Written by Grace Smith, office assistant for the Career Center and graduating creative writing major who’s headed to Loyola Marymount University for MFA Program in Film & Television.
So here is the truth: Interviewing is hard. It’s uncomfortable and intimidating, and, let’s be honest, just plain weird. Well, at least it is for me. I am always uncomfortable talking with strangers, and the added pressures of a potentially great job don’t make it any easier. That is why I subscribe to a simple philosophy:
Fake it till you make it.
Really, I use this philosophy for all aspects of my life, but it is especially applicable to the job interview process. When you look at the whole of everything you have to do, it can be overwhelming. But, if you break it down into smaller pieces, everything can seem more manageable. So, without further ado, here are the smaller pieces that can make your interview go much more smoothly:
Yay! You got an interview! The time of off-brand cereals and gas station coffee is over for you!
Well, not quite yet. You still have to make it through the interview. What do you have to do you ask? Here is a handy list:
- Do your research! What exactly is the job title you are interviewing for? Manager of Special Projects and Coffee Runs? What does that mean? At the very least read the job description thoroughly. If you can do more than that, you should.
- Research the company, too. Find their mission statement if you can. If you are interviewing for Dunder Mifflin, you should know that they sell paper. If you can, find any recent initiatives or changes the company has made (Were they recently bought by Sabre?). But bare minimum, you have to know what the company does.
- Find out where it is. I don’t just mean Google Maps. If you have the time, go and drive there before the day of your interview. See how long it takes to get there. Look for parking places. Find the right door to go in. (Side note, don’t actually go in. That’ll just make it weird for everyone.)
- Pick out an appropriate outfit. What is an appropriate outfit you ask? Easy answer is there is no easy answer. What is appropriate at an accounting firm may not be what is appropriate at an elementary school or an art studio or a hospital. So, once again, do your research. If you have a friend working in the field, it’s okay to ask their advice! A couple general rules though: first, wear something comfortable. If your shoes are too tight, you’ll spend the whole time thinking about your bleeding heels instead of the interview question. Second, if you have long hair, it’s a good idea to wear it back. This way you’ll be less likely to play with it. Third, when in doubt, err on the side of more professional.
- Make sure you have copies of your resume and cover letter with you. Yes, you already sent it to them, but maybe they are having problems with their printers and they can’t get a physical copy, or maybe their system is down, or maybe an elf stole it. Bring it with you.
- Get there around 10 minutes early. If you get there much more than that, wait in your car until 10 minutes before your time. It’ll be more comfortable than waiting in the lobby for half an hour.
- Be pleasant to the people in the office you interact with, other than Mr. Scott. It reflects well on you, and who knows, the receptionist eating the mixed berry yogurt could be your future wife.
- Now you are sitting in the lobby, and you are told that Mr. Scott is running a little behind so you sit and wait. Take this time to take a few deep breaths. Never underestimate the power of a deep breath. Make sure you are calm before you go in.
- Give a firm handshake and smile when you greet them. It’s an easy way to a good first impression.
- Probably the first thing Mr. Scott will say to you once you are sitting in his office is “Tell me about yourself.” Don’t talk about your family. Don’t talk about your beet farm. Don’t talk about your new cat, Princess Lady. Talk about your education background, your work experience, etc. Keep it relevant.
- Be aware of your body language. A smile goes a long way. Don’t fidget, don’t cross your arms, don’t touch your face. Try to feel comfortable in the space you’re in.
- Mr. Scott will probably ask you a “Tell me a time when…” question. When you answer, focus on what you did to improve the situation, and the results of your actions. Don’t overload him with background information.
- Every time you go in for an interview, you will be asked what your greatest weaknesses are. Here’s what not to say “I work too hard, I care too much, and sometimes I get too invested in my job.” We all know that’s fake. Instead, give a real weakness you have, and tell Mr. Scott how you are working on it, and how you have grown. (Note: make sure the weakness you tell them is not a skill they require. If you are interviewing to be an accountant, don’t say that you are really bad at math).
- Mr. Scott might say something to the effect of “Why should we hire you?” This is your chance to sum up everything you have said so far. Highlight the strengths you have mentioned already and be sure to include anything you may have forgotten. But be careful, you want to be confident. Not cocky.
- Probably the last thing Mr. Scott will ask you is “Do you have any questions for me?” Ask him some questions! Do not waste this opportunity. This is a conversation, not an interrogation. Ask question based on the interview, ask them what they like about working there, what they don’t like, etc. If you can’t think of anything specific, here are a few good options: “What qualities are you looking for in a candidate?” “What are the long term goals of the company and how could I help reach those goals in this position?” “How do you, as a mid-market paper company, compete against the big chains?”
- Another firm handshake, tell Mr. Scott it was nice to meet him, and try to wait until you get to your car to let out that giant sigh of relief that you got through it.
- Send a thank you note within 24 hours. Not only will this make you seem considerate, but you can use it as an opportunity to smooth over any flubs you may have made during the interview. Highlight again why you would be a good candidate and end on a positive note.
- Reward yourself with a venti coffee. You’ve earned it.
- If you get the job offer, celebrate! You can afford that venti coffee you bought!
- If you don’t get the job offer, don’t get too down. Use this as a learning experience, and feel confident in the fact that you will be even more prepared next time. And don’t worry too much—do you really want Michael Scott as your boss?