Whether you are in college seeking an internship, or further on in your career and looking to advance your position, making basic and careless mistakes on a job interview can cost you that opportunity even if you have the experience, credentials, and intelligence.
First impressions count!
If you are in doubt, studies have shown that within the first seven seconds of meeting, people will have a solid impression of who you are — and some research suggests a tenth of a second is all it takes to start determining traits like trustworthiness. Katherine M. Rothman is the CEO of KMR Communications, a public relations firm she founded at the age of 28. The firm specializes in beauty, health and fitness PR. Since the agency’s inception in 1998, Ms. Rothman has interviewed hundreds of applicants for positions ranging from interns to directors and vice presidents.
Here are 14 tips on interviewing straight from the CEO herself:
Don’t be late
Ms. Rothman really dislikes the excuse, of, “I’m sorry I am 15 minutes late, I didn’t know where to park.” When you confirm the interview time and place, it is the applicant’s responsibility to ask questions about where to park. If it sounds like it might be mildly confusing, do a dry run to the interview location so that you don’t drive around aimlessly minutes before the interview. When you show up late to an interview, you seem unreliable, unorganized, and you have to dig yourself out of a black hole by making a really amazing impression.
Be on your best behavior the moment you enter the building
From the minute your feet enter the building of the interview, assume that anyone you encounter could be a potential interviewer. If you are talking on a cell phone in the lobby, censor your conversation and comments. In the elevator, make polite eye contact with everyone. Treat the receptionist like royalty! If you use the restroom prior to the interview, give a nice hello to anyone you encounter. The person who was just your stall mate could be the head of HR!
Research the company
Google the company. Visit their website. Know who their clients, are, what they do, who they serve, who their competition is, and find out what sets them apart from their other businesses in their field. It is important to do your research prior to the interview. It will give you greater command of the topics you will be asked about and make you feel more confident which will transmit into a better impression. If you are asked why you want to work at company XYZ, you will be able to answer intelligently and specifically instead of in a cookie cutter manner.
Dress to impress
Do your best to do some sleuthing and find out what the culture of the company is. Perhaps read some reviews on Glassdoor, Google, or ask friends.
If the company is artsy, it’s better if you don’t come in looking like a corporate stiff. Conversely, if the atmosphere is corporate, ripped jeans and a tank top won’t get you far. When in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. When you are asked back for a second-round interview you can better tailor your attire to the office norm.
Don’t let your body language give you away
Skilled interviewers are adept are reading non-verbal clues, i.e. body language. Most likely, the handshake will be your only moment of physical contact with the interviewer. Studies say that handshakes play a significant role in first impressions, so make it count. Your shake should be neither bone crushing, nor limp fish. Aim for a firm handshake, and as you shake, make eye contact and smile. Once seated, do not slump, fidget or lean back in your chair which can signal boredom or arrogance. Lean slightly forward to indicate interest. Don’t cross your arms as this can make you look defensive or like you are hiding something.
Don’t give cliché answers to questions
If you are asked what your best qualities are, avoid saying, “I am an organized, self-starter and team player and my biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist.” These may all be true but find another way to state these attributes. Instead, if asked about a weakness, choose a real weakness and put a positive spin on it. You may say, for example, “I always want to meet my deadlines, but sometimes in doing so, I rush too much. I am trying to slow down and be more meticulous.”
Don’t talk incessantly and ramble on
You are being judged on how articulate you are and how you present yourself in a corporate situation. An interview should not be your own monologue. Answer the questions concisely and wait for the interviewer to ask the next. As you are speaking, try to gauge if you are keeping the interviewer engaged in what you are saying. If their eyes are glazed over and they are tapping their pen, you have spoken enough.
Ask not what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for the company
To loosely paraphrase JFK on his inauguration speech, make it clear how your skills can help the company you are interviewing with. A first interview should not be about, how many vacation days do I get? Do you have a 401K? Do you have summer hours?
What are your benefits? These questions should be saved for second round interviews when the company has indicated that they have a sincere interest in you. Round 1 should be strictly about what you bring to the table.
Wipe your social media clean of anything that is embarrassing or simply don’t post that content in the first place
A company need not be the FBI to find pictures/comments that pertain to you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Be mindful of what you are posting. Anything that looks undignified, shows illegal activity, prejudice, anger management issues or castes you in a poor light can be a mark against you even if you had a stellar interview. Watch your social media, one post is not worth the sacrifice of your dream job!
Remove tongue piercings, nose piercings and cover large tattoos
These things may be en trend with your age group, however, if you are interviewing with a conservative company, these might negate you right away. The same would go for pink hair or other extreme styles for men and women. I am not saying having your own sense of style and living outside the box are bad things, it can be quite fabulous. But in reviewing the environment of the company you want to work for, consider if the way you are presenting yourself showcases you as the best candidate to represent the culture of that company. When you are entrusted with the interests of a company you become an ambassador. You need to adapt to that company.
Do not walk in smelling like you sampled every fragrance in a department store
If you must wear fragrance, keep it light and subtle. Fragrance is a very personal thing. The last thing you want is an interviewer sneezing with watery eyes because you have gone overboard on the perfume or cologne.
Bring ample resumes
If you are meeting with one or even several people, there is nothing that makes you look more unprepared than assuming the interviewer has your resume handy. Make sure that you carry ample resumes in a professional looking portfolio/binder so that the paper is not wrinkled when you hand it over.
Don’t forget to write a thank you
Write a thank you follow-up e-mail to every person with whom you met. Do this even if you do not want the position. It’s a small world and being polite goes a long way! If you want the position, and it comes down to you and another candidate with identical credentials and you are the one who writes the note, most likely you will be “the chosen one.”
Don’t be silent when the interviewer asks at the end if you have remaining questions
Too often, applicants say, “no, thanks I think you covered everything.” You may feel you are being polite by saying this, but you actually come across as disengaged and docile. Come up with at least one thought-provoking question that refers to something the interviewer commented on or asked.