Dos and Don'ts of Job Interviews
DO wear a suit or formal work attire.
You might know that two days in that suit will evaporate, leaving a plaid shirt and scummy jeans in its place, but your interviewer doesn’t know that. The true gauge of interview formalness is feeling overdressed to the extent that Kurt on Glee shows up everyone else each week in fitted vests and shiny polyesters while Sue Sylvester gets around in the same old track suit. You should feel mildly uncomfortable at the clink of your ship anchor cufflinks on the partition board table in the conference room, while your potential boss messes with her circle scarf, which [SPOILER ALERT] she is only wearing