What is Your Best Interview Advice?
I'm personally horrible during interviews. I'm shy, humble, blush easily, and have a bad memory (I can never answer those "Tell me a time when you..."). Overall I think the interview process is ineffective and unrepresentative. But it's a required process.
So what is your best advice to do a great interview? This could be anything from what to bring, what to wear, or how to answer a common question.
Share your best interview advice in the comments section and get entered in a random drawing for $25 Amazon Gift Certificate! This drawing is over. Congrats to Ask the Manager, the winner of the drawing. Thank you to everyone who participated!
While I'm no good at interviews, my fellow Wise Bread bloggers are pretty savvy job hunters. Check out what they have to say:
I like to ask interviewers what kind of reference material they read in their spare time to keep up with industry changes. This could be a particular trade magazine, newsletter, forum, website, etc. After the interview, I will check out their suggestions and make a good faith effort to soak up as much information as I can from these reference sources.
When I write a follow up e-mail to the interviewer, I'll add a "p.s." thanking him for the tip and mention one or two specific articles I found especially interesting.
After doing this for a couple of interviews in the same field, I begin to get a great sense of what the top people in the business are reading to stay on top of the game. Pretty soon when my interviewer makes a reference recommendation I can tell him that I've already been following that publication for a long time.
While I think it is amazing that it can take up to two months after sending your resume to be contacted for an interview, the decision to hire (or not) based on that interview can occur the same day. This often leaves candidates without enough time to get a traditional "thank you" note to the interviewer. If I don't do anything else after an interview, I always send an email of appreciation. If you don't have the email address of the interviewer, scour the internet, check Hoovers, or call his secretary and mention that you need it to send some additional information from the interview. Then do this immediately!
Since punctuality, communication, and follow-up are necessary for doing any job successfully, this one step may give you enough of an edge to put you ahead of other candidates. And if nothing else, it gives the interviewer a quick and easy way to communicate with you if you don't hear back for a while and need to inquire about your candidate status.
Talk to the interviewers like they're people. Having been on the interviewing side, I know that so many people try to sound the same, because they're all trying to sound like the person they think you want them to sound like. The problem is, they put you to sleep. They're boring. It's the people who talk to me like I'm a person, the people who seem to genuinely want to know how I'm doing and who respond when I genuinely want to know how they're doing who keep me engaged in the rest of the interview. These are often the same people who answer their interview questions not only from their schooling and professional experience but also from their lives.
Now, there's a point where this can go too far. You don't want to share all about your personal life. But answering a question about how you deal with the unexpected by telling a story about your recent car accident and how you responded to unexpected complications might be better than telling yet ANOTHER story about a crashing computer at your last job, as long as you don't go into gory, ranting detail. Be interesting, not needy. Show that you can be focused and interesting at the same time.
Have an answer to the question, "What's your biggest weakness?"
Of course you don't tell them any actual weakness that you might have. Instead, pick one of your less ordinary characteristics that isn't really negative, but that you can put a negative spin on. Then provide that (the negative spin) as your weakness. But then immediately go ahead and give them the neutral (or positive) take on the same trait, saying that you're working on doing better that way.
If you can't think of anything good, you can just make something up out of anything that you do well.
For example, if you're good at anticipating customer needs, you could say, "I guess my worst trait is that I sometimes jump to conclusions about what a customer is asking for. When I'm right it lets me provide really prompt service, but when I'm wrong it doesn't make for a good customer experience. I'm working on really listening to the customer."
I guess my history as a professional actor comes in handy with the interview process, because my general way of preparing for an interview is to rehearse.
I don't rehearse to spew out memorized formal-sounding and insincere answers to anticipated questions, so much as I just rehearse the whole process. I anticipate what the interviewer might ask, and practice what a response may be a few times. Before I pick up the phone to touch base with my potential employer, I make sure I know what I want to say so I don't stutter my way through the conversation.
Through this rehearsal process, there is also something to be said for visualization. As I rehearse, things are going just the way I want them to in the interview. The more I see things going that way, the better the chances are that they'll end up being that smooth when it's showtime.
My best interview advice (besides mine, which is "be yourself" and is occasionally useful) comes from a recruiter friend.
If the interviewer says, "tell me about yourself," you should say
"Where should I start?" to get an idea of the interviewer's interests.
If the interviewer gives you a nice introduction, such as "what are your career goals?" or "what is your biggest accomplishment?" or even "what have you been doing since college?" you know how to narrow your response to fit the question.
If the interviewer says, "wherever you want to start," then you can pick a reasonable point (mostly likely it should be at least after college) and give a brief career summary.
You could close (this section of the interview) with "would you like me to go into more detail about 'xyz' time period?"
This is very timely, as I'm currently reviewing applications for new bloggers for First Wives World. My most basic piece of advice is: Follow instructions. If the advertisement asks for something specific, do exactly as it says. If you can't be bothered to do as they have asked, don't bother to apply, because you're sending a very strong message with your first communication. In the ad I placed for FWW bloggers, I gave specific instructions on how to apply. Quite unsurprisingly, about half of the people who responded didn't do as I asked, and they were elminated immediately.
What the applicants didn't seem to realize is, I wrote the ad with specific requirements for two reasons: 1) There are certain things I need to know about the person in order to recommend them, and 2) I wanted to see if they could follow instructions. It was a test, and about half didn't pass.
So, my advice is, the next time you see a very specific ad, do exactly what it says. The employer may very well be testing whether you know how to follow instructions, and will toss your applicaiton if you demonstrate you would rather do what you want than provide what he or she needs.
Outside of that, I echo Sarah: Have something unique. The applications I remember are the ones who wrote really interesting stories in their sample posts.
Share your best interview advice in the comments section and get entered in a random drawing for $25 Amazon Gift Certificate!
Deadline to enter drawing is 9/22 midnight. Don't forget to enter your email address in the field provided and only one entry per person.
This drawing is over. Congrats to Ask the Manager, the winner of the drawing. Thank you to everyone who participated!