Looking for a new job is always an exciting AND stressful time. For starters, it’s never easy. Not only may the job market be saturated (in your respective field), but it also takes a lot of work to get your resumé and application in the right hands. After sending out hundreds of applications, you may find yourself only hearing back from a handful of companies. First of all, this is totally normal!! I’ve found that for almost 15-20 applications I have sent out, I’ve heard back from maybe 3-4 of those businesses. That didn’t make me any less qualified (even though sometimes this is absolutely the case), but it did make me realize how important it is to really nail that interview if you get one!
The truth is, there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to applying for a new job. To look good on paper is one thing, but to be even better in person is another.
Having been on both sides of interviewing – the interviewee wanting a job and the interviewer looking to hire – there are a few things I have experienced and come to notice. This post will focus on interviewee tips and tricks that I have found helpful in my previous job search, and I hope you do too.
- Bring at least 5-10 copies of your resume, and always offer one to the person you are interviewing with. If you read my previous post on getting the interview, then you know how keen I am on having a pretty resume! That being said, bring multiple copies of your resumé, and always offer one to the person you are interviewing with. Why? Because ghost interviews are a thing. What are those? Well, although HR may have scheduled you to meet with one person, they may be holding time on additional team members calendars that you could potentially meet with after your first interview, given that the interviewer finds you to be a good candidate and fit. Typically, HR will not tell you that you may meet with additional team members, as it’s a game-time decision thing from the interviewer. I recommend always offering the person you are meeting with a resumé just for the simple fact that it shows you are prepared. Even if they have your resumé right in front of them, it’s a nice gesture to show that you came prepared to distribute your resumé if needed.
- Do your research. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. First, companies (especially corporate) are large, big and confusing. There are many “businesses within the larger business” and this is usually not as apparent to the public’s eye unless you are in that industry and are aware. For example, many consumers do not know that E!, USA, BRAVO, Syfy, & Telemundo are all owned by NBC Universal. Even though each television network is a distinctive brand and has specific content (i.e. Kardashians on E!, Housewives on Bravo), we are all owned by the same corporate company, and probably share a floor or desk cube together in the office. That being said, it’s important you take the time to do your research and learn about the overall company and the team/role you are applying for.
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Another one of my favs. Individualism is a phenomenal thing, and no one should take that away from you. However, I do believe that if you are applying for a job that you really want, then dress for it. For me, I would always rather be overdressed than under dressed. Also if interviewers are anything like me, I always dress up a bit more on the days I am interviewing candidates because it’s a two way street! Some companies are known for being very casual, and will actually instruct their candidates to NOT wear business attire to the interview. If it were me, I’d go off what they say while keeping in mind that a simple black (or colored) blazer never hurts and can be as casual or business as you want it to be. All in all, I’m a firm believer in dressing for the job you want, not the one you have. To my earlier point, you also never know who you will officially be meeting with. Just because you are “scheduled” to meet with a Manager does not meant that you might end up interviewing with an Executive that same day. It’s just one day of being your most professional self, and when you get the job, there will be plenty of days you won’t have to be so done up in the office.
- Be prepared to answer tough questions. The first question I always get once I give this advice is: “How do I know what tough questions they will ask?” Unfortunately, there really is no way of knowing. I suggest you Google common interview questions for the field you are in and be prepared to answer them. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing/brand position, be prepared to answer questions about the company’s brand, and also be prepared to talk about competitive or other brands that are doing the right and wrong things and why. This shows that you not only have a vision for the company you are applying for, but you’re also able to competitively research and analyze what other businesses are doing.
- Be prepared to ask questions. I said it before and I’ll say it again, interviewing is a two way street! Not only is the business interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. In my experience, there have been so many times candidates had an “a-ha” moment mid-interview because they thought the role was completely different on paper vs. when I was explaining it to them. This can be good or bad, depending on what you want! It’s important to ask questions, no matter how small or big. Asking what the company culture is like, typical hours, organization of the team, etc are all things most interviewees are important to ask. I get it, you don’t want your potential employer to think that you don’t want to work outside the 9-6 window by asking what the typical hours are, but knowing the true reality of the role is important and is not an oversight. Aside from those “awkward” questions, it’s always a good idea to ask the interviewer what some of their favorite projects or accomplishments have been throughout their time on this team. Based on their answer, you may get a glimpse of what core values the team holds (and that person individually), and what types of projects are available for other team members to take on as well.
- Know your basics. In every interview, there are usually some basic questions that will be asked. Questions like: What are your strengths, weaknesses, ways you stay organized, ways you are resourceful and more all the “basic” questions that come to mind when I think of interviewing. These questions should come easy to you and you should be ready to answer them with little trouble. Using examples from previous work experiences are also a great way to apply what you have done in the past to the role you are interviewing for…which leads us to the next tip…
- Apply your experience to the role you are interviewing for. This is another one of my go-to pieces of advice. If you’ve ever been on an interview, then you are most likely familiar with the question “tell me about yourself,” or “walk me through your resumé.” This is a great time to showcase why your previous experiences make you a great candidate. Therefore, before your interview, make sure you do your research on what the role really is, and how your experience can “fit.” I always like to start with my most recent professional experience because it’s fresh, but I also hop around a bit when it comes to my other work experience, depending on the type of role I am applying for. Depending on what is directly asked, you can go into depth on some roles, and only touch a bit upon other roles you have done in the past.
- Be honest and clear with the interviewer about your expectations & goals. Whether the interviewer asks you directly, your bring it up in conversation, you should be honest and clear about the goals and expectations you may have in regards to the role you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for an entry level assistant position for the EVP of PR, but your goal is to learn as much as you can so you can one day transition over to Marketing, say so! There truly is no right or wrong answer, and I know many people fear they will say the wrong thing. The truth is, the wrong or right thing to say varies to so many people. I’ve always found that if you are honest and open about your goals and expectations, you (and the hiring manager) will quickly be able to decide if this role or team is the best fit. Remember, it’s a two way street!
- Follow up Thank You notes are not a bad thing. Let’s be real, sending a Thank You note to the hiring manager or HR representative is not going to be seen as kissing up to the department/team. I personally like when candidates send Thank You notes because for me, it means they really are interested in the role. This is also a great place to critically analyze your interview and add in anything that you took away from the conversation you had with the hiring manager. For example, you could let the hiring manager know you are even more excited about this opportunity based on the conversation you had about X,Y,Z. This doesn’t have to be an essay either. Short & sweet works just as well.
- Be honest with yourself after the interview. Now that the interview is over, it’s time to really think about what you discussed with the hiring manager and if this will be a good fit for you. Depending on where you are in your career, you may be in a place where you could walk away saying this isn’t the best fit and look for something else, or you could be on the opposite end of just wanting a job so you can kick-start your career. Either way, it’s important to analyze the things that were discussed. What was the company culture like? Was the office loud and noisy, or super quiet? Were people friendly and talking to each other or were they minding their own business? Is there room for growth down the road? What are traditional work hours? I suggest writing down the things that are most important to you in terms of a company/team/role, and then use that as a guide to help you decide if the role you are applying for if a fit for you. There may always be some things you may have to sacrifice, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide!