Monday, September 20, 2010
The perfect job interview
With the unemployment rate still at a staggering 9.6 %, job opportunities are scarce and the competition for the few that are out there is fierce. The “gold rush” of cushy jobs with fancy titles and fancy salaries to match that was brought upon by the housing boom has fallen just as fast as property values have. A job market that once had the interviewee sitting pretty, while he or she entertained offers of stock options, 401K's and break rooms stocked with vending machines and foosball tables is now lucky to get free parking and a thirty minute lunch.
With hundreds of applicants for every opening, how do you set yourself apart if you were one of the lucky few chosen for a face-to-face interview? Here are some tips that could help turn that “foot in the door” into something more permanent.
1. Be prepared- try to find out as much as you can about the company and the position you are being interviewed for. Research isn’t just for college term papers anymore. Gather as much information as you can about the company; make yourself familiar with their mission statement, business practices and general ethos- not only does this show effort on your part, it also shows the person doing the interviewing how important getting the job is to you. Don’t be afraid to practice the process with a friend, come up with possible scenarios and questions you think you might be asked. The better prepared you are the less chance there is of you getting thrown off guard. And always bring, at a minimum, a copy of your resume and a pen, asking the person interviewing you for either can make you look very unprepared.
2. Be on time- this might seem obvious but it is absolutely crucial that you give yourself plenty of time to get to where you need to be. If you are unfamiliar with the location of the interview check the Internet for directions or use your GPS system to make sure you know where you are going. Leave yourself plenty of time for unforeseen circumstances like traffic and other small roadside emergencies. Remember when it comes to interviews, no one has ever not gotten a job for being too early, and if you know you are going to be late, at least call and let them know why and that you are on your way. Calling in advance is all difference between “running a little late” and being just plain inconsiderate. Also turn OFF your cell phone before the interview begins, even the “Vibrate” mode can be a deafening sound when it serves as an interruption to the interviewing process.
3. Dress the part- know what the culture of the company is like and dress accordingly. If you are interviewing at a bank or a law firm then a proper business suit is a must, at least for the first interview. If you are interviewing at a place known for their casual atmosphere or a place that requires some heavy lifting outdoors then wearing a suit might make you look out of place. When in doubt, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
4. Relax and observe- Stay calm and even keeled. Play off the mood or temperament of the person interviewing you. Observe your surroundings, look for things that you might have in common with the person sitting behind the desk. A diploma from a college that you might have both attended, a sports team that you both like or pictures of vacation spots that you may have both visited. Briefly discussing topics other than the job at hand can provide levity and common ground just as long as you don’t over do it.
5. Follow up- Always follow up with a thank you note or email to everyone who interviewed you. Do this no later than 2 days after the interview. This shows gratitude for the opportunity and makes everyone else who didn’t send a “thank you” note look like an ingrate, which in turn makes you look better!