No matter where you’re at in life, a job interview can be a nerve-racking event.
Whether you’re light on experience, looking to switch careers, rejoining the workforce, or shooting for your dream job interviewing is something most people don’t do often so it never becomes “easy.”
We’ve put together a list of “insider tips” of things you can do leading up to your interview so you walk into that office confident, and ready to win the job.
Do your research before the interview.
Being prepared will allow you to head into the job interview with confidence. Spend some time exploring the company website. You can learn more about the business – specifically, the mission, company values, achievements and awards, and possibly about the staff as well.
- Demonstrate your interest in the position.
- Show that you prepared for the interview.
- Help you answer questions in ways that align to their business.
- Help you decide if the employer sounds like the right fit for you.
You won’t be quizzed on what you learn. But you may be pleasantly surprised by just how impressed an employer can be when an applicant takes the extra time to learn about the business.
If you’re interested in learning more about what working for the company is like, websites, such as Glassdoor, provide good insight from current and former employees.
Know how to navigate awkward interview topics.
Life happens. Not everything in your work history will be something you’re eager to talk about. Maybe you were fired, laid off, or have gaps in employment.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
In a job interview, honesty is truly the best policy. Don’t dwell too much on what went wrong. Avoid speaking poorly about your previous boss, co-workers, or company in general.
Instead, elaborate on what you learned from the experience. How have you grown since then?
Another awkward topic of discussion could be unfinished schooling. Plenty of people go into higher education, and realize it was the wrong move, or maybe life circumstances prevented them from finishing.
Whatever the reason may be, the key is to approach it with confidence. If school wasn’t the right fit, or if it wasn’t the right time, say so. Employers are human and they understand higher education isn’t for everyone.
The key to navigating awkward situations is staying positive, being honest, and preparing beforehand.
Practice, practice, practice.
If you’ve ever been in an interview before, you know how stressful it can be when you’re hit with a question you weren’t prepared for. The interviewer is staring at you, patiently waiting for an answer, and your mind has suddenly gone blank. Talk about nerves.
You can prevent this situation.
Once you get your job interview scheduled, start thinking about specific experiences in your work history that you’d like to highlight.
Some examples of answers to have ready are:
- Biggest strength and weakness.
- Why you want the specific position.
- An instance where you made a mistake, and how you resolved it.
- An instance when you had a conflict with a co-worker, and how you resolved it.
- An example of when you went above and beyond your job duties.
Be prepared to discuss your work history and skills, and be able to provide specific examples to back it up. You should also practice explaining why you moved from one job to the other, and what you enjoyed about each job.
Consider practice-interviewing or answering questions with a friend, or in front of a mirror.
There are many ways to prepare for your interview. But the main idea is this: The more you practice, the better you’ll sound, and the more confident you’ll be.
Getting Ready for the Interview
Look the part.
You may not be looking for a corporate job, but it’s important to put in effort when dressing for your interview.
The environment of the company will determine how dressed up you really need to be. If the interview is in a corporate office, wear a suit or business formal attire. If it’s a casual environment, you may be able to wear a nice pair of jeans and a button down or blouse. When in doubt, dress up not down. You can always explain being “over-dressed” but it’s much harder to explain being “under-dressed.”
Make sure your clothes are interview-ready. It doesn’t matter how nice a suit is if it has wrinkles all over it. Wash and iron (if needed) your clothes the night before so they’re ready to go in the morning.
Hair should be neatly kept, nails clean and not distracting. Please be mindful of odors – and not just unpleasant ones. And don’t overdo it on the perfume or cologne.
When it comes to style, you don’t need to hide your personality – just be sure to put your best foot forward.
Being neat and polished in your appearance will help further your brand as a professional.
Bring only what you need.
A notepad, portfolio with your resume, pens/pencils – these are the only items you should bring with you to your interview.
Do not bring any food or drink with you. Food causes an unnecessary mess, can bring an unwanted odor, and can be perceived as disrespectful by the interviewer. If the interview is during breakfast or lunch hours, plan to eat before or after the scheduled interview.
Leave beverages behind, too. While it seems everyone is walking around with a coffee or water bottle in their hand, the interview should be treated more seriously. Bringing a beverage to the interview is a distraction and sends a message that you’re treating this too casually. If you’re offered a beverage at the interview, remember to use your manners. Whether you accept or decline the beverage, a simple “yes, please” or “no, thank you” is always a good idea.
Have extra copies of your resume.
In a perfect world, an interviewer will have time to print off as many copies of your resume as needed. But that’s not always the case.
Yes, the interviewer will have at least seen your resume through your (probably) online application. But, it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra copies on hand when you walk into a job interview.
