Spring is just around the corner. If you're a college student, you may be hunting for a summer internship. If you're a soon-to-be grad, finding a big girl job after graduation is probably at the top of your list. Interviews can be scary – whether you're interviewing for your first job, your dream job, or a summer or part-time job. As part of the new Working girls series, guest contributor, blogger, and newly hired teacher Chelsea is dropping in with 12 tips for acing your next interview.
How to Ace Your Next Interview
12 A+ Tips from a Teacher
Guest Post by Chelsea of Twenty-Something Teacher
Hello lovelies! My name is Chelsea and I am a recent college graduate from a small school in Oklahoma, a newlywed, a coffee addict, blogger, and a recently hired 6th grade teacher. When I heard that Jessica was creating a series over Working Girls, I was enthralled, then when i talked to her and she asked if I was interested in participating, I nearly died! I can't thank Jessica enough, nor can I tell you how thrilled that I am to be apart of The Lovely Side's Working Girl series!
I vividly remember sitting in my college freshman year Public Speaking class – listening to our professor lecture over proper dress, etiquette, and general tips for acing an interview. Fast forward to 4 years later, when I get an interview for my first teaching job and I can't remember a word that was said in that class. (Side note: I just love how now it all comes back perfectly. Stress maybe?)
I spent hours scouring the web, looking for blog posts over proper interview etiquette. I read and I read until I could practically recite it verbatim. Luckily, when my interview came around, I aced it. Not only that, but they called me as I was getting into my car to come back into the school under the pretense that they forgot to ask me something. When I returned, they offered me the position not even 3 minutes after shaking my hand goodbye.
Now, I am certainly no expert at interviews – nor do I claim to know all there is to know – but I wanted to share a few tips that worked well for me.
1. Make a Good First Impression
A good first impression means everything! Before you ever get a call and think about walking into that room to actually interview for your desired job, the company that you are applying for has already judged you based on your resume and application. This means that you better make it good. If there was ever a time to brag about all of your accomplishments, now is the time! Who better to brag about yourself than you?
2. Study the Company
Do your research! Don't even think about stepping foot into an interview without knowing a little bit about what you're applying for and the company you're interviewing with. You're probably thinking, "well duh" but you'd be surprised at the positions you'll apply for once you start to get desperate *cough* guilty *cough*. Make sure you have several talking points about the company itself. The beautiful thing about today's society is that everybody and their dog (literally) has a website. Hit the internet and do some digging.
3. Look the Part
Interview attire will differ from place to place depending on whether you're applying for a corporate position, something in the design industry, a job in the education field, etc. Know your field! Being in education and applying at a middle school, I didn't want to walk into my interview in a power suit and 4-inch heels. With that being said, there are some guidelines to follow:
- Stick to neutrals with strategic pops of color (i.e. colored shoes, scarves, jewelry, or handbag).
- Do. Not. Wear. Jeans.
- I feel like this shouldn't have to be said, but maintain good personal hygiene. Smell pretty, spend some time on your hair and makeup, and make sure your nail polish is well done with no chips.
- Leave the open-toed shoes at home.
- Look professional for your field.
- It's okay to want to stand out a little bit and be unique, but make sure you aren't distracting from your interview skills.
4. Perfect Timing
Timing is everything. Don't be super early, but certainly don't be late. 5-10 minutes early is a good rule of thumb. If you are earlier than that, just hang out in your car. Nobody wants to awkwardly sit in a waiting room, whether it's by yourself or with 20 other potential candidates. You'll just end up psyching yourself out and second guessing everything you've planned to say. I recommend playing some music on the drive to your interview that will really pump you up and clear your head.
5. No Phone Zone
Leave your cell phone in the car. I am so serious about this. I don't care if you keep your phone on silent, vibrate, or completely off. Just leave it in the car. My phone has done some spazzy things when it's been "off" and the worst time for that to happen would be during an interview.
6. Be Friendly from the Get-Go
Be genuinely friendly to the administrative assistant who greets you. Your interview begins the second you walk in those doors. You would be amazed at how many times people are rude or rushed with the assistant, only to turn on the charm the second they walk through those interview doors. You are not too busy to ever say hi and give someone a smile. If you are rude while you're waiting, you better believe that news will be passed on to your interviewer.
7. Exude Confidence
Be confident when you enter the room and begin with a good handshake. My public speaking professor had us practice handshakes until our hands cramped up. You don't want to have a wimpy handshake, but you don't want to rip a person's arm off either. Also, don't think that just because you're a female that you don't have to have a good handshake. Practice at home if you need to with a friend or family member until you get it down.
8. Eliminate the "Um..."
And other filler sounds. Practice in front of the mirror. Have someone watch you. Videotape yourself. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself from saying "um..." I used to be the absolute worst about this, and I still catch myself doing this in front of my students every now and then... oops.
9. Give a Strong Answer About Your Weaknesses
Be prepared to talk about your weaknesses. They will ask you about them and you certainly better have an answer. Nobody wants to hire or work with someone who thinks they are perfect. For example, I have a "Type A/Micromanager" personality. I will certainly admit to being a perfectionist to a fault and a control freak. My answer to a question about my weaknesses would be something like, "One of my biggest weaknesses would be the fact that I try to micromanage everything. I like being in control of my surroundings. Working with pre-teens has been the perfect 'therapy' to help me work through my weakness because there are a million different things going on in a classroom at once. It has also turned out to be a blessing because it helps me manage a classroom with little to no stress since it is ingrained in my personality."
10. Ask Away!
Always ask a question or two at the end. I can't stress this enough. Asking a question at the end is your way of leaving a good impression. It shows your interviewer that you are interested in the position, that you can think on your feet, and it is a great way to clear up any confusion you may have. Some of my go to questions are "What are some things that I could do to go above and beyond your expectations as an employee if I were to be selected for this position?" "What would a typical day in this position look like?" and "What would your ideal candidate for this position be like?" Do not ask about salary just yet. You want to end the interview on a high note, not on a greedy one.
11. Make a Quick Exit
Leave the building immediately! Don't even go to the bathroom to check your makeup, just get out of there. It is unbelievable awkward to dash to the restroom after an interview only to hear the door open behind you while you're checking your lipstick to see your interviewer. Bathroom small talk is not the last impression you want to leave.
12. Express Your Gratitude
Send a thank you note. No matter how the interview went – whether you get the job or not – send a thank you note immediately. Go home, write a proper thank you note including points from your interview, then either place it in overnight mail, or drop it off with the administrative assistant. People severely underestimate the sincerity of gratitude and the effect that a handwritten note can have.
Interviewing is a skill, just like riding a bike. The more you do it, the better you get at it. It takes practice and you will probably fall down a few times, but keep trying!
Thanks for the interview tips, Chelsea!
Readers, what's your best or worst interview experience?
Do you have an important interview coming up?