How to Land a Job, Part 3: The Interview

Just joining us?  Check out part 1 and part 2.
You have created an amazing resume. You have submitted it for the right job at the right time, using your network to give you a boost wherever appropriate. You aced the phone screen. Now you’re in the home stretch. You’ve scheduled an interview for the job.

90% of your work will be done before you step foot into the interview room. If you do the work right, you will have set yourself up to succeed in the precious minutes that you have to make your case.

Do your homework.
The basics – know where you’re going, how long it will take you to get there, who you’re seeing, what time, etc. Obvious? Perhaps. Worth doing anyway? Definitely.
Beyond the logistical homework, make sure you do some research on the company with whom you’re interviewing. What have they been up to lately? Who are their clients? Any notable news? Who are the leaders of the organization? Read the company website, but also go beyond and do some other web research. You may find out information that could help you in your interview, or you could find some information that either reinforces or weakens your desire to work there.

Prepare your talking points.
Interviews by nature should be fluid conversations, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some points you want to make. What have you done in your career that you’re proud of? Be ready to talk about a great idea you came up with or a fantastic program that you implemented. Bottom line: the interview is a marketing pitch. Know your selling points.

Be ready with some non-standard answers to some very standard interview questions.
• What are your greatest strengths? (Hint: the answer is not “I’m a people person.”) When talking about strengths, be ready to back yourself up with evidence. Are you great at negotiation? Then you’d better have a story about a time that you saved some business, saved or made your company money, or otherwise proved yourself invaluable in that regard.

• What are your weaknesses? The fact that I despise this question with a passion hasn’t yet eliminated it from the vernacular, but I’m working on it. In the mean time, be prepared to answer it. Please don’t say “I’m a perfectionist – I’m just never satisfied” or “I work too hard.” We’ve heard it all before, and we’re not impressed. Come up with some real weaknesses, and be able to talk about how you’ve addressed them and improved (or at least how you plan to improve.)

Know your vision.
Be able to describe the job you want in specific enough terms so that the recruiter doesn’t have to use too much imagination, but still not so specific that you disqualify yourself. If you have trouble putting together this vision, let me give you a hint: it looks an awful lot like the job description of the position you’re applying for.

Have some questions ready to go. You should have some detailed queries about the job, the company, the business, etc. Stay away from anything too elementary (What does the company do again?) and avoid being too forward at this point (How much paid vacation to you give?) Write your questions down in case your memory fails you later on.

You have your talking points in order, are ready to sell yourself, and you know where you’re going.

Get dressed. Nicely.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie for every interview. A general rule of thumb is to try to dress more nicely than you would if you worked there. Is it a khakis and button-down company? Wear a nice blazer and slacks. Is it a jeans and t-shirts company? Wear khakis and a button down. Not sure what kind of company it is? A suit and tie never hurt anyone – when in doubt, dress up. (Sorry, ladies – I’m using my own experience here. You no doubt can approximate what I’m saying.)

Plan to arrive 15 minutes early for your appointment. Often there will be some sort of application to fill out, and there will always be a travel delay. This window will also give you a chance to re-read the job description right before your interview, so you have your objective front of mind.

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!!!!!!! (we can still hear it when it’s on vibrate)

In the interview…
Here’s that last 10% I was talking about. Listen, listen, listen. Answer the question that was asked. Complete sentences with examples are always preferred. 1 or 2 word responses will make for a very short meeting, and short is not what you’re going for. Your job in this interview is to make the recruiter’s job easy. Talk, listen, talk, listen, repeat. The harder the recruiter is working, the less likely you are to land a job.

If you can work your questions in smoothly during the course of the conversation, do it. If not, wait until the end of the interview when you’re asked if you have any questions. Don’t force the issue.

The most important thing to remember during an interview is that you need to come across as someone this company wants to work with. All the skills and experience in the world won’t help you if you’re coming across like a wet blanket, a wet noodle, or any metaphor that will prevent you from fitting in with the company culture. Don’t get stuck in “interview mode”. Be you, but the best you. You want to give the recruiter and/or hiring manager that you’re meeting with a real sense of what it’s like to have you around the office.

Oh, and remember…
You’re interviewing them, too. Keep in mind during your interview whether the signs and information you’re getting are indicators of a company you want to work for.

Ending the interview
Ask your questions (if you haven’t already), ask if there’s anything else the interviewer needs, and feel free to ask about the process from here. Do they have a specific time frame in which they’re hoping to fill the job, etc.

Now go home and send your thank you note. Email is a must and a hand written note is a great plus, and try to add something to remind the interviewer about who you are and what you discussed.

Second Interview
If it goes well, you’ll get a second (and possibly third) interview. If this happens, you know you’re in the running. This meeting will probably be with the person who will be your direct boss, and maybe even with your boss’ boss. Even though it might feel different, the process should be the same. When you come back, you should have some more in-depth questions. No doubt these questions were inspired by the head-smacking you gave yourself as soon as you walked out of the building after interview #1. “Why didn’t I ask about…?”

Since this is likely a meeting with your soon-to-be direct boss, this is your chance to establish and gauge rapport. This is where you land the job. Your second interview may have a lot of similarities with your first so you have no excuse for not being really, really good at it.

After the interview
Send another thank you.

Now wait. It may seem painful at times, but wait. You are allowed to follow up once you’ve reached the time-frame that you were given (you should hear from us by the end of next week.) Don’t sound anxious, and don’t sound annoyed that you haven’t heard from them. Just check in. Once. At this point there’s nothing you can do to get yourself the job, but there are things you can do to lose it. Nobody wants to hire you if you come across as high-maintenance.

When the call comes, it will all be worth it.

This concludes our 3 part series on how to land a job. Lots more exciting topics to come!

Is there a topic you’d like to see discussed? Let me know what you want to read.


6 thoughts on “How to Land a Job, Part 3: The Interview

  1. The follow-up handwritten Thank-You card was one of the most wonderful pieces of advice from my mentor. I wish someone told me that when I was 19 and first entering the corporate work world!

    It was a natural fit for my own personality, and my philosophy of showing gratitude for all opportunities that come your way even in the guise of challenges.

    1. Interviewing for jobs out of your locale is always tough. Most companies aren’t willing to pick up the tab for relocation or even interview travel unless it’s for a very high-level position.

      Make sure to be clear about the fact that you’re available to interview at short notice and at your own expense, and that you’re willing and able to relocate quickly and under your own steam.

      If you want to get more aggressive, find a friend who lives in the area you’re applying in and ask if you can use his/her address on your resume. Chances are they won’t get any mail for you, so it’s no skin off their nose. If you use this method, be ready to pick up at a moment’s notice to get to an interview. You’ll need to be as available as if you were really living there.

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