To hear that you have been invited in for an interview is always an exciting time. It gives you a renewed optimism, like when spring blooms in New England. Whenever the hell that will happen. It also can wreak havoc on even the most seasoned job seeker’s innards because you feel so much is riding on your performance.
While I can’t come with you, lean over and whisper in your ear the answers to the interviewer’s question like a lawyer does for his client at a congressional hearing – I can be like your mom on your first day of school, making sure you are prepared in all respects.
You are so elated to get the interview, you basically just find out when and where to show up and then hang up and do a little dance of quasi-victory, but this call is really where the proper interview prep starts.
So the questions you want to ask upon hearing of your interview (over above when and where):
- Parking? If you are driving, make sure there is parking available or a nearby garage. If not and you are able to access public transportation, find out what the closest public transportation is to their office.
- Who will I be meeting with? Find out who will be interviewing you, their role in the company and what the focus of each interview will be (technical, behavioral/attributes, informational). Sometimes you won’t be able to get all this information until a later call or email if at all, but any info you can get will make more prepared than other candidates.
- Is there anything special you would like me to bring to the interview (paperwork to fill out, letters of reference, etc.)
- Dress code. You should go to every interview with the assumption that it is a business formal environment, so dress that way! Men, suit or at least a jacket, tie, dress pants and decent shoes. Women, business suits and no flip- flop type of shoes. Even if it is a casual environment, unless you wore a top hat and tails, I don’t know anyone who would be rejected for dressing too nicely.
- Resumes. Don’t ask if you should bring resumes, PLEASE! That is an automatic and the reason why you ask who you are meeting with.
So now you have some good information, so start getting yourself prepared to dazzle them. Do as much research via the web on the company as you can. Not just reading the propaganda they put on their site, but what others are saying about them, any news they have made. Also try to collect sales figures, company history, number of employees, different business units, product lines – become a real student of the company so you can show you do what it takes to accomplish what you have been tasked with. If you can talk to current or former employees, that is a great tool to have.
Once you have gathered this data, jot down some questions related to what you have gathered. Make up a page on a ruled pad of paper for each interviewer and put the questions on the page of the interviewer where it seems like their domain. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have at least 1 or 2 questions for every interviewer, whether you know the answer or not, or even care about the answer – ask a question. If you are really stumped, it’s even OK to ask the interviewer how long they have been there and what they like most about working there. It shows interest and an inquisitive mind, which people want.
If you can, try to run some simulated interviews and some possible questions they will ask you. If you can have someone play the interviewer role, great. If you can’t, it’s OK. You can do this yourself. If it is technical in nature, you will know by doing your homework what to expect. If it is more an attributes interview, try to think of things like:
- What was the most satisfying accomplishment you had and why
- Think of an experience in dealing with a difficult peer, manager or someone under you and how you dealt with them
- Think of a situation where you messed up and how you remedied the situation and what lesson you learned from it
So you have your reconnaissance data and have prepared for the interview accordingly. You have good questions to ask and are ready to speak eloquently about your company knowledge and how you fit in that paradigm.
You’ve done the hardest part, now do the basics that will complete the positive experience.
At least the day before the interview:
- Have your wardrobe finalized and make sure it is ready (not at dry cleaners or in a ball in the corner of your room)
- Print out 2 resumes more than the number of people you are meeting with (including HR/recruiting.) There’s always the chance of an unexpected person they want you to talk to, and this will make you look so awesome. That’s usually a good sign if they throw an another person in. Make sure your resumes are clean and up to date
- Make sure you pack any paperwork they ask you to bring
- Go on Google and map out your route. Find out how long it will take to get there. If it is tricky parking or a route that is known to have traffic problems, or are relying on public transportation, add 45 minutes to an hour on to what it says it will take. I’m not kidding. If you get there really early, walk around or hang in a coffee place for a while and do some more prep. DON’T BE LATE!
- Set your alarm if you need to
- Bring something to write on (remember the pad of paper with separate sheets for each interviewer?) and plenty of pens. Don’t go in empty handed and not take notes, or ask them for paper and pen. It looks so unprofessional. Put everything in a briefcase of some sort or portfolio
- Make sure you print out the the address, and contact phone number or load it into your cell phone. Oh, and bring your phone. You shouldn’t be late but if you can’t avoid it, you need to call as far in advance of your interview time that you can. And please don’t call your contact person and ask them to get you there while you are driving because you are lost – you are wasting their time!
- Fill the tank in your car the night before
- Make sure you are not hungry or haven’t had your coffee before you go in
- Bring some mints or breath fresheners
I know some of this sounds a little basic, but as a recruiter I can’t tell you how many people I have seen come to an interview so woefully unprepared for a high six figure job.
OK, we’ve gone over the before. Next we will go over the things to do upon arrival, during, and at the end of the interview.
Wow, you are going to be an interviewing machine!