Interviews. Most people hate them. They cause anxiety, stress, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms and incoherent remarks. We've all been there and chances are we'll be there again someday. I personally hate formal interviews. I think they're an intimidation tactic and in reality prevent you from really getting to know the person you're looking to hire. Casual interviews have always been my preference because it creates an open environment that is comfortable and forgiving.
Quick story. I have a terrible habit of cracking bad jokes when I'm nervous. I'm also the kind of person who speaks her mind regularly and it's only magnified when I'm feeling anxious. In other words, interviews are my worst nightmare. After college, I had an interview for a job that I really wanted at the time. It was a somewhat formal setting but not too bad. I started out all professional and as it went on started feeling slightly more comfortable. I somehow managed to drop a joke about the field we were in which I thought completely blew the interview for me. I got an email a few days later taking me to the next step. Lesson here, don't panic. My sense of humor was on display and if those people couldn't handle it in an interview, the office dynamic probably wouldn't have worked. Things happen for a reason so keep that in mind as you're furiously trying to cover your tracks and make sure you're the perfect hire. We have flaws, sometimes whether we realize it or not, they're our best quality. Apparently, that for me is my brutal honesty softened by a sarcastic blow. Who knew?
Anyway, after being interviewed countless times and actually being the interviewer I've come up with 8 tips to get you through an interview like a pro. Whether or not you get the job is up to you and your potential employer but these tips can help you prepare and relax just a bit.
1. Create a portfolio both paper and digital. Create a portfolio of your best work. Organize it in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow. Bring it to your interview with several copies of your resume and follow-up a day later with a digital copy. Make it as convenient as possible for your potential employer but don't overload them.
2. Prepare answers for basic and obvious questions. You should know why you want this job and it's not just for the money and benefits. Have a thoughtful answer on why you are genuinely interested in the job opportunity and what you think you can learn and provide for the company. Have an short summary of your past work memorized. Don't elaborate too much or you'll lose their interest and risk getting off topic. Write down all the questions you think they might ask you and prepare answers. Recite them to yourself in the mirror a few times and then move on. You'll be surprised how easy your responses come when any of those questions come up.
3. Do your research. If you go to an interview and know almost nothing about the company...well, you're screwed. Have a very good knowledge of what the company is,what they do, who they serve, accomplishments they've had in the past. Do not go in blind. You'll only make yourself look uninterested and uneducated. You're not expected to be an expert on Company A's history and performance but you should be able to have a good conversation about it.
4. Learn about who you're meeting with. If you know the people that will be interviewing you, do a little research. This will help you get familiar with them before you actually meet them and it will give you an angle in the conversation. They will probably know little to nothing about you but if you know some of their interests or accomplishments and mention them in your meeting, that's something they'll remember. Just don't get all cyber stalker on them and take it too far. You know what I mean...
5. Get some sleep. Do not, I repeat, do NOT go out the night before an interview. Stay home, watch some New Girl, relax, have a nice dinner and go to bed early. If you yawn in an interview or look like something the cat dragged in, you will cause them to question what you're doing on off hours and if you have a good sense of responsibility.
6. Ask questions. You may have done your research but you are hardly an expert. Write down or keep in mind a few questions for the people you're meeting with. Showing a deeper interest will go a long way and it will show that you're thinking past the interview.
7. Be confident but not cocky. Sure, you qualify for the job with flying colors. You don't need to be overly boastful about it. Highlight some of your best achievements that you're proud of but do NOT act like you are entitled. Regardless of the position you're applying for, trust and opportunity is earned not given. If you want to be seen as the incredible professional you are, show it rather than talk about it.
8. Be yourself. Being yourself is incredibly important because not only is that the person they're going to see every day, that's the person they should want to hire. You don't want to be hired as someone you're not because 1) it's going to come out sooner or later, 2) you should be focusing on the job, not the act you seem to have put yourself in and 3) if you are not good enough for the company, they are not good for you. Besides, like I said earlier, it's usually your quirks that win people over. For example, people go nuts when I mention I'm a huge Britney Spears fan. I don't normally bring it up in interviews (even thought it has come up in one or two) but it shows a more intimate side of me that makes people feel more comfortable with sharing their own interests. Besides, I have no qualms with being the one to break the ice. Someone's gotta get rid of that awkward tension. Right?