Everything’s on the line when you go in for a job interview in person. You’re under pressure whether to earn money to keep food on your family’s table or to go as far as you can with your first job. The initial job interview for the position is your chance to make a great first impression and solidify your likelihood for employment.
Whether you get a call back for a second interview, you get offered the job on the spot, or your follow-up calls are ignored is somewhat up to you.
Prepare for the interview far in advance.
1. Be aware of the purpose of the interview from your perspective. You’re looking for a job. Companies are looking for employees. You’re not going to be a good match for every opportunity out there, and that goes both ways. The interview is a chance for you to find out if a company is right for you.
If you desperately need a job, you may be willing to accept an opportunity that isn’t a good fit. Interviews are successful when no one is desperate, and the pressure is off to accept an offer. You should use the opportunity as a chance to evaluate the company you may be spending years of your life with and the people you’ll interact with every day.
Go to the interview with the attitude that you’re not going to settle.
2. Approach your interview like an audition. Your meeting is a test of your communication skills. Practice like you would for an audition. Ask your successful friends to role-play the interview.
Go on interviews for jobs you don’t intend to accept. This isn’t a waste of time; it’s excellent practice for meeting people and communicating about yourself, even if the details will be different for every interview.
3. Learn everything you can about your role and the people interviewing you. Do your research. You should enter the interview with a wealth of knowledge about the company.
The focus of this knowledge depends on the type of job you’re seeking and the level at which you expect to be hired, but be ready to communicate about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) you expect to encounter in your role.
4. Examine your public profile. Any company seriously considering a job candidate will do their own due diligence on you. Your reputation will need to survive a criminal background check as well as cursory social media investigation. This is where always maintaining a professional image online can help you.
The first step is controlling what you publish publicly online. Don’t be stupid by sharing with the world anything that you wouldn’t want seen in an article about you in the New York Times.
Next, you have to think about what your friends are posting about you. You have little control over what your friends do, and most reasonable employers recognize that social media isn’t necessarily a professional settings, but items shared by your friends can reflect poorly on you and your reputation.
Take care of this on the day of the interview.
5. Get sleep, arrive early, look the part. You should be at your best to make a positive first impression. Be relaxed and healthy, and a good night’s sleep before the interview can make a big difference.
Plan to arrive early for the interview. If you do arrive early, you will have a chance to look around and get comfortable with your surroundings. Planning to arrive early also gives you a buffer of time, and that will come in handy if a train or bus is running late or if there’s a traffic jam on the way to your appointment. Even when your lateness is due to something beyond your control, it reflects poorly on you.
Know ahead of time what you’re expected to wear while on the job, and choose an outfit a little nicer.
6. Project a positive attitude during the interview. For the purposes of the interview, you have a better chance of getting a job offer if your attitude matches what the hiring manager or your interviewer expects. There are a number of variables at play for these expectations, and there can be subtle or major differences based on sex.
Regardless of sex, confidence is the most appealing personality attribute during an interview. But confidence must be carefully controlled. Not everyone who is confident is doing a good job of presenting themselves, especially if that confidence is interpreted as superior or demeaning to others.
Express your confidence in a way that makes everyone in the room feel good about themselves.
Along with confidence, honesty and humility go far, especially when there’s a strong desire to prove yourself to be the best. You are human — be yourself.
7. Ask intelligent, relevant, and surprisingly bold questions. Inevitably, every interviewer provides the job applicant with an opportunity to ask questions. By this point in the interview, you’ve probably done a great job answering questions about your experience and expressing who you are while in the hot seat.
Have you sprinkled well thought-out questions as you go along? Doing so helps shift the focus around during the interview and allows you to find out more about the position and the company. Even still, it’s good to have a few questions in your back pocket for that one opportunity you know will come at the end of the interview. This isn’t the time to ask about vacation days or your 401(k) vesting schedule.
Assuming you’ve already asked all the relevant questions throughout the interview, the end is a good chance to show your bold side. Ask if the interviewer has any reservations or concerns about what you’ve said during the interview — or anything that might prevent the company from offering you the job. This does two things:
- If the answer is no, you’re solidifying the interviewer’s interest in you by making them affirm it out loud.
- If you did say something the interviewer didn’t like, you’ll get a chance to address the concern and clarify yourself. This can turn a “no” into a “yes.”
Don’t drop the ball after the interview.
8. Promptly follow-up with a thank you note. Some companies take longer to process applicants than others. The hiring process might be long. You don’t want to pester your potential manager, but you do want to make sure they are reminded of your interest.
A thank-you note within 24 hours of the interview, sent by email, is generally accepted to be a polite follow-up. Be sincere and thank your interviewer for the opportunity and their time. You may even want to use this as an opportunity to ask an additional question about the job, just to keep the communication going.
But don’t be alarmed if you don’t receive a reply. The lack of reply likely has nothing to do with you. There may be any number of other applicants, and the manager might be busy. You’ll hear from the company if and when they’re ready to move to the next stage of the hiring process.
Good luck with the interview. Regardless of the outcome, keep a positive attitude and don’t burn your bridges.