Nail that Interview! Or Wing it. Either way, Here's Some Tips

Are you job hunting like me? Has COVID completely upturned your life, making you have to go through the job hunting process again?


Yeah, same here.

During 2020, I had some downtime, but also time to meet new people through interviewing for positions. I've picked up some tips on what to do when interviewing, and best practices to follow up with before, during, and after the interview.


Right now I'm looking for the next step in my career that will allow me to be able to save some money to start my business ideas. So I'll (hopefully) be doing some interviewing soon.


Here are my tips:


Shake Those Nerves!

If you're interviewing for the first time for any job, you may find that you're nervous. You don't know what to expect, the person may ask you something you don't know how to answer. And what if there's awkward silence?!

Don't fret. Take some deep breaths. And in the meantime:


Research the Company like Crazy

It might help to know what company you're interviewing with. To help your nerves, it's always good to know a lot about the company as well as the position you're going for. When I interviewed with American Girl, I felt like an expert because I grew up with the dolls and knew a lot about the company already. Same thing with the wedding venue I worked with. I had previously been there for a couple events in college, and I also followed them on social media. During the hiring process, I studied the job posting so I was able to understand the position and formulate questions to ask once I go in for the interview. If you go into the interview with a clear idea of who the company is, what they stand for, and what their mission is, you'll do fine.


Pick Your OOTD

It doesn't matter if you're interviewing with a top 100 company or a small family owned restaurant. Dress nicely! That means dress pants, close-toed shoes, button ups, and clean hair (and breath!). If you want to wear a skirt or dress, I suggest wearing some tights too. Dress modestly! Make sure your button up or blouse is presentable. I also suggest pairing your clothes with bags, belts, and jewellery that looks clean. Bottom line is, try not to come in with jeans and a graphic tee. If you need some inspiration, always go for Pinterest.

There are exceptions to this, just check in with your interviewer on how to dress.


Communicate with Your Future Employer

Communication is important in any aspect of life, but it's really important when trying to impress your future employer. Make sure to practice common courtesy when scheduling the interview; be polite and flexible with your time. If you need to reschedule the interview, be sure to let them know as soon as possible. Here are a couple examples of good communication:


1st Scenario:

An employer wants to interview you.

Employer: "Hello, I'd like to schedule an interview with you. How does Wednesday at 2:00pm sound?"

You: "Hello there. I'm sorry, I cannot make that time, does 3:00pm on Friday work for you?"

Employer: "Yes, that works. Thank you, see you then."

You: "You're welcome, looking forward to meeting you!"


2nd Scenario:

Something comes up where you cannot make your interview time, which is at least 24 hours from now.

You: "Hello there. I hope you are having a good week. I am emailing you to say I unfortunately cannot make my interview time. Is there any way I can reschedule for another date? Here are my available dates and times."

Employer: "Hello, we can do this day and time, does that work for you?"

You: "Yes that works better for me, thank you. I appreciate your understanding. I look forward to meeting you then!"


These two scenarios are good examples of communication between interviewer and applicant. I cannot stress how important it is to communicate with employers, especially if you cannot make an interview time. If you schedule an interview and don't show up, it wastes a lot of people's time and is super frustrating. I've dealt with this when interviewing interns at the wedding venue I worked at.


Also, be sure that your employer is also communicating with you with this level of courtesy. If not, that's a red flag that maybe you should look elsewhere. Later I'll talk about other red flags to look out for. In the meantime, here is a bad example:

Bad Scenario:

An employer wants to interview you.

Employer: "Hello, I'd like to schedule an interview with you. How does Wednesday at 2:00pm sound?"

You: "Sorry I can't do that time."

Employer: "Okay, here are our available dates and times. Do any of these times work for you?"

You: "I can do Thursday."

Employer: "Okay, what time Thursday?"

(Notice how the conversation is dragging along. Make sure to be specific with your messages. If you are free during a time, be sure to say date AND time. You don't want to create an unnecessarily long email chain.


Common Interview Questions

Finally, it's time for that interview. You're in the room with your future employer, and they say, "So tell me about yourself." And your mind goes blank. What do you do?!


First, it's good to talk about your academic and professional work in the form of a story. Start with where you graduated, your relevant work experiences, and where you hope to be either in life, or with the company. Here's a good example:


"Well I graduated from this college/school where I studied this and this. Afterwards I spent my time at this job where I learned a lot about this and this, and while there I did these accomplishments. After working there for this amount of time, I moved to my current position where I did this and this and accomplished these things. I am hoping to work with another company with this list of goals so I can further my career in this."


If you really cannot find anything to talk about in terms of work experience, try talking about what you hope to accomplish in a work environment. This helps if you are just starting out in the workforce, or are younger. Even if you don't think you have any experience, think about what your strengths are as a person, and play up to those. Things like:

-Works well with a team

-You are consistent and have a good work ethic

-Organised and can manage time

-Self-Motivated and driven

Here are some other common questions, and good answers to them:

"Why did you apply to this job?/What made you want to work with us?"

