In the last month or so I swear I have read articles with job interview tips in at least 4 different magazines. At first I couldn’t figure out why this theme was emerging and then I remembered . . . graduation is almost here! Whether you’re graduating from high school or college, you are most likely on the prowl for employment. Or maybe you have a job but you’re looking to take on your next career challenge. Whatever the situation, ’tis the season for interviewing! There are some key interview tips that I think we’re all familiar with, like updating your resume or doing research on the company you’re interviewing with. But here are a few tips I’ve picked up that are often overlooked:
1. Have Confident Body Language.
As the great philosophers Jesse McCartney and Timbaland once said, “I don’t speak Spanish, Japanese, or French, but the way that body talkin’ definitely make sense.” All jokes aside, social psychology research actually does support the idea that nonverbal cues have a strong influence on how others feel about us. Body language can even change how you feel about yourself. So use your body to portray confidence, enthusiasm, authenticity, and comfort in an interview. Sit up straight; don’t cross your legs or arms; keep your body open and inviting. If you sit or stand all slouchy and crumpled, you’ll seem unsure of yourself which in turn will make your interviewer unsure of you. If you’re fidgety or jumpy, you might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, “I’m nervous!” If you have a minute, check out this TED Talk by Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy so you can learn how to use body language to “fake it til you become it.”
2. Dress Appropriately.
An article in the April issue of Real Simple Magazine encourages job applicants to “leave the stilettos at home” when going for an interview. “The people I don’t hire are often wrongly dressed for the interview. Usually overdressed: too much makeup and jewelry or impractical shoes,” says contributor Barbara Corcoran. You want to look put-together and professional, but you also want to look ready to do a full day’s work. You’re not Elle Woods, so don’t go all Business Barbie on everyone. Dress just one notch above what you think the average attire for your desired position is.
3. Arrive 15 minutes early.
My swim coach always told us that if we weren’t 15 minutes early, then we were late. To this day I have a crippling fear of being late as a result of this policy. Even though I know my boss at the credit union will not make me do wall sits if I run a couple minutes late for work, I still get all panicky and worried about tardiness. Until I joined the work force, I never realized what a valuable skill punctuality is; showing up on time shows an employer that you are reliable and that you value their time. Don’t show up too early to an interview though (like 30 minutes or an hour) because that will just seem weird.
4. You should maybe like watch your words.
I am a big culprit of saying the word “like” too much. I use it both as a place holder while I catch my train of thought and as a way to make what I’m saying come across less forceful or aggressive (as in, “You should like probably take brush your teeth more because your breath is kind of like a little gross.”) The same swim coach who taught me to be early to everything also told me that I would be unemployable because I am unable to finish a sentence without saying “like” at least once. And he was right. I find that if I force myself to slow down, I don’t need this word crutch as much; eliminating qualifiers such as “like, just, actually, kinda, or sorta” makes my speech reflect the eloquent, well-educated young woman I truly am. Identify any bad speaking habits you have and work to eradicate them before your interview. You don’t want your speech to be overly deliberate, but you also don’t want to sound like an 80’s Valley Girl . . . ugh! Gag me with a spoon!
5. Be constructive, not critical, of your old job.
No matter how much your old job sucked, don’t complain about it during an interview. Instead, give an example of a lesson you learned from a difficult or frustrating situation at work. Did you have a annoying coworker who was a pain to deal with? Instead of hating on them, explain how working with them helped you hone your people skills. Didn’t feel challenged in your past position? Instead of saying the job was boring, tell the interviewer about how it taught you the value of hard work or how it was a wake-up call that you might need to re-think your long-term career goals. You don’t need to be overly fake or gloss over things, but an interviewer would much rather hear you put a positive spin on a problem than listen to you whine about why a job didn’t work out. Be honest about your decisions but also diplomatic.
6. Keep the “what ifs” to yourself . . . for now.
I was recently skimming through a Glamour magazine and I was horrified to read the subtitle “Don’t Ever Say You’re Pregnant” in an article about interview dos and don’ts. Upon further inspection I discovered that what the author was not a pregnant-woman-hater, but rather was trying to say that some personal issues are best kept unsaid during an interview. Being pregnant does not have any influence on your job skills or qualifications as an applicant. Same goes for any other possible personal issue or complication. Bringing up personal issues to an employer who hasn’t even hired you yet will just make you seem like a worrier, an over-sharer, or worst case scenario, a problematic employee. The appropriate time to mention any concerns is once a company makes you an offer; these types of issues can easily be ironed out in a contract negotiation.
If you’re out their job hunting, I hope these tips help! Leave a comment if you have your own interview tips to share.