Interviewing 101- A Few Quick Tips

While taking a photography trip today I stopped to have lunch at a Burger King. I noticed a rather unkempt young man (late teens, early 20’s?) sitting at one of the tables sitting by himself. Not thinking anything of it I sat a few booths over. Turns out this person was there for an interview for a job. Honestly, I would be surprised if he was hired (but he may have been for reasons I’ll mention later) and if he was his hiring didn’t have much to do with his interview.

First, how he looked. Honestly, it looked like he just rolled out of bed and threw on whatever he would normally wear for a day lounging around the house (old jeans, old T-shirt, etc.). Honestly, I do not know his situation but it did not seem like he was homeless (from discussions) nor was he jobless (they covered that – which I will later). Granted, he was interviewing for a job at Burger King (not to put those jobs down – front line employees are VERY important to every company – they are the face of the company) but you should try to look nice for any interview. Nice pants, dress shirt at least (and you can usually get the pair for $25-$35 at Walmart – even if you can’t afford it in one shot, save up or hit thrift stores). Even if you don’t have nice cloths, at least comb your hair! First impressions are very important and you need to WOW your interviewer to be noticed and remembered.  Again, I do not know his situation so while looks are important, he could have had reasons why he was dressed the way he was (and if there are then it shouldn’t go against him).

Second, when your interviewer asks “Why do you want to leave your current job” the correct answer is nowhere near “My boss is stupid and they have it out for me”. No. Never. First, you NEVER want to insult ANYONE during an interview. This looks unprofessional, immature, and it’s just plain tacky. Second – “they have it out for me” insinuates that there is a history of corrective action against you. This is not something that you want to openly volunteer during an interview (but also, don’t lie if asked (and if it’s legal in your state). Yes, bad managers are a cause of high turnover but you don’t need to go there. You can mention lack of hours, pay, lack of upward movement, or even a direction you want to go in your professional career without lying to the interviewer. One more thing, the word “bullshit” should NEVER EVER come out of your mouth ONCE during an interview, let alone twice.

One thing he did do right, he mentioned that his live-in girlfriend worked there. He and the interviewer did discuss that they’d have to work different shifts (good idea). If his girlfriend is a reliable employee then this could be what really helps him get hired (internal referrals can be a huge help, if the employee is respected).
While I’m on the subject of interviews, a lot of people seem to think their interview only happens while they are with the interviewer, nothing could be further from the truth.

Your official interview starts as soon as you are on their property. It is a common practice for interviewers, hiring managers, and/or others to ask the person at the front desk how you acted while waiting. You can have the best interview in the world but if that front desk person said you were disrespectful, chances are you won’t get hired. Be professional and courteous to everyone you meet there (even in the parking lot).

Speaking of parking lot – you may even want to think your interview starts as soon as you pull out of your driveway. Assume every person you come across (including drivers in their cars) as your interviewer. That person you just cut off? That could have been your interviewer. There’s a meme that’s been around for a while now that says “The person who just flipped me off and insulted me for stealing my parking space just showed up for his interview, with me”. Guess what? I don’t think they got the job. Stop and get something to eat before? How do you know the person behind you isn’t your interviewer?

Also, when you go to your interview it is always a help to have your paperwork with you. Your resume printed on nice paper. You should also have your cover letter for that job with you as well as references, letters of recommendation (all printed on nice paper). It’s also nice to have it all in a neat black folder (or some neutral color) and hand it to them as a packet. Those are cheap at Walmart ($0.10 each?). Also, if needed you should have anything else needed, business card, college transcripts, etc. It would also help to have a nice leather(ish) zip folder (with a notepad and pen inside) in case you need to take notes. Coming to your interview prepared shows the interviewer how you would work.

All that and none of it as anything to do with job knowledge or experience but 100% of how you present yourself. When you interview you need to put your best foot forward and make an impression that lasts with the interviewer.

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