Losing sleep? Breaking out? Stressed? Interviews are a major source of uncertainty and doubt in the minds of many… After all, isn’t someone just sitting there, judging you, and judging your work? An authority figure, distributing jobs and money on the basis of who you are? The source of much pain and uncertainty for so many, is considered to be an opportunity for the small few who realize it is the chance to “ABC: Always be Closing.” While there is no science to interviewing, and I don’t claim to offer any here, I do have some advice that might help change your philosophy about interviews. Why trust me? Because I’ve been there! I’ve been on many interviews—and of those, only one didn’t result in a job offer.
You’ve probably studied basic interview preparations before, maybe even practiced some interview questions. But I can’t get to the juicier details without at least mentioning a few fundamental principles.
First things first: Your clothes should be crisp—show that the interview is important to you. Don’t have a suit and don’t know how to match a tie to a patterned shirt? Hop over to Askmen.com, GQ.com, or for the more stylish sex, I suggest browsing Pinterest. And since you are dressing to the nines, why not throw on a smile? First impressions go a long way in this process, and being energetic, happy, and full of life show an enthusiasm for being there. When you’ve been working a corporate job for a while, seeing this exuberance is heartening, and it shows an appreciation of the interviewer’s time. I always drank an energy drink right before I went in—that way, I was quick to ask questions, on my toes, and excited. Also, do a bit of research on the company. If they are public, read a recent article from a broker on why the stock is a buy or sell. Read press releases that might point to future projects. At the very least, read their Wikipedia page and corporate website. This will give you a few questions to ask—and since you already know the answer, you’ve almost shifted the balance of power in the interview, especially when you launch that stellar follow-up question.
And lastly, the hard part is already over—you did get the interview, right? They narrowed you down from hundreds of applicants, based on an 8.5” by 11” piece of paper. All that is left is to show excitement, ask a few questions, and relax.
The HR Interview
Normally you will interview with people that will be on your team (co-workers), your potential boss, and a person or two from Human Resources. Your time with the human resource representative is what I consider the most important. To get a specific job, you may need to connect with many people on that work team. If the stars align, this can happen, but sometimes personalities clash. Sometimes there is something on your resume that turns off an interviewer—and you won’t get a fair shot. However, the HR interviewer knows of ALL the jobs available within the company. If you don’t get that particular job, if he or she is overly impressed by you, they’ll want to get you plugged into a better fit in the company (which is often in a better group or position than the one you initially sought out). The HR rep may also be able to sway the other interviewers in favor of your “personality traits” over other applicants.
A personal example: I was interviewing for jobs with a major oil company. I was working with an HR manager out of Texas. During the span of time of our interaction, I made sure I was quick to return phone calls, to communicate via email, and to ask questions about her life. While the company was not hiring non-graduate degree chemical engineers at that point in time, they, nevertheless, flew me up to Illinois for an interview to fill a very technical role—one that I, honestly, wasn’t qualified for (I was no doctoral candidate). During the dinner the night before, while everyone else was focused on the interviewers of tomorrow, I sat and chatted with the HR manager. Asked her all about her life, her family, and her job. I asked about why she loved her company, what her favorite wine was, anything I could, to get her to remember me as a nice guy. The next day, as I was going through the interview process, it was obvious that I wasn’t qualified for that specific job. Disappointed, I boarded the flight back home. When I arrived, I had an email waiting in my inbox, letting me know that a position had opened in Southern California—on the coast. She said that while, normally, they wouldn’t offer that job to someone from the East, with my degree and with little experience, she felt that I was perfect for the job. She even told me that no one else would be interviewing—I just had to fly out and meet the team. I had the generous job offer within a week.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful, and insightfully unique. I credit them for much of my career trajectory—after all, isn’t life an interview?
William L. Mehserle Jr. is co-founder with Michael J. Flanigan of theExpressionary.com, a personalized gift site perfect for that “hard to buy someone,” and Khraze.com, a new media marketing company. You can connect with him on Twitter at @WLMehsJr or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/mehserle
Category: Interviews & Resumes