A colleague may decide last minute to join in on the interview. This usually means they didn’t plan enough time to print another copy of your resume. Being able to offer one so they don’t have to share will showcase your organizational skills before the interview even begins.
Other than being beneficial to the interviewer, having an extra copy of your resume will help you as well. You will be asked specific questions about your work history, and with the nerves of being in an interview, details may slip your mind. The extra copy will help you out in a pinch.
Always anticipate your interviewer didn’t have time to print off a copy of your resume, and you will always be prepared.
Practice Good Lobby Etiquette
Contrary to popular belief, your job interview actually begins the moment you walk into the business. Any employee you’re interacting with is more than likely ninja interviewing you.
Here are some important things to keep in mind before you walk in the building:
Be nice to the receptionist.
Remember when we said you’re being ninja interviewed? The front desk attendant is definitely sizing you up. After all, you might be his/her coworker.
Often times, an interviewer will ask the receptionist what their first impression of you was. Make it a good one.
Here are some things you can do to win over the receptionist:
- Greet them when you enter.
- Be courteous.
- Engage in conversation – if they initiate it.
Hiring managers are looking for individuals who fit in well with the rest of the team. Be professional and polite when interacting with the receptionist.
Put your cell phone on silent – and put it away.
You don’t want to run the risk of your phone ringing when you’re in the middle of your interview. Actually, you don’t want your phone ringing in the lobby either. This could be especially awkward if your ringtone isn’t the most appropriate.
And if your phone does happen to ring, do not answer. If it is an emergency, let the receptionist know and take the call outside.
A good practice is to make sure your phone is just kept away. If your phone sends notifications to your watch, you might consider putting your phone on airplane mode so you aren’t distracted. Checking a notification on your watch looks like you’re checking the time and sends the wrong message.
Avoid texting, checking social media, or surfing the internet. This can distract you and make you look disinterested. If you are nervous and need something to do, many lobbies provide reading material. You can also use this time to review your resume.
Things to Remember During the Interview
You’re also conducting an interview.
Sometimes a job can look great on paper, but that’s not enough to determine if it’s a good fit for you. The best way to do that is to learn more details about the position.
Coming up with questions on the spot is hard. Be prepared. Have a list of questions you want to ask. If you need help coming up with questions, think about what you want out of a job. Think about what you need to be successful. What would make an opportunity your right fit?
Here are some questions you could ask:
- Is training provided?
- What does success look like?
- Why is this position open?
Employers want you to have questions. It shows that you’re interested in the role.
Don’t be afraid to use your interview to conduct your own interview.
Ask closing questions.
When the interview is wrapping up, you’re going to be asked again if you have any final questions. Trust us, you do.
The hiring process doesn’t look the same for every job you’re applying to. This is the moment to get a clear idea of what post-interview communication will look like.
Here are some examples of what to ask at the end of your interview:
- What are the next steps?
- When will you make a hiring decision?
- Are there any questions you have for me that I haven’t answered?
Sometimes a company can plan to wait a few weeks to make a decision. If you’re looking at other job opportunities, this is a good chance to let them know. They’re likely to move a little faster in the decision making process.
Asking closing questions in your job interview will let you know what to expect, and when to expect it.
Staffing and interviews
As part of your job search strategy, consider talking to a recruiter or staffing agency. They’ve built relationships with the companies they service and are passionate about finding the right fit. A recruiter will do more than just send you off to a company and cross their fingers. They’re going to spend the time setting you up for success.
Your recruiter will tell you what types of questions to prepare for, give thorough information about the company, and even give some information about the interviewer. You will walk into that interview with more confidence than you thought possible.
Don’t forget about your initial interview with a staffing agency. Some people just assume it’s a formality, and for the sole purpose of filling out some paperwork. But this is not the case.
Intake interviews with any staffing agency should be held in the same regard as any other interview. A recruiter needs to be confident that you will do well when they send you to interview with a company. You want to make a good first impression.
Getting ready for a job interview can be overwhelming.
With the right preparation and planning, you can calm your nerves and have a successful interview.
If you’re looking for more interview tips, check out some of our other blog posts:
- Questions You Can Ask to Nail Your Interview
- How to Nail Your Manufacturing Interview
- Post Interview: Thank You Email vs. Handwritten Thank You Note?
If you’re looking for work, consider partnering with TERRA Staffing Group. We help thousands of people every year find employment.
Our recruiters are passionate about helping you find the right fit, and understand what hiring companies are looking for.
We believe in the power of people, and we believe in the power of jobs. That’s why our mission is simple: Success Stories Created Daily.
Take a look at our current job openings. We have offices in the Seattle-Puget Sound, Portland-Metro, and Phoenix-Metro areas.
We’re excited to work with you!