Interviews can seem intimidating especially for high schoolers,
college applicants or young adults trying to land their first job. The
competitive landscape make 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 your next one. Let interviews work for you.

For an interview, the main thing you need to remember is preparation.

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 and meet potential co-workers.

Also, know your value before you interview. We all have value.

For this post I list the four essentials:

  1.  Preparation
  2.  Appearance/First Impression
  3.  Understand The Process
  4. Post-interview ‘Thank you Note’

1. Preparation

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 not to know
about your target. Also, understand the Job Description and how it
fits in with the rest of the organization. As you research them, think about how you can be an asset, how your skills and goals match the job or why you are the best person for it.

Of note: your supporting letter should be tailored to the Job
Description, pointing to where your resume matches it, plus using the keywords within their document. Do consider having specific resumes for different types of jobs, though keep all your job history intact. Any gaps in dates will make the evaluator suspicious.

It’s also a good idea to know who your interviewer will be and to do
due diligence.

Once you have done your research, you should then be familiar with the culture and maybe the jargon used. Prepare thoughtful questions for the interviewer and be ready to ask them and respond to the interviewer’s questions. Indeed, don’t shy away from taking notes, as it shows you are organized and serious about the job.

Tips – the following should be taken in context and some may not be applicable:

  • Do role play before the interview.
  • Practice a firm handshake.
  • Rehearse your introduction to the interview.
  • 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.

2. Appearance

First impressions do count! It’s a matter of seconds. It works both
ways, but for this post, we will focus on the job seeker. Make the
most of it and be well-groomed with a welcoming and friendly demeanor.

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.

Some conservative jobs in the business sector have specific dress
codes while others in the technology sector may be less conservative. Err on the side of dressing conservatively.

Many poor people who are trying to find a job 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 or a dress.

A well-maintained dark-colored suit or a dress is perfect for most
interviews. I wore the same conservative dresses to most of early my interviews and got the jobs I wanted.

Make-up: Make it subtle. I never wore lipstick to interviews because of the glass stains it left.

Hair: This is tricky for Black women. If you usually wear your hair in
braids or dreadlocks, then don’t change for the interview, though make sure your hair is well-groomed. If the organization has a problem with your hair, then perhaps that is not a job culture that will accept you or a culture you want.

Shoes:  Wear clean and comfortable shoes.

First impressions count, so ensure your first impression is one of
confidence and competence.

3. Understand the Interview Process

Some are merely one interview. I am accustomed to those. However, some are an oral exam with multiple interviewers. Some also involve various tests. Know the type of interview to be prepared.

Make sure your posture is one of confidence without appearing
obnoxious. Be able to talk about yourself comfortably.

Come prepared with a notepad.

4. Thank you note

It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it’s essential to write it promptly.

Preparation is paramount. However, despite the best preparation,
sometimes you don’t get the job. Don’t be discouraged, instead
remember the interview process itself is a worthy experience that gets better the more one does it.  Let the interview work for you.

Thank the organization 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 who did the interview and thanked him for the opportunity. A month later, when three more positions become available, he got it.

Naturally, the goal is to get the job, but getting an opportunity can be an opportunity that leads to more.