It’s the moment you’ve been
waiting for hoping for praying for begging for dying for. All that hard work polishing your resume, drafting cover letter after cover letter, and spending hours upon hours applying to positions through the most ridiculous online systems imaginable/by groveling at the feet of your family and friends until they gave you referrals/BSing with strangers at networking events have finally paid off. You have landed a job interview.
Right about here is usually when the panic sets in. I’m not sure there’s any immunity to the palpable dread, nearly proportionate to your glee, that arrives with the scheduling of that first interview. Even for those who get called in for interviews every month (yes, those people are out there). Even for me just thinking about it as I write this.
If you’ve seen “Edge of Tomorrow,” you might liken it to the many points in the movie where Tom Cruise says, “I don’t know what to do now. We’ve never made it this far.”
FYI, he usually bites it right after speaking those words.
Truth is, in some ways, landing an interview is worse than “Groundhog Day”-ing your worst days of applying to jobs because every interview, just like every company, will be different. What works for some interviewers will fall flat with or be downright offensive to others. What’s worse, you won’t have any control over these personalities whatsoever. People are going to think whatever they want to think of you no matter what you do — end of story.
That being said, though, here are some things you can do to feel more confident when taking on this next stage of the process, knowing that you brought your best before, during, and after — regardless of the outcome.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Did I mention prepare? Oh, yeah — prepare. One more thing: prepare. I’m talking materials — printing out resumes, cover letters, job descriptions, work samples, driving directions. I’m talking research — on the company, your future coworkers, salary. I’m talking questions you’re going to ask them — things you care about, things you’ve pulled off the Internet, things like if they have any reservations about moving forward with you and how you should follow up afterwards. I’m talking rehearsal — in front of a mirror, with a friend, on paper. (Watch this video; it really works!) I’m talking clothing — business best, ironed, decided upon and laid out the day before. I’m talking sleep — I freaking love sleep!
2) Be mindful of your behavior. From the minute you arrive at the property, assume you’re on camera; in some cases, you actually might be. Be on your absolute best behavior. Greet everyone as if they’re the president (or someone you respect, if the president doesn’t do it for you). Shake hands and make eye contact. Do your best to remember everyone’s name. Even if you’re the type of person who sits cross-legged and/or hunched over, make a concerted effort to have open body language and an upright posture. Don’t swivel on chairs or click pens.
3) Focus on what you’re there for, no matter how the interviewers may (intentionally or unintentionally) derail you. Don’t get hung up on anything surprising, unexpected, or just plain unprofessional during the interview; you’ll have plenty of time to rehash later with your significant other, mom, dad, brother, sister, best friend, best friend’s roommate, best friend’s roommate’s cousin, etc. Because you’ve prepared and rehearsed, you should be able to bring any conversation back to the topic at hand — namely, how and why you’re the best person for the job. I’m not saying don’t be sociable. A little small talk is fine. Just be respectful of their time and yours. If more than a half hour of small talk has occurred, you’ve gotten too far off point, and everyone in that room is to blame.
4) Stay positive no matter what. You may walk into that office with the highest of hopes and leave with them split and splattered like Leatherface went to town on them. But your interviewers should never know that, even if they’ve actually taken it upon themselves for whatever reason to personally see to it that you know they were the ones greasing up the chainsaw. You’re going to show more dignity and professionalism than that — if only because they clearly haven’t learned how it’s done.
5) Send a thank-you within 24 hours of the interview. This is not only a great way to once again display your awesomeness as an enthusiastic, grateful candidate but also an opportunity to reinforce why you’re perfect for the position and elaborate on any answers you gave during the interview that you beat yourself up about for not doing better on while you were driving home (or for hours/days/weeks afterwards). Reiterate your interest in the position if you are still interested and even sometimes when you’re not. No matter what, always send that thank-you, even if you know you wouldn’t move forward with that company if your life and the fate of humanity depended on it. Why? Simple. People change jobs all the time; the companies they end up at may be a better fit for you down the line, and they’ll remember how you handled yourself whether you accepted or declined an offer for another interview or a job. Your mission in this little game is to be professional for professionalism’s sake, if nothing more.
Although the end goal is to be offered and accept a great job, any interview — even if that’s all it ever is — is a great learning experience and opportunity to practice. If you took the time to do all of the above things, you probably did great in the interview no matter how things have panned out or will pan out. So no matter what happens or happened after your interview, you accomplished a lot and have much to be proud of. Celebrate that victory like the job offer of your dreams landing in your lap!