Interviews are always stressful. The best approach is to see them as your chance to size up the employer, just as they are sizing you up. A first interview is just to see if there’s a fit.
While some jobs are secured based on just one in-person interview, most employers like to meet with an applicant two or even more times before they decide to make a job offer. That’s ultimately good news for you: you’ll be able to learn a lot about whether the position will work for you.
Here are some fundamental rules:
- Don’t be late. Ever. If possible, go to the employer’s office a day or so before the interview so you don’t have to find it when the pressure is on. You don’t want to arrive rushed or harried.
- If a disaster occurs and you must be late, have the courage to call and let the person you’re meeting know how long you’ll be delayed for. Take responsibility and respect the person’s time.
- Arrive about five minutes early (but not more than ten).
- Research the company and the position prior to the interview. Even 20 minutes spent on the company website before your interview will be very helpful.
Do some web searches for the company name, or the name of the person who will be interviewing you. Look at the company’s LinkedIn profile, their Facebook page, and search the local newspaper websites for their name.
Referring to this information during the interview shows that you prepare for meetings, you know how to find information and that you care enough about the job to think ahead.
Remember to ask the interviewer specifics about what the job’s responsibilities are, to whom you’ll report, and how the last person who did the job handled things.
- Plan what you are going to wear, so you don’t worry about showing up in a wrinkled jacket or with scuffed shoes. We will tell you all you need to know about dressing to fit each company’s culture. Go with the safe choice if you’re not sure of something – work dress codes in Santa Fe can be a bit more conservative than in some major cities.
- You may be asked to fill out an application that duplicates the information that is on your resume – many companies require this for legal reasons. Do this completely and legibly. Do not just write “see resume” on the form.
- Be friendly and open, but not too friendly. It is in your best interest to appear approachable and positive. Never talk badly about a past employer.
- Don’t be too chummy with the person who interviews you, even if you hit it off immediately.
- Be prepared for awkward questions, such as “What’s your biggest weakness?” and “What about this two year gap on your resume?”. Have professional, accurate answers ready. No one is perfect, and how you frame your weaknesses can actually make you look good.
- Bring a portfolio or work samples if that’s appropriate to your career. Being able to show some of your past work is better than just talking about it. This applies even if you’re not a designer or a writer – having a brochure of an event you organized helps to convey what you can do.
- Write a thank you, or send a thank you email depending on the company culture. Job-seeking pros bring blank stationary to all their interviews. After an interview is over, they will stop for a coffee and write the thank you note, put a stamp on it, and drop the note off in the mail so that it is postmarked the same day as the interview.
- If you are asked to consent to a background check (criminal, financial or otherwise) and know something negative will be revealed, explain what happened in advance. Be prepared to give detailed answers. It will be your best chance to show yourself in a good light.