I recently wrote about how important it is for job-seekers to prepare for a behavioral interview — one in which they must describe their past successful experience performing the tasks that will be required of them in their new position. Equally important, yet often overlooked, is the importance of treating the entire process of engaging with an employer as if it were the interview itself. If you want to get a job fast, you must recognize that every moment you’re in contact with a potential employer (prior to receiving your official letter of hire) is an interview. This includes the moment when you get a casual phone inquiry from someone at your target company wanting to fill in a few details based on a review of your resume. It also includes the moment a hiring manager sees you in the lobby waiting for an interview, and the point when you call to negotiate a salary package.
If you want to ace your interview, you must have a clear picture in your head about what a successful hiring experience looks like from a manager’s perspective, from start to finish. While this article isn’t designed as a comprehensive exploration of the subject, here are a few key points.
1. Pre-Interview: If the phone rings and you’re not in a good place to talk, don’t pick up the phone. When you do talk with a potential employer by phone, his/her only goals are to find out enough information to decide whether to bring you in for an interview, and then schedule that interview. Consequently, your only goal is to get the interview scheduled in a way that conveys to your potential employer how easy it is to work with you. If you need directions or wonder what you should bring with you, ask those questions up front rather than waiting until the last minute. Script out your answers to potential interview questions, and practice that first handshake and smile.
2. Interview Day: Dress a half step nicer than you expect your interviewer to be dressed. Bring an extra copy or two of your resume, along with a separate list of references. It may sound hokey when I comment that you should get rest the night before, drink plenty of water, and use the restroom before you arrive, but it’s important. I’ve actually interviewed a candidate who asked to use the bathroom 30 seconds after introducing herself. It didn’t make a good impression. During the interview, remember to breathe often, smile, and say whatever you say with confidence and enthusiasm. End the meeting by thanking the interviewer for his or her time and asking when you can expect a decision. Also ask for a business card, if you don’t have one already.
3. Post-Interview: Immediately take notes about what you learned of the company, the job, the boss, and other employees. Write down as much as you can remember about the questions asked, and how you answered them. Add comments about the positive and negatives of the experience, from your perspective. Next, send a hand-written thank you note to the lead interviewer at the address listed on the business card. If you don’t receive a response within the timeline your interviewer gave, wait a day or two and then follow up by phone. Prepare additional questions to ask in the event you are offered the job. If you didn’t get the job, ask what qualities set the best candidate apart from you and others who applied.
As extensive as these guidelines are, they barely scratch the surface of what you need to know in order to be on the top of your game when it comes to interviewing. If you’ve set your sights high, as you should be doing, consider working with a professional coach to fine tune your resume and interview skills. The amount you pay will ultimately seem quite small compared to the annual salary you’ll command when you interview well and get the job you want.