Get everything organized early. Fill out applications neatly, completely and in black ink. If requested, collect letters of recommendation, your reference list, copies of licenses, driving record (for those jobs that require it) and Social Security or Alien Registration card. Bring a notebook, pen, business cards and extra copies of your resume. Bring your portfolio, and if you have a Web-based version, write down the URL so you can find it rapidly.
And put it all in a nice folder, zippered case or briefcase. Look professional.
Arrive on time for the interview. Plan your schedule and route so you arrive 10 to 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. Do not—repeat, do not — arrive a half hour early or an hour early to show your desire for the job. Your interviewers are likely to find this irritating because they may have to change their schedule to handle your earlier arrival. They gave you an interview time for a reason, and show up a few minutes before it, and no more.
While you are sitting in the lobby, review questions you want to ask in the interview, your resume and your personal data record for related skills. By now you should have convinced yourself you are the best person for the job. Now it’s time to convince the employer.
The vast majority of communication is nonverbal. Your posture, walk, dress, facial movement, energy, gestures and eye contact are all nonverbal signals. Try using a natural greeting and shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first. Show reserved confidence and let the interviewer start the dialogue.
Focus on the questions and answer carefully. When your chance comes ask good questions about the job, the company and the team you may be joining.
Every interview is a learning experience. Use each one as a building block for the next one. You may go through many interviews before you connect with the right job. You should get better with practice. Analyze what went right and what went wrong with every interview, and then ensure that the surprise question or the strange inquiry during the next one does not throw you off course.
You may be a good worker, but you have to back up statements with samples demonstrating your productivity and accomplishments in past jobs. Tell employers about your skills, because no one else will. Let employers know you can adjust, work well with others, and fit into a new environment without complaints. Tell a story from your experience that illustrates your flexibility.
Stories are important. “When you interview, tell stories. You know you’re going to encounter the question, ‘What are your strengths?’ Don’t give a list,” writes Penelope Truck in “Brazen Careerists.” “It’s not persuasive. Tell a story about your strengths. This way you tell the hiring manager something memorable and you get in a bit about your achievements.”
You should emphasize your commitment to learning. Demonstrate this through your own independent study, professional development, education, workshops and awards. Your plan for future development also communicates your commitment to learning.
Demonstrate interest by asking when the position will be filled. In the final stage, summarize why you’re qualified by stating strengths and qualities you may have forgotten to emphasize earlier. Remember, don’t overstay your time.
Ask what the next step is in the hiring process. Will there be additional interviews? When will the hiring decision be made? When could you call back for the decision? Be proactive in your follow-up. Schedule the next interview. Arrange to call the employer to learn the decision.
Evaluate the interview. What went well in the interview? How can you improve?
Record your follow-up plans. Write the date and time for your next contact with the employer. Be sure you follow through on these plans.
Send thank you letters, notes or emails within 24 hours to each person with whom you interviewed. For information on thank you letters and notes, see the next chapter, Finishing Touches.