I value the goals that this company has; I want to further my experience in this field; I believe I have these values that match the company values; I have previous experiences that I can use with this company to further your goals.


"What are your strengths/weaknesses?"

Strength: I have these qualities that helped me in these positions/in life; Weakness: I find that I tend to do these things, but I am taking steps to better myself in future positions.


"Name a time when you encountered a problem/rude customer/incident, and what you did to solve it"

Again, tell it like a story. Think back to a time in your career that you want to share, and don't stretch the truth. Be honest in your story. This can be a time when you had to deal with a rude customer, or when you noticed a mistake a co-worker/manager made that you fixed, or even a problem that you caused, and what steps you took to fix the issue. Here's a real example I use in interviews:

"The first time I captained a wedding on my own, one of the vendors had parked their car in our lot illegally. I had to take initiative to tell them multiple times to move their car or the owner was going to tow it. This was a big step for me because at the time it was hard for me to be confrontational to strangers. But I managed to do it, and the rest of the time I was at that position, I came out of my shell, and was able to be more managerial in my position."


I made a lot of mistakes at that job, like any person does. We're all human, but share a story with them that ultimately helped you and made you a better person. As someone who has interviewed people, I like people who show they can change, grow, and learn. Especially in a fast-paced work environment like retail or hospitality.


Mannerisms Matter

During the interview, it's important to be focused. Well, of course it is. But what I mean is in your body language. If you are looking down, slouching, or fidgeting, it's not a very good look. One thing my dad taught me was to place my hands wherever the interviewer can see them. This shows that you aren't hiding anything. I practice this all the time; I place my hands in my lap, or on the desk, wherever they can see them.


Make sure you're sitting up straight and giving the interviewer lots of eye contact. Trust me, when I was younger, it was very hard for me to give eye contact to anyone, but I forced myself to. This really helped with my confidence, and you appear as though you are listening and understanding. I hope you are anyways!


And of course be polite with handshakes, nods, y'know the usual stuff.


Now It's Your Turn to Ask the Questions

Near the end of the interview, your future employer will ask if you have any questions for them. Here are some really good questions to ask, and ones I ask all the time:

"What is a typical day like here at this company?"

"What are your expectations for a new employee?"

"What are the company goals that you are trying to reach?"

"Is there a lot of downtime in this position, and if so, what do you suggest for downtime activities?" (I had an interviewer ask me this instead for a retail position.)

Any specific questions about the position, like salary, hours, growth opportunities, benefits, etc.


It's not optional to ask questions, you should ALWAYS ask questions after an interview, no matter what. This shows that you are interested in the position. If you really can't think of any questions, or the employer answered a lot of your questions, just go for the "typical day" question or the "downtime" question. It works every time.

Afterwards: Thank You For Your Time

After you leave the interview, take a sigh of relief. You did it! Hopefully you did well enough to impress them, and soon you'll get that call for a second interview or job offer. Even if you think you didn't do very well, just be happy you got the experience with interviewing; it's a good skill to have. Here are some good post-interview practices:

Send a thank you email 24-72 hours after the interview. Just a quick note to thank them for taking time out of their day to interview you. That way, you are on their mind.

If you haven't heard anything back in 2 weeks or so, send them a quick update email. Just ask if there are any updates and leave it at that. Most times they have a lot of resumes and interviews to get through, and the process takes some time.

If it's been a long time, try giving them a call. Most employers will really appreciate the follow up, and look to you more as an option. This is how I got my job at the wedding venue; I called them after the second interview and my boss really appreciated that I followed up; it showed that I have a skill that would work in that environment.

Unfortunately, employers will send you rejection emails or even worse, send nothing back. But don't get discouraged! There are many rejections until you get that one offer. In fact, a job I was hoping for had filled the position by the time I followed up with them. I know how it feels, but we just have to try again.


Look Out for Red Flags

Here are some red flags to look out for in the hiring process:

-Any type of interview that's not face to face or over the phone. (not including zoom interviews)

-When you have a hard time scheduling with them, or they keep rescheduling your interview time.

-Be wary when they want to hire you on the spot. This may differ in certain retail and warehouse positions where they just need someone to move boxes or ring up customers.

-When they take a very long time to respond, or respond at odd hours

-A disorganised interview day

-Any signs of offensive material or conversation, intimidation tactics, or morals that don't line up with yours


Those are my tips for nailing that interview. Wish me luck on my future career opportunities, and I wish YOU luck on yours. I hope these tips helped you get a better understanding of interviews; sometimes the best thing you can do is just get it over with. But being prepared for that 20 minutes or so can be the start of a new opportunity!


What are some of your interview tips? I'd love to know.


-Allison


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