Throughout the years, I have been on countless interviews in order to advance my career. I usually master a position and move on to something else within about 2 years. The longest I have been in any one position was for 5 years, and that was only because it felt more like a family than a typical workplace environment. I didn’t want to leave that group of people, but I eventually had to, because of my desire to continue my climb up the corporate ladder. Even though I have moved on to new positions frequently, I have spent the bulk of my career at the same company.
When I was in management, part of my responsibility was to interview and hire members of my department. I have been on both sides of the interview table. I’ve interviewed for numerous positions that I have applied for, and I have interviewed people to work for me and my team.
Here are a few things that caught my attention during my interview and hiring searches.
1. Submit a tailor-made resume for the specific position you are applying for.
Whenever I decide to apply for a new position, I print the job summary and carefully review the qualifications required, along with the assigned responsibilities. I then use a highlighter to capture the most crucial components, so I can make sure my resume contains those elements (no lies or embellishments, because it can be easily verified). If I do not have the exact experienced listed, I still try to highlight equivalent experience.
A generic resume that you send out for every position you apply for, will not get as much recognition, unless it is a highly specialized resume geared towards a specific occupation.
2. Proofread your resume 2-3 times or have someone else read it over before you submit it (or pay a professional to create it for you).
Some people (myself included) are immediately annoyed by typos and bad grammar. The resume is usually the first introduction of who you are, and if we should waste our time even meeting with you. Bad resumes can keep you from getting an interview, especially if it’s a position with numerous applicants.
Interviewers try to narrow the list down as much as possible, because they simply don’t have time to meet with everyone who applied. You might be the perfect candidate for the position, but if your resume is bad, you may get overlooked without a second thought.
3. Never complain during your interview about your previous or current position, manager or colleagues.
Complaining during interviews comes across like you complain about everything, or that you do not get along well with others. It also appears like you might not really want the position you are applying for, and just want to get out of your current position. Things change in the corporate world from day to day, so interviewers want someone who is going to roll with whatever is going on, and still perform at a high level.
I vividly recall interviewing someone for an open position that I had on my team. The entire interview was the applicant telling me what was wrong with her current department, and how unhappy she was in her current role. I ended the interview early, because not once did she express her interest in the open position she had applied for. She was too occupied with her current employment complaints.
4. Have a great explanation for huge time gaps in between employment or multiple job changes within a short period of time.
Interviewers are looking for people who are dependable and not just going to leave for another position in a month or two. Filling open positions is an investment, because it takes time to find the right person for the job and more time to get them fully trained to complete the job. For this reason, you do not want to give them any indication that you might not stick around for the long haul.
As I mentioned above, I tend to move around frequently, but within the same company, which is not usually frowned upon. I also know people in specialized positions who receive job offers often, because they are in high demand. Multiple job and company changes do not reflect negatively on them either.
This tip is for the person who has been out of the workforce for a long period of time or someone who starts a new position and then leaves after a couple months and repeats that pattern on a regular basis.
5. Anticipate and be prepared for the type of questions you may be asked during the interview.
There are times when you might be caught off guard by some of the questions that you are asked during an interview. Some interviewers like to throw curve balls to see how you will respond, and that’s perfectly normal. What I’m referring to are possible questions surrounding the exact position you are applying for.
For example, if you are applying for a management position, be prepared to explain how you are going to motivate your team. You should also have examples ready for times that you exercised your leadership skills effectively.
There are plenty of sample interview questions online for just about every job position out there, so utilize your resources before each interview.
6. Stand out for the right reason.
Another manager asked me to join him for a 2nd interview with someone he had met with before. He was seriously considering hiring her and wanted my opinion. The interview was cut short, because she was showing way too much cleavage. I’m no prude, but it was bad! We were both very uncomfortable, and it just didn’t go well.
After the interview ended, the manager and I talked and he was actually upset. He felt that since he had interviewed her by himself the 1st time, that she assumed he would be alone again. According to him, she dressed very modestly in the 1st interview. (Side Note: When in doubt with attire, always dress professionally and once you get the job, you can choose your outfits by the corporate policy).
She stood out from the rest of the candidates, but it was definitely for the wrong reason!
7. Listen to their instructions.
The interview actually starts as soon as you are contacted for a phone interview or to set up the date and time for an in-person interview. Have a pen and paper ready to take notes during all phone interactions. You don’t want to miss something crucial, because that shows that you can’t follow simple instructions. Some interviewers utilize an instruction-based exercise, in order for you to advance to the next stage of the interview process.
8. Be 10-15 minutes early, but never late.
Depending on how the day is scheduled, the interviewer usually has multiple interviews scheduled for a block of time. Interview days are usually very busy for the interviewer, because they still have their daily responsibilities to work in between the interviews. It’s ok for you to wait for the interviewer, but not ok for an interviewer to have to wait for you.
9. Turn off your cellphone or leave it in the car.
Phones can still be heard even if you put them on vibrate in your purse or pocket and it is a distraction. It also sends the impression that you will be tending to your personal calls and text messages instead of working.
If you are a parent like myself, you probably keep your phone nearby, just in case something comes up with one of your children. Believe me when I say, that my phone comes with me to every single business meeting that I attend. All I’m saying is, get the job 1st, and then you can have your phone with you as much as you want-lol!
10. Be yourself and let your personality shine.
In addition to finding someone who meets all or most of the criteria of the job, interviewers are usually also looking for someone who will fit in with the rest of the group. I recall turning down a specific applicant, because I knew her personality would clash with the rest of the team and our atmosphere.
The interview process is also for you to find the right fit for yourself. As long as you are being professional, don’t downplay who you really are. You want to make sure that you can work in an environment that you are going to thrive and excel in as well.
11. Do your research on the company and/or position and have relevant questions ready to ask the interviewer.
When you do your research and ask questions about the company and position, you let the interviewer know that you are interested in more than just a paycheck.
12. Be honest and straightforward with your responses.
During my 2nd interview to obtain my 1st management position, I was being interviewed by my potential manager and his manager. The last question I was asked was, if I was selected, what would be my greatest weakness in my new role? I knew I was up against many other applicants who already had management experience, so I wanted to address the management piece head on.
I responded that my biggest weakness would be the fact that I had never officially held a management position before. I then went on to explain why I was still the best person for the job. A few days later, the recruiter called and offered me the position.
I’m curious to hear what interview tips you have to add?