I was recently talking to a good friend of mine who is entering the job market for the first time since college. Because this is the first time in 13 years that he is interviewing for a job, he is a bit nervous of what is ahead. Since he correctly assumes that his upcoming interviews will consist of a bit more rigor than asking about his contributions to his college fraternity, he asked me for a bit of advice on how to prepare for what’s ahead. By no means am I an expert on interviewing, but since I have been conducting an average of two interviews a week for the past few years, I can definitely say that I have seen it all: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright bizarre. Below are a few tips on how to present yourself in the best light to future employers. And unfortunately….everything mentioned in the “don’ts” below has definitely happened to me….and it has happened more than once:
Do: Write a concise resume. This is often your first, and sometimes only, impression to a future employer. Try to avoid the temptation to embellish your resume with fancy words and flowery descriptions. If I have to use a dictionary to try and figure out what you accomplished, chances are I’m just going to punt on the resume. Use short, concise sentences with strong action words to define your accomplishments and the benefits that your work has supplied to a company.
Don’t: Be late….or even worse, not show up. If I am on time, you should be on time. We both have busy schedules; we both had to fight the same nightmare traffic. Be respectful of your interviewer’s time just as the interviewer should be respectful of yours. If you need to cancel or reschedule, be sure to do so at least 24 hours in advance. And if you decide to not show up…don’t even bother trying to get back in touch.
Do: Be honest. Especially in the current job market, people are going to have gaps on their resumes. Contracts run out, and funding is sometimes cut on a whim. If you are looking for a new job, be truthful about why you are looking. Believe it or not, I don’t get along with everyone. I understand that personality and cultural conflicts are an acceptable reason to be looking for a new job. Here’s the other thing- companies do still check references. And believe it or not, your references will tell your prospective new employer the truth. If you are caught in a lie, or even a half truth, you are done.
Don’t: Talk badly about your current company. If you are in the process of interviewing for a new job, it is because something is not ideal about your current employment. It may be the pay, the location, the company culture, or the type of work you are doing. I know this ahead of time; no one is going to leave a perfect situation. But if you come to the table and disrespect your current employer, it immediately makes me question if you are the type of person I want representing (and speaking about) my company.
Do: Research the company you are interviewing for, and ask questions. If someone is taking the time to interview you, it means that they have a vested interest in their company. It is important that you come to the interview with an idea of what the company you are interviewing with is all about: the history, core competencies, goals, and vision of the company as examples. Asking questions about the company and your potential place within the company shows the employer that you are truly interested in the position. Additionally, if you are able to ascertain information about the person who is interviewing you ahead of time, that is also a good thing. I won’t lie, it certainly plays to my ego if someone asks me how I enjoyed attending the University of Virginia, or says that they read my blog.
Don’t: Complain to me about the interview location. Geoff and I have built a company around a certain culture, where we are a results driven company that also enjoys a true team atmosphere that is laid back and relaxed. We also spend money in a strategic fashion, which means we only spend money on salaries and benefits. Thus, we don’t have a corporate office. If our recruiter lets you know that we will be meeting you at a Starbucks or Panera……don’t complain to me upon arrival that we are meeting at a Starbucks or a Panera. You knew about the location of the interview ahead of time, and you knew about the culture of the company from your pre-screen with our recruiter.
Do: Follow up with your interviewer. At some point with the advent of technology, the thank you note became a lost art. If someone takes the time out of their day to meet with you, they are doing just that- taking their personal time to get to know you, to learn about you, and to see if you are a fit with the company. A simple thank you note goes a long way to showing your appreciation of the interview and your respect for their time. It also leaves a lasting positive memory with the person who interviews you, and will set you apart from your competition.
Don’t: Ask for ownership in the company. So let me get this straight: I just met you, and you haven’t worked a day for my company. You have not received accommodations for work performed on site, you have not assisted in business development, and you have not recruited any new employees. I’ve worked hard the last 8 years to build this company into what it is today. Geoff has worked for two years on top of that. Guess what I really want to do? Give someone I don’t know ownership in my company.
Don’t: Chastise me for my dress at the interview. About six months ago, I came straight to an interview after spending the morning with my son at his school. It was a themed dress up day, and I looked the part. I believe I had on jeans and a Redskins jersey, which I covered with a jacket. Now, you can get on me for being a fan of such a poor team, but don’t get on me for being a good dad. This proceeded to tell me how unprofessional I was for not “dressing the part of my title.” Sir, last I checked…you were asking me for a job. Best of luck in your future endeavors.
If you follow the above guidance, you should be well on your way to securing that coveted new job….or at the least ensuring that you don’t embarrass yourself too badly. If you have any experiences to share either as an interviewer or interviewee, please do so in the comments section.