bragging. That’s going to make you more enemies than friends and, in a job interview, your goal is to make everyone you meet with like you.
5. Thou shalt not start bashing thy previous employer or boss.
The last thing you need is for the company you’re meeting with to think it’s only a matter of time before you start speaking about it that way. If you’re trying to launch your escape pod from a toxic employment situation, it’s best to just say you’re grateful for the opportunity your current employer gave you but you’re ready for a new, different challenge. You’ll have to explain why, but you can do that more eloquently, without throwing any punches.
6. Thou shalt not bring up vacation time.
Your interviewer wants a reason to give you the job. If you’re already asking about how much time you get away from that job, you won’t need to worry about it because you’ll be out of the running altogether.
7. Thou shalt not leave without asking any questions.
It happens in every interview. The person (or people) you meet with will inevitably ask if you have any questions. What sounds like a polite courtesy is actually more of a test – you are expected to have questions and, if you don’t, it makes you appear to be disinterested in the position. Besides, you’re there to learn, too. You owe it to yourself to make the most educated decision possible and to demonstrate to the company that you’re seriously considering the possibility of working there. If you don’t have any questions, you look like you just don’t care. Don’t make that mistake.
8. Thou shalt not leave without collecting business cards.
Sometimes, your interviewer will offer you his or her business card without you needing to ask, but if it doesn’t come up, make sure you do. Without their information, how are you supposed to follow up with your interviewers? Why wouldn’t they assume you’re not interested if you don’t take their contact info?
9. Remember to send thy thank you e-mail(s) and follow up.
After the interview, make sure to reiterate your appreciation for the time and consideration of your interviewers – all of them. Send them individual and unique thank you e-mails, and then leave the conversation alone. Don’t start bugging them or doing anything that might make them feel pressured. There’s a process and things don’t happen overnight. Follow up over time, but don’t start nagging them every day.
10. Thou shalt not forget copies of your resumé.
You may have sent your resumé to the hiring manager and, odds are, you’ll show up to the interview and everyone you meet with will already have a copy, but don’t assume anything. Always offer it. The worst case scenario is they do already have it and you look prepared.As for what that resumé looks like…that’s up to you. And you want to make sure it stands out and tells your story the right way. There’s only so much you can do with a regular word processor, but that’s where we come in.
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