I don’t know about you, but the idea of job interviews gives me anxiety. Maybe it’s because people hype them up so much and it’s all about thinking on your feet to give good answers. That being said, maybe I don’t have enough experience. No, I know I definitely don’t have enough experience. But everyone starts somewhere — and I’m working on it. I will pass on what I’ve learned so far.
Job interviews begin with first impressions. Before you even sit down, a judgment has been made of you — the way you hold yourself, how you interact, how you treat others. A good first impression starts with dressing professionally. I know more than anyone how comfy those ripped jeans or that sundress are, but most of the time, those do not give off the professional vibe that hiring managers are looking for. Although I hate saying things like this because I have strong opinions about dress codes, professional attire will get you far in an interview. It’s a sign of respect to the interviewer to show that you value their time and care about impressing them.
Next, maintain a friendly manner while also refraining from lapsing into colloquialisms. This person is your possible future boss, not your friend. Knowing the difference in how to speak to each can make or break your interview. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get along with the interviewer if you hit it off together. Maybe their cousin went to your high school or they have the same passion for modifying cars that you do. That’s okay if the relationship progresses to a more casual level but always start off professional and respectful.
In interviews, the person conducting it will usually prepare questions and you have to do your best to answer them both truthfully but also skillfully. Find a happy medium between telling them the full truth and telling them what they want to hear. If they ask what skills you have that make you stand out but you aren’t really sure what to answer, list off what you can think of and end with something along the lines of “I have a strong drive to continue learning more through experience and work to apply the critical criticism I receive.” This shows that even if your original skills you listed didn’t set you apart, the fact that you are willing to flexibly cooperate with your boss in order to learn more shows a sense of maturity and responsibility that they are looking for (and those are things you don’t even need to list then because you’ve already shown instead of telling!). I would suggest practicing in advance with a friend or family member who can give you thoughtful advice on how to improve your interview skills beforehand. It helps you sort out the answers in your head prior to being put on the spot and blanking out.
At the end of an interview, typically the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Most people say no and end the interview then and there. Even if you have no real questions, think of something to ask in advance so you’re prepared, because this shows that you are serious about the inquiry and this will make you stand out from other candidates who took this opportunity to simply leave. Also, this is a good time to put the interviewer on the spot as they have been doing to you. They aren’t expecting someone to turn the interview on them so asking something along the lines of “What traits do you find help people be successful in this position?” can catch them off-guard while also impressing them at the same time. Also, if you have any worries about the job and whether or not it would be a good fit for you, ask clarifying questions here because everyone deserves to get the information they want from the process. It’s their job to interview you but it’s also their job to make sure you are informed of the position you’re applying for.
Also important: Always remember that nothing is personal in job interviews. Sure, there may be things you can tweak and improve, though it’s simply that — things you can work to improve for the next time. Nothing is really personal (unless you want it to be).
These are just some basic pointers, but they can start you on the right foot in the world of job interviews. Prepare your resume in advance and bring it to the interview, check your schedule prior so that you know your own availability when they ask, and always start and end with a firm handshake. A firm handshake reflects confidence in yourself which can help you out even if your resume is not so lengthy. Even though job interviews can be scary, consolidate your shaking to your strong handshake. Start where you are; you’ll do just fine.