Before I began my work in Human Resources, I remember feeling incredibly nervous before job interviews. My brain would be flooded with interview tips, practice questions, and anxiety about how the interview would go. It was the same every time. I would approach an interview by thinking of how to present my best self. I would stress about what to wear, what to say, how to answer all of their questions, and so on.
After working in HR for 4 years now, my approach to interviews has changed drastically. I now understand what interviewers are looking for. I understand how job postings are created (organizational need + hiring manager + job description = job posting), and how different departments have different hiring needs. Understanding the interview process more fully has erased and revolutionized my pre-interview anxieties.
So if you’re anything like I was, and the idea of a job interview makes you feel sweaty and nauseous, here are a few tips to help you out:
The first, and most important interview tip is to remember that you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Instead of approaching a job interview and thinking “gosh, I hope they like me,” you should be thinking “hmm, I wonder what the manager overseeing this position will be like” or “I wonder if the employee culture will be what I’m looking for.”
When you get to the interview, don’t stress about whether they will like you. Either you will be the right fit for the job and they will be the right fit for you as an employer, or the chemistry will be off and it will be apparent to both sides. Do yourself a solid and ask questions that matter to you. Demonstrate that you are assessing the compatibility of the work relationship just as much as they are. If you can change your mindset from “ahhh, interviews freak me out” to a more inquisitive “hmm, I wonder how this company will fit with my professional goals,” you’ll find that you’re much happier overall, and in time, interviews will become a positive experience for you.
- Do some research. Look up the company you are interviewing with. Scroll through their website, check out the employee/team page, read up on their areas of study or company projects, find any videos or interactive content that is memorable to you. This step is also hugely important, as it will help you to get a first feel for the brand of the company. A company website will tell you a lot – whether it’s a corporate office, an office that believes in the value of its employees, or an office that cares a lot about the work-time happiness and meets for cereal breakfasts every Monday morning.
Doing your research will help you in understanding what to expect, and will come in very handy during the interview. Interviewers are always impressed by people who have taken the time to read up on the company that they are applying to, so let them know that you have done your research and have a few questions of your own.
- Pay attention to subtle cues. When you get to your interview, pay attention to the small details of your experience, starting with the moment that you speak to the receptionist. What is the receptionist like? Friendly? Cold? What is the waiting area like? Bright? Welcoming? What is the interviewer like? When they speak to you, are they respectful? Do they make eye contact? Do they seem interested in hearing what you have to say? The interview process goes by quickly, so I totally understand if it’s difficult to focus on the small details, however the more you can learn about the company while you are there, the better off you’ll be when you’re sitting at home recounting your experience.
And remember – they are focused on paying attention to all of your small details as well, starting with the moment that you present yourself to the receptionist. If you are friendly and polite to the receptionist, chances are they will mention your demeanor to the interviewer, giving you automatic bonus points.
- Revise, and revise, and revise your resume. Use interviews as an opportunity to improve your approach to job searching. Think of the questions you were asked about your professional work experience during your interview. Can you improve the descriptions of your work experience on your resume? Is there anything that needs to be expanded upon or shortened? In looking at your resume format, can the design be improved and modernized? If your resume is in need of an update, consider re-formatting your resume into a creative resume that stands out a bit more. Check out these examples of creative resumes and think of how you can make your resume more of a representation of yourself.
Are you applying for a position in a creative environment? Add some graphics to your resume. Are you applying for a position at a suit-and-tie kind of place? Choose a couple of killer fonts, make sure your spacing is perfect, and include a quote from a past colleague on your work ethic. Think of how you can stand out, and use your interviews as opportunities to revise and refine your resume.
- Be yourself. It won’t help anyone if you try to fit into the mold of the perfect employee. Don’t try to sell them on anything, don’t go out and buy a fancy new outfit for the interview, and don’t try to say the things you think they want to hear. Just be yourself. If you are the right candidate for the position, you want to be the right candidate for being who you are. Remember that they chose to interview you. They selected your resume from a pile of resumes and said “hey, this chick’s got some great experience, let’s interview her to find out what she’s like.”
They want to get to know the real you, and they aren’t interested in being sold a story. So tell it like it is. Own your experience and your skills, and let them know who you are and what you offer. That way if you do get the job, you’ll know it’s because they like who you are and they think you have what it takes to be great in the position.
If you can view interviews as learning experiences rather than stressful situations where you will undoubtedly be judged, you’ll be much happier and much more successful in your job search. The more comfortable you can be in an interview, the better things will go for you.
Anyone have a specific question about interviews? Let me know! I’d love to help out with some advice if I can!