Interviews can seem intimidating especially for high schoolers, college applicants or young adults trying to land their first job. The competitive landscape makes interviews look like a zero-sum game. It can, however, be a win-win even if you don’t get the job. The interview experience is invaluable and prepares you for the next one. Let interviews work for you.
Preparation is paramount to a successful interview.
The interview is an opportunity for the employer to see if you fit the organization’s culture. It’s also an opportunity for you to know the organization, meet potential co-workers and see if the culture aligns with your career goals.
Know your value before you interview.
Here are the four essentials of an interview:
- Appearance/First Impression
- Understand The Process
- Post-interview ‘Thank you Note.’
How can you seek a job or apply to a school if you know nothing about the organization?
With the internet readily available, there is no excuse. Understand the Job Description by knowing how it fits in with the rest of the organization. As you research, think about how you can be an asset, how your skills and goals match the job or why you are the best person for the job.
Tailor your cover letter to the job description, pointing to where your resume matches it, plus using keywords within their document. Do consider customizing your resumes for the job while keeping your job history intact. Any gaps in dates will make the evaluator suspicious.
Find out the names of the interviewers and do due diligence to gather background information.
Once you complete your research, you should then be familiar with the organization’s mission/vision and language. Anticipate the interviewer’s questions and prepare to ask thoughtful questions. Don’t shy away from taking notes, as it shows you are organized and serious about the job.
- Do role play before the interview.
- Practice a firm handshake.
- Rehearse your introductory remarks to the interviewer.
- Take a notepad or a professional padfolio to look professional.
- Have a confident but not obnoxious demeanor
- If you are seated in the interview room, stand and firmly shake the interviewer’s hand when they enter.
- Do have breath mints on hand.
- Be well-rested and well-hydrated before the interview.
First impressions do count, in a matter of seconds. Make the most of it and be well-groomed with a welcoming and friendly attitude.
Dress code matters. Wear an appropriate outfit that compliments your figure. For women, avoid tight, flashy clothes, don’t display too much skin and that includes cleavage.
In the business sector, some conservative jobs have specific dress codes while others in the technology sector may be less conservative. Err on the conservative side of dressing.
Many poor people who are job-seeking can’t afford to go out and buy a new suit or dress. The Salvation Army and some thrift shops offer a very cheap alternative where you can borrow a suit.
A well-maintained dark-colored suit or a dress is perfect for most interviews. I wore the same conservative dresses to most interviews.
Make-up should be subtle with a clean natural look is most desirable. Hair is tricky for Black women. If you style your hair in braids or dreadlocks, then don’t change for the interview, though make sure it is well-groomed. If the company has a problem with your hair, then perhaps that is not a job culture that will accept you or one you want.
Shoes should be comfortable and clean. Ladies this is not the time to break out the stilettos.
First impressions count, so make your first impression is one of confidence and competence.
3. Understand the Interview Process
I was accustomed to job interviews with one person. However, some jobs interviews require several meetings at each stage. Some are exams with multiple interviewers asking questions to test your knowledge and ability to think on your feet. Know what the interview entails. Be comfortable talking in front of others and about your strengths and skill sets. Come prepared to make your weaknesses sound like strengths.
4. Thank you note
After the interview, send a brief thank you note. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it’s essential to write and post one.
Preparation is paramount. Despite the best preparation, sometimes you don’t get the job. Don’t be discouraged. Remember the interview process itself is a worthy skill that gets better with experience.
Thank the company even if you don’t get the job and ask them to keep your resume on file should another position become available.
My brother mentioned in his first job that three supervisory positions suddenly became available. The competition was stiff, and he didn’t get it. While others were upset and angry at not being one of the three, he went to his boss thanked him for the opportunity. A month later, when three more supervisory positions become available, he got it.
Naturally, the goal is to get the job, but the interview is an opportunity, and you should make it work for you.