A few weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of not judging job applicants, especially Millennials / Gen Yers, by initial outward appearances or perceptions. I still believe that is important. However, that blog inspired some healthy discussion with colleagues and business leaders about how difficult it is to change perception, and inspired me to write about job interview tips for applicants as well.
Written and electronic contact tips
Make sure your resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors, and please don’t use text lingo like LOL or TIA (“thanks in advance” for Gen Xers like myself) on your cover letter or email. Recruiters and Managers want to know that you can fit into the business world, and unless you’re applying for a role that communicates strictly through text, you’ll need to demonstrate proper use of the english language.
What’s your email address? If it’s something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”, create a more professional email address for business use.
Customize your cover letter to the job. A very common mistake that I’ve seen is applicants who send a cover letter or a cut-and-pasted email that makes reference to the wrong company. Take the extra time to mention specific things about the company or job that you’re applying for and why you would be ideal.
What will a recruiter find if they google you, or look you up on Facebook or Twitter? It may be too late to undo those drunken photos, but get busy un-tagging yourself, and remember that everything you post online will exist in cyber-space forever. So think twice before you tweet.
Prepping for the interview
Think about situations that you have handled in a positive way, that you would be proud to tell someone about. You may not have had a ton of working experience, but there are likely conflicts you’ve been in, problems you’ve solved, and people you have helped, through school, sports, or other associations or experiences, that have given you the opportunity to practice skills that will be useful in the business world. Log the situations and include details such as:
- How the situation was caused or came about
- What you did personally (vs your team or others)
- What you were thinking and feeling at the time
- What the outcome was
- What you learned from it or would do differently next time
This type of log will help you to think of positive situations that you can use when asked behavioural interview questions.
Research the company and think about what else you would want to know about the organization and the role itself. Remember, the interview is your chance to evaluate the company just as much as it’s their chance to evaluate you.
The day of the interview – what to wear and bring
The general rule that I was always taught was to dress a step up from the job you want. If the company you’re applying to dresses business casual, wear a suit. If they wear jeans, wear dress pants or khakis.
Hair, makeup and jewelry. Again, think of the company you’re applying to. A retailer like skateboard shop West 49 will be much more accepting of piercings and funky hairstyles than most office jobs. In any case, though, make sure that you’ve done your hair and make up that day, and you aren’t sporting the look from last night’s party (I don’t mean to be insulting – I’ve seen this).
Bring a pen and notebook, with the questions you would like to ask prepared already.
Smile and be friendly. Regardless of how nervous you are, this will help to portray confidence. And remember to be friendly even to the receptionist or clerk who you speak to on your way in. You never know what that person’s involvement might be in the hiring process or providing feedback to the recruiter.
Watch your language. Never swear, even if the recruiter does. Try not to speak negatively about past companies or bosses.
Answer the questions. Seems to go without saying, doesn’t it? But in truth, sometimes it’s more difficult that it seems. Think about your answer before you start talking. If you need to stall, repeat the question as you think. Then answer, and watch out for babbling or getting off track. Check that you’ve answered the questions adequately when you’re done.
If you feel like you have to be someone you’re not when you apply for a certain job, chances are it’s not right for you. You don’t want to find a job where you will be uncomfortable or have to act in ways that are contrary to your own beliefs. In the same breath, though, you will learn and grow the most when you are challenged to change. It’s up to you what level of accommodation you can make – whether it’s removing a nose ring, covering a tattoo, or simply behaving in a professional way.
What other tips might you offer to job seekers, especially Gen Y? Add your comments or tweet them to me!