From cover letters and resumes to reference checks and writing tests, looking for a new job is no easy task. For many people, interviews are the hardest part of the process. We obsess over what to wear, how to prepare, when we should follow-up, how much to laugh, even what kind of paper to print our resumes on! Here are some ‘do’s and don’t’s’ to keep in mind when preparing for the big interview.
Do your homework.
As an interviewer, I can always tell when someone’s taken the time to study up on my firm and our work. You don’t need to know everything about a company, of course, but be prepared to talk about what aspects of their mission or their past work interest you. Is there a specific campaign that resonates with you? A social post about their culture that you enjoyed? Invest some time and energy in researching the company beforehand and you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t start off on the wrong foot.
Always bring a copy of your resume. In fact, bring several copies—just in case! Nowadays, most interviewers are likely to have printed, reviewed, and annotated your resume before you arrive. However, on the off chance your interviewer doesn’t, it’s good to show initiative and preparedness by having some ready to go.
Dress to impress. Research the industry standards for professional attire in your chosen field, and dress accordingly. Employers want to know that, if hired, you can be relied upon to represent the company well.
Timeliness is also key. While we all know accidents can happen, do your best to arrive on time so you’re starting things off on the right note. Interviewers are taking time out of their workday to meet with you, and you want to be respectful of their schedule and workload. Ideally, you’ll aim to get to the area 15 minutes early, just in case you get stuck on a delayed subway, get lost finding the office, or need some time to collect yourself before heading in. Plan to head in the actual office five to ten minutes early, at most, to avoid inconveniencing your interviewer—you never know what else someone might have planned in their schedule!
Do be prepared to discuss your experience and the industry.
While resumes are useful for getting a sense of your background and skillset, nothing is as valuable as face time with a candidate. This is your time to shine! Tell me about your accomplishments at previous jobs/internships (or with student groups/teams, if you’re still in school). Did you save the company money? Hit a fundraising milestone? I want to know what you achieved, how you did it, and what you learned. I’m looking for people who are excited to join my team and positively contribute—show me that that’s you.
It’s also helpful to read up on the latest news in your industry. For example, if you’re looking for roles in marketing/PR, brush up on campaigns that have made waves recently. We’re looking for folks who care about what we work on, so if you’re already passionate and informed, you’ll stick out from the pack.
Don’t spend the whole time talking.
I know, I know, I just said an interview is about sharing your experience, but it should also be a discussion. You want to learn more about the company and the team you’ll be joining, and to do that you should be prepared to ask questions and engage with the interviewer’s responses. Plus, nobody wants to work with someone that monologues or speaks over them, so don’t do it in the interview.
This is your opportunity to get an insider’s perspective on the company—you can only learn so much from the careers page or Glassdoor reviews, after all! Before the interview, spend some time thinking through what you’d like to know about the culture, the team, and the company’s future plans. That way, you can make the most of your time with the interviewer and figure out whether the company and role are a fit for you.
Do be professional.
Aside from learning more about you and your background, interviewers are also interested in gauging your sense of professionalism. We want to know you’ll be able to conduct yourself well with any clients, vendors, prospects, or other external parties that we work with. Err towards the side of caution if you don’t know whether an anecdote or topic is safe for discussion. A good rule of thumb is stick to what you’d feel comfortable discussing with your grandparents at tea—so avoid politics, partying, religion, and your love life.
Don’t forget to send a thoughtful thank you note.
It might seem obvious but sending a thank you note to everyone you interviewed with is the best way to follow-up and ensure you’ve left a positive impression. If you don’t have all the contact details, ask your recruiter if they can pass them along, or politely ask those interviewers whose details you do have to send along your thanks. Some interviewers might even axe your application completely if you neglect to send one, and if you’re in close running with another candidate it could bump them into the lead. Don’t leave the easy brownie points on the table—send the note!
Be confident in what you bring to the table for a prospective employer and show them that through your conversation and demeanor. Invest some time in preparing beforehand and remember to follow-up afterward, and you’ll set yourself up for success – and maybe even clinch that dream job offer. Good luck!