Interviewing is the most important step in the job search process, but also the most difficult. You can take you time and create a great resume, LinkedIn profile and job application. However, an interview is real-time and there are no edits so you must get it right the first time.
People spend little time learning how to interview, even though it is so important. You need to take time to perfect your interview skills. By the time you get an interview, you will not have a lot of time to perfect these skills.
In this series, I will go through how to prepare for the interview, what to do during the interview and what to do after. What you have to learn are the behaviors you need to employ during this process. The only way to ensure you have it down is to practice.
Scheduling The Interview
So, all of your hard work during the job search has paid off and a recruiter is calling you. Now what? Well, go ahead and answer the phone and then finish reading this article.
Let’s back up and pretend that your phone is not actually ringing. While you’re going through the job application process, there are a few things you need to prepare for. When you start to apply for jobs, you are now in the waiting game. A recruiter could call you at anytime and you need to know what to tell them.
This is an exciting time and you should already have an idea of how this first conversation will go.
There are a few things you should prepare for:
- Do not avoid blocked numbers
- Setup your voicemail with a professional message
- Know your calendar
Any call from a number that you do not recognize should be treated professionally, even if the number is blocked. Some recruiters do not want you to have their direct phone number so it may appear as blocked or private.
Also, you should make sure your voicemail is setup and you have a professional message. The company’s first experience communicating with you should be positive.
If you are currently employed or have other obligations during the day, you need to stay aware of the times during the next week that you have free. At the beginning of the week, have a look at your work and personal calendar so you know when you will not be free during the week.
There are times throughout your day or week that are free of scheduling conflict. Make sure you are aware of them during your job search. This will make scheduling easier while you’re on the phone with the recruiter. Having a good idea of your schedule will reduce the odds that you will have to contact the recruiter to reschedule the interview.
It is not a bad thing to have to reschedule an interview, but it is not ideal. You do not want to appear unorganized and it can be difficult to get the recruiter back on the phone.
Taking Time Off
When interviewing for a new company, you still have to be mindful of the needs of your current employer. If you do not get the new job, you do not want to risk losing the job you have.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when interviewing:
- Don’t pretend you’re sick
- Be creative with taking time off
- Maintain a good relationship with your current employer
You do not want to risk earning the reputation of being unreliable. While most employers cannot fire you for calling in sick, the poor reputation is going to work against you in the future.
The right way to handle this is to schedule vacation time off. Ideally you should give at least 48 hours notice, but more notice is preferable. It is customary for a recruiter to allow up to 5 business days from the date they contacted you to schedule the interview. The new company should know that and be ok giving you that much lead time.
The obvious downside to taking vacation time off is that your run out of it. You may have to be creative with your interview scheduling. See if you can take half days off if your interview is not until the afternoon. Or if it is in the morning, come into work after the interview.
This is one of the benefits of taking vacation instead of calling in sick. There is a whole routine you have to go through when pretending to be sick. Changing your voice on the phone, pretending you went to the doctor, trying to gauge when you should start to act like you’re well again.
Also, it is hard to pull off a half sick day, but nobody is going to question a half vacation day. There is also no fear of being found out. There is something more respectful about using your paid time off for a job search versus lying about being sick.
Something else to consider is maintaining the relationship with your current employer. If you start to take sick days off and then you get a new job, your current employer is going to know that you were interviewing the whole time.
When you are building your brand as a great employee, it is not good to have bridges burning in your background. There has been a trend of recruiters asking for references when you apply for a job. You do not want a bad relationship with a previous managers stand in the way of future opportunities for you.
What to Wear
Don’t worry, I’m not about to give you fashion advice. However, I do want to talk about certain considerations that you should keep in mind when preparing for the interview.
First, you need to wear a suit. For guys, this means slacks, a dress shirt, a tie and a jacket. For ladies, anything with a nice blouse and a blazer. Nice, professional shoes are also a must.
Second, be mindful of the environment of the company for which you’re interviewing. If you are interviewing at a company that is very conservative, you should tone down your outfit. You do not want to come off as tacky or gaudy.
Do you remember the advice about giving 48 hours notice for the interview? That will help you with the third tip regarding attire. You should pick out and try on your entire outfit two days before the interview, down to the socks.
If you have an interview on Thursday, you need to know by Wednesday morning if you have to make any changes to it. The last thing you want to do is find out the morning of the interview that your suit doesn’t fit or you can’t find the tie you were going to wear.
Your mind should be on preparing how you’re going to answer the interview questions. These last minute issues will only distract you and ruin your concentration.
What to Bring
In an effort to appear organized and prepared, there are some necessary materials you should bring to the interview.
- Get a professional folio
- Bring resume copies
- Leave any extra materials in the car
You should bring a folio of some kind to carry your materials with you. This would preferably be leather or some nice material.
Second, you should have multiple copies of your resume in the folio. You don’t often get a chance to physically give somebody your resume, but this is a time where resume paper would be nice touch.
There should be enough copies for every interviewer plus one for yourself. Most likely the interviewer will have their own printout of your resume, but showing that you have copies for them makes a good impression.
Thirdly, you should have a printout of the instructions of what to do when you arrive for the interview. The recruiter should have emailed you an address, name, and phone number of who you will meet with.
It is important to have this handy and to have a hard copy. Don’t wait until you arrive to pull this information up on your phone. You may run into data issues due to poor cell coverage. Your phone battery may die, the phone could malfunction, you could lose the phone. Yes, these situations aren’t very likely, but important days tend to be when the worst things happen.
Lastly, here is what not to bring. When you’re wearing a nice suit, you don’t want to have bulges from your wallet and keys in your pockets. Take out your drivers license and a credit/debit card and put them in the folio.
Leave the wallet and any extra keys or key chains in the car. Take off the Fitbit and the smart watch. The extra keys add bulk and noise. All of these will also be distractions and take away from your appearance. For ladies, use a smaller purse and remove anything you will not need or makes noise.
Logistics of Interview Day
How you start your interview day can have a big affect on your success during the interview. The day of the interview needs to be planned very carefully to avoid unnecessary stress.
The biggest obstacle you have to overcome is timeliness. Being late to the interview is going to seriously jeopardize your chances of being selected for the position.
Why would anyone hire you if you do not take the interview seriously enough to be on time. You are demonstrating that the interviewers time is not valuable. You show them that you are not good with time management and are not well prepared.
Also, when you arrive late, you won’t have the composure and confidence you need during the interview. You will be embarrassed and guilty which creates a tension in the room. Tension is the wrong environment for a successful interview.
There are some things you need to do to keep this from happening. First, you need to know exactly where the interview is and the best route to take.
Google Maps and Waze provide the best directions (sorry Apple). If you are not familiar with the area, I suggest mapping the route the day before, at the same time you would leave for the interview.
If you map the route at the interview time, you will know how long the drive takes in traffic and about any construction in the area.
Also, plan to leave 30 minutes earlier than the GPS suggests you to leave. You may get to the interview well before you need to, but that is better than being one minute late.
Take this time to practice your answers to the interview questions. Enter the building 10 minutes before your interview to allow time to go through security and get to the interview room.
To wrap up…
Know your calendar
Use vacation time
Only bring the minimum
Plan your route
I know this was a long post, but I wanted to go through as much detail as possible. Be sure and subscribe so you don’t miss part two of the Interview Series.