When I was looking for my first job in advertising, I had so many interview tips swirling around in my head, I actually started to psych myself out. Don’t cross your legs, one magazine cautioned, a tip I remembered two seconds too late, causing me to freeze with my leg in midair. Then put it back down. I pretended not to notice the bewildered look the interviewer gave me, which was eerily similar to the one I got at the end of a three-hour interview that caused my blood sugar to get so low, I crashed into a doorjamb. Then apologized … to the doorjamb.
But my worst interview? I remember it like it was yesterday. I was determined to make an unforgettable impression on the owner of a small agency in Montgomery – and not the impression of a greasy nose print like I left on that doorjamb.
Wired on caffeine and simple sugars, I sat in the reception area working myself into a mania of false bravado. When the gentleman interviewing me came out of his office, I jumped up, thrust out my hand and chirped, “Hi, I’m Stephanie.” Only to realize he had no right arm. There are no interview tips that can prepare you for a gaffe like that. But maybe these five can help you avoid a similar one.
Go Black Hawk Down on your helicopter mom.
On several occasions, I’ve had a mom call me to see if we’re hiring or to set up an interview for her kid. This really happens. Don’t let it happen to you. It’s fine to use your parents’ contacts – that’s networking. But when your parents are more involved in your job hunt than you are, when they come to your interview, write your thank-you notes (yes, you should write thank you notes) or negotiate your salary, you’re not starting off on the right foot. Accept help but set limits. This is a job interview not a play date.
Go into fatal attraction mode.
Good news! The stalking techniques you honed in high school will come in handy during your job search. One of my favorite interview tips: scour the company’s website and all their social media channels to get know them as well as you know your secret crush at the gym. (Oh look, the owner of the company has only one arm. Good to know.) Set up Google Alerts to see when they’re mentioned in the media. Get a feel for their corporate culture so you can dress appropriately for the interview. (A stuffy suit won’t jibe in a creative environment. Your Converse won’t cut it in a very buttoned-up setting. The J. Crew Suit above is a nice happy medium.) Visit the LinkedIn page of everyone you might meet on your interview. Take notes and be ready to use your intel at the appropriate moment. Unlike your gym crush, an interviewer won’t find it creepy that you know all about the job they had three years ago. (Just stick to professional info. Commenting on their kid’s recent princess party is over the line.) Doing your homework helps you make your answers relevant to the company’s needs. “I saw you just landed a new healthcare client. I did an internship in a hospitals marketing department.”
Give your own social media accounts the Eternal Sunshine treatment.
And while we’re on the subject of social media interview tips, check out your own accounts to make sure you’re making the right impression on future employers. Over half of employers report checking social media accounts before making hiring decisions, so evaluate your pics and posts to determine whether they could cost you an opportunity. And I don’t just mean your spring break pictures. Your political rants, comments about race, orientation or anything that might match up with the values of the company can keep you from getting hired, not to mention fired once you are. Play nice, people.
Don’t Regina George your old job.
If you’re leaving another job, don’t trash it. Don’t trash your boss, the clients, the work, the pay, the structure, the crappy one-ply toilet paper or the vending machine that gave you Coke Zero instead of Diet. Just no. You’re simply seeking a new opportunity. You appreciate everything you’ve learned from your last company but now you’re ready to take the next step in your career. Anything else, and you risk raising red flags about yourself.
Channel Your Inner Annelise Keeting
I love when I interview candidates who interrogate me as hard as I’m interrogating them. Ask questions, lots of them. (NOT related to salary or vacation time—that’s like asking someone one the first date how many kids they want … with you.) Have some prepared before you walk in. It’s fine to bring a notebook with questions and to take notes as you go. And by all means, follow up with a question via email if you have one. Keep the conversation going. I’ve had jobs I didn’t get that resulted in recommendations and freelance jobs long after that one interview.
Even as you’re considering these interview tips, remember this: You’re often doing better in an interview than you think you are. No, I didn’t get a job offer from the one-armed man. When he made a joke that he needed someone to be his right hand, I confirmed the fact that I have absolutely no chill by guffawing so loudly that we immediately said our good-byes. Thirty minutes later, when he left for lunch, he pretended not to notice I was still in the parking lot crying in my car. But I DID get the job where I crashed into the doorjamb. Cause I slay.
What about you? Got any interview horror stories yet? Or tips for avoiding one?