Lately, I’ve found myself in more interviews than one should allow. And the longer I sit through interviews, the more I realize how relaxed standards are at this time and first impressions no longer matter. My first experience with writing a resume and going through the interview process occurred when I was in high school. I completed a course hoping for an opportunity to be awarded a scholarship to a school of my choice. In addition to one person in the class receiving a scholarship, five percent of the participants in the class would be given an opportunity for employment at a bank. The requirements consisted of us having to go to weekly classes, take part in a three part resume writing session, submit our resumes to employers and interview for a teller position. At the end of the class, I was one of the students that received a position at the bank. Whoo Hoo, I got the job! Not! I was only there for the scholarship opportunity but I accepted the position because of the score I received for my resume and the interview. I was delighted to know how impressed the professionals were with my resume writing skills and how well I was able to articulate my thoughts during the interview. However, it appears that everything I was taught many many years ago no longer applies. But even now, I find myself with committees that still seek potential employees that live up many of those standards I was taught many moons ago.
- Arrive early for your interview – Four years ago I had an interview at a school approximately seven minutes from my home. I left with the intent to arrive 15 minutes before the start time. Upon arrival, I couldn’t distinguish the front entrance of the building from the back entrance and I parked in the wrong parking lot. I walked to several entrances trying to locate the right entry. By the time I arrived to the correct door, I was only five minutes early. Had I planned to arrive right on time, I would have been late. In addition to arriving early, this experience taught me to prepare for the unexpected and plan ahead.
- Dress professionally – Can we please go back to the black or blue dress or dark colored suits? Do men still wear suits and ties for interviews? Since I began my career as a professional, I have kept a black suit in my closet. My black dress is not always adequately pressed for interviews but that black suit and white shirt are forever ready. In addition to your suit or dress, make sure your shoes are free of scuff marks and are closed toe shoes. If you’re like me and wear lots of accessories, take them off for your interview. A simple pair of stud earrings, a wristwatch and a light bracelet are more than enough. And make sure your hair is neatly combed. Prior to my interview, I had two neat cornrow braids in my hair. The braids were very neat but also very unprofessional. I took the braids down and pulled my hair back into a sleek bun. Make sure you present yourself in such a way that the committee can focus on what you’re saying and not your appearance.
- Bring a copy of your resume – This day and time, many companies pull your resumes from an applicant tracking system . Sometimes your resume has been sitting there for months. Printing a copy allows you to review your resume and add any updates prior to your interview. The committee is okay with you saying, “I know you have a copy of my resume but there were some updates made to my resume. I have a copy for the committee.”
- Come prepared for the interview. Answer the question, please – Please don’t get in an interview and start rambling. We know if you know the answer or not. Answer the question and if you don’t know the answer, feel comfortable in admitting that. You have an opportunity to ask questions. At that point ask about potential training for any skills you might need. Refer back to the question you couldn’t answer to see if there’s a chance for you to learn about the thing you didn’t know about.
- Remain humble – I think the most annoying phrases I have heard in interviews are, “I know I’ll outshine everybody on this team.”, “I know I would be an asset to this team.” or my favorite, “My area of growth or my weakness is that I’m an overachiever.” What? What does any of this mean? You don’t know me! Why are you competing against your potential team? These statements confuse me. Help me understand exactly what you’re saying!
And here’s a bonus, while we’re working remotely, find a white wall and put your back against it. Please don’t sit in your bed, with your legs crossed, during an interview. What are some of the craziest things you’ve seen or heard during an interview? What are some of the things you find necessary for applicants to do in preparation for an interview or during the process of interviewing?