“Opportunities don’t often come along. So, when they do, you have to grab them.”
–Audrey Hepburn, actress
You found a job that interests you. You applied. And now you have an interview. At Premier Staffing, we know that first impressions matter. We also know that second impressions matter. We want you to be prepared and confident for all your interviews.
Since 2011, Premier Staffing has helped people just like you find work. We’re the leading professional staffing agency in Eastern Iowa. Whether you’re new to the interviewing process or you’re a seasoned pro, we hope the following 13 tips will help.
We use these factors to make our own hiring decisions. We know most people can be trained, that’s why we hire based on attitude. Employers want to find the perfect fit. It’s just easier in the short- and long-term. That’s why it’s important, as an applicant, you show your professionalism, personality, and enthusiasm during each step of the interview process. Following these steps to prepare for an interview will only enhance your chances of getting the job.
Before the interview
- Time is of the essence: Life happens. Allow time for bad traffic, bad weather, and bad luck. Make plans to arrive at least 10 minutes early to your interview. Why? If you’re not on time, the company may assume (rightly or wrongly) that you’re chronically late. This type of tardiness with employees costs them time and money. If you’re early, it shows you’re a responsible and eager person.
- Clothes make the person: You don’t need expensive designer labels. But you do need to dress appropriately for any interview. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. If you’re wearing a suit and your interviewer is in jeans, that’s okay. But imagine the reverse. Not okay. When you dress professionally, you’re signaling that you take the position and the company seriously. You’re showing you put time and thought into your appearance.
- You’re never fully dressed without a smile: Your face projects so very much emotion—fear, joy, anxiety, or happiness. One of the first things your interviewer will notice is your face. Make sure you greet him or her with a genuine smile. While you’re talking, make sure to smile with both your eyes and your mouth. Smiling affects the tone of your voice. It doesn’t have to be forced, you can learn it. Give it a try.
- Prepare your story: Many hiring managers begin the interview process with that common phrase: “Tell us a little about yourself.” Only you can answer that. How will you choose to respond? Will you talk for 10 minutes? [No. Keep it well under 2 minutes]. Will you summarize your CV? [No. They already have that]. Will you discuss job experiences that may or may not have anything to do with your current position? [No. You should intrigue them instead]. Practice your biographical story ahead of time. Tell it to your family and friends. Tailor it for the position you seek. And always end with a question. Even though it’s your interview, make no mistake, you’re there to listen and learn too.
- Do your homework: If a company is willing to consider you for a position, the least you can do is learn more about them. Do some research before you arrive. Learn more about the business. Consider ways you can help them. A website cannot tell the entire story. Were there elements missing you wish you knew more about? Memorize 3-5 questions to ask. If you don’t need them, that’s fine. But at least you had them at the ready. Questions may crop up during the interview itself. Ask follow-up questions. While you’re trying to get the job, you also want to be sure it’s a good fit for you.
- Tune out tech: Unless you’re waiting for an organ transplant, there is no reason your phone should be turned on during an interview. No reason. Turn it off as soon as you enter the building. Don’t mute it. Turn it off. The best-case scenario is that the company will like you and your interview will last well over an hour. Sixty minutes (or less) is not much time to keep all your devices powered down. Remember that this job is much more important than a silly text or an irrelevant post. Remember: Turn off all your devices.
During the interview
- Be honest: As the interview proceeds, you’ll may be asked about your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare ahead to describe your strengths in a way that sounds confident, yet humble. And think about any weaknesses—or skill gaps—you may have. It’s always easier to play offense than defense. Then if the interviewer asks about any areas that need improvement, you might say you’ve sought out a mentor, are getting certification in that area, or have attended a conference to learn more. This shows you’re a self-aware and pro-active person.
- Know when to stop: You’re on a roll, telling the company about how perfect you are for the position. Don’t bore your interviewees. Keep them wanting more. Keep your answers concise, upbeat, and with a natural start and stop point. If the interviewer wants to know more about you, he or she will ask a follow-up question. Be objective. If you start to sound like one of the adults in the Peanuts cartoons, wrap up your answer and smile.
- Leave out the filler: Many people use fillers or vocal tics. And when you’re nervous, these can increase in frequency. What are fillers, you ask? They’re the unconscious things you utter between sentences, words such as: Ummmm, ahhh, like, well, anyway, and so. The first step to eliminating these stalling words is to become aware of them. You can speak to a friend or use free audio software. Groups like Toastmasters, for example, will ring a bell if you use a filler word during a speech. Rather than talk quickly and pepper your speech with “ahh’s” and “umm’s,” slow down and pause before your next sentence. You’ll sound more thoughtful and more intelligent.
- Consider alternatives: Sometimes, during interviews, you may be asked to consider a different job than the one for which you applied. Relax and smile. Perhaps the interviewer heard something that made him or her think you’d be a strong fit for another department. You should be flattered. Listen carefully and ask questions. This other job may be a better opportunity. Always remain flexible. If you cannot make a decision, politely ask for time to think about this other position.
After the Interview
- Assess and review your interview: Do this while the experience is still fresh in your mind. You can take some notes afterwards, leave yourself an audio file, or type up your impressions when you get home. Be sure to include your answers as well as the answers your interviewer provided. Then critique your performance. What questions surprised you? Were there areas or answers where you think you can improve? What do you wish you’d asked? Save these notes and use them for future interviews.
- Formerly say thank you: Many people won’t take any action after an interview, others will send an email. Make yourself stand out from the pack by writing and sending a proper thank you note through the U.S. Mail. Aim to send this within a day. Refer to your post-interview notes and mention pertinent details—i.e. I hope your daughter gets the part in her school play—to show you’re a thoughtful person and a good listener. Then close with a statement saying you’re excited to learn more about this opportunity.
- Remember that patience is a virtue: Even if you had a wonderful interview, the person who interviewed you still has to work at his or her regular job. The human resources staff is still performing their regular duties. Therefore, don’t expect an immediate response or an answer based on your timeline. First send a thank you note. Wait a week. If you haven’t heard anything after two weeks, send a short and upbeat email saying something like: “Thank you again for the opportunity to interview. I look forward to hearing from you soon.” Keep your options open. Continue interviewing for the experience and the chance to learn about new positions.
Applying for jobs and interviewing can be fun. It doesn’t have to be stressful. Like dating, both are opportunities to meet new people, learn things about yourself, and change or improve your life. Also, like dating, you should always put your best foot forward. You want to look and feel your best before each new meeting.
Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Many people have discussed the importance of preparation. It’s important that you learn as much as possible before each interview. Sure, it takes time. But the payoff could be a rewarding and fulfilling new career. The fact that you’re reading this blog shows you care. You’ve already taken the first step to ace your next interview.
At Premier Staffing, your local professional staffing agency, our mission is to provide good jobs for good people at good companies. We know a thing or two—or 13—about interviews. We hope you’ve learned at least one new tip from this blog. Good luck with your next interview . . . and don’t forget to smile.
If you have any questions about the steps to prepare for an interview feel free to contact us.