How to NAIL That Interview!!
You scored an interview! You break out into your happy dance...but the stress of getting an interview has now turned into the stress of GOING to an interview.
I was a hiring manager at AMC theatres for over a year and interviewed a LONG LIST of potential employees, young and old. While hiring for a minimum wage job is different than one that requires more experience, that basic 'first impression' rule is important here. I always tell people:
I am 99% certain whether or not I am going to hire a person within the first minute and a half. That's how long it takes to make or break an interview.
Now, I've had people defy the norm and break that one percent chance; however, you do not want your potential empoyer to put you in that 99% 'No, Thank You' category.
Here are some tips to NAIL that first impression.
Be on Time
This goes without saying; however, you'd be surprised how easy it is to be late. Whenever I have gone in for an interview, I leave at LEAST 15-30 minutes earlier than I think I need to. You never know what's going to pop up. If your car doesn't start, if there's an unexpected accident, if you get lost, anything can happen.
Plan ahead, and give yourself some breathing room. Better to be extremely early than even ten minutes late.
Dress for Success!
No matter what job you're going in for, dress appropriately. I've had a few people come in wearing sweatpants or jeans and I cannot remember any of those people that I have hired. It's not so much your appearance, but it does tie in with your respect for the job as well as the interview. I interview a guy in jeans, it tells me he really doesn't care what I think of him. So what should I expect when he starts to work for me, hmm? Regardless of whether or not the company requires a uniform or not, what you wear will define your potential as an employee.
Waiting for an Interview? Keep in Mind, They're Watching
Remember the receptionist you spoke to directing you where to wait for your interview? Think of them as the gatekeeper. I ALWAYS asked my employees how a certain interviewee addressed them and what their impression was. Because, more than likely, the person being interviewed (you) will be working with that particular person. Their opinion of you matters because they are going to be the ones working with you directly and your employer wants to make sure that you will fit in well with any potential co-workers as well as the job.
On that same line, when you are waiting for your interview, people are still watching you. One of the things you'll want to avoid is looking at your phone. At all. I know it's tempting and you'll think: "Well, what do they care if I respond to a text?" I promise you, they do care. Being able to sit patiently for an interview demonstrates your focus. Sit up straight, look at your surroundings, make contact with people (including employees) and smile. This gives you a likeable personality and it says:
"I'm a nice and attentive person. You will enjoy working with me".
Less is More
Talking. We love to do it and, yes, that's one of the main reasons you're there. To talk. However, be very wary of how much you're doing it. One of my favorite professors used to say:
"An interview is simply a good conversation."
She's right, too, but it's up to you to make it a good conversation. An employer is looking for your work history as well as education and that's IT. While they want to get to know you as a person and get to know your personality, there is no need to ramble and it may cost you the job.
Someone who talks a lot indicates someone who will not listen to direction.
At the same time, someone who talks too little indicates a lazy personality.
Really try to come up with the main ideas and traits that you want to convey about yourself in the interview and avoid any personal answers. I've had interviews that told me about their previously failed relationships, family members in jail, what the names of all their cats are, etc. Something you must remember, all these people care about is that you can do the job and that you will be a fun person to work with. Avoid anything about friends, pets, neighbors, and family (unless it's a family business).
Business isn't personal, so don't throw your personal life in there.
You'll hear this from everyone. Sit up straight, make eye contact, have a cheerful demeanor, etc. Now, be careful when I say 'eye contact'. As previously stated, an interview is simply a good conversation. When you're talking to your friend or your parents, do you stare at them head on and never break eye contact? No, that's crazy. Make eye contact with your employer a considerable amount, but you are allowed to break it; in fact, it will calm you down as well as your employer. This should be effortless eye contact that shows you're listening and that you are reasonable.
Too much eye contact means you're a kiss-ass (excuse the language).
Not enough eye contact indicates almost contempt.
Now, I worked in customer service so smiling was EVERYTHING. No matter what job you're applying for, be sure to smile, even if you don't smile on a regular basis. You want these people to know you're approachable and it also indicates that you actually want the job. Someone who doesn't smile means that the job is not that important to them.
There's nothing more annoying than a interviewee telling you exactly what you want to hear. Do not rehearse answers to questions (because, I promise you, you will choke). When they ask questions about your dreams, be honest and realistic. If it's not your dream to stay at that company for the rest of your life, it's okay to tell them that. It's okay to say this job is a stepping stone towards your dream job. That means you have aspirations, you have goals, you're ambitious! Those are all good things!
Be sure to put a little bit of your personality in your interview. If you're funny, be funny! If you love stupid puns, make stupid puns! Use all your positive and eccentric traits to your advantage. Me, personally, I almost always mention my obsession with Harry Potter, because it's a part of who I am and employers like to know that.
Use the "Tell me a little bit about yourself" portion to your advantage! Mention your work history and education, and then mention something fun. A hobby that you love. Your favorite television show to watch. You never know, they might love the exact same thing and then that entitles them to you a bit! It shows you're not a robot.
Remember: You're There to Interview Them, too
People always seem to forget this.
Yes, it's always stressful and nerve-wrecking to be interviewed but, keep in mind, you're interviewing them, too. You want to make sure that it's a good fit for yourself as well as for them and the companies are also looking for that. They want a win-win situation.
Remember to have a few questions planned in advance and, as you're going through the interview, make a mental note (or actual note if you brought a notepad) of questions you have about something that was said. I won't list all the questions you can ask but remember, these are specific to you. What are YOU most curious about this job? What concerns YOU the most? Then, ask them that.
AVOID questions about salary and benefits. You haven't got the job yet and it's rude to ask unless they bring it up. Asking for salary is like asking if someone is a virgin on the first date. It's bad taste and there likely won't be a second date.
Extra copies of resumes and references are a requirement. You never know how many managers you will be interviewing with so bring at least two or three.
A briefcase or professional portfolio to put the resume and references in so they don't get folded or crumpled. Never show up with just the pieces of paper. It shows you're unprepared and/or a little disorganized.
Pad and a pen. Likely and hopefully, a notepad will be included in the portfoloio that you brought. It is always good to be able to write something down. If they're planning on dates for training or another interview, it's nice to be able to write all the information down right there. It shows you're prepared and responsible.
Mints or gum. Something to make your breath smell better; after all, you'll be talking quite a bit.
Remember all these, and you should NAIL that first impression. To anyone reading this article, good luck to all your future interviews and I hope this helped!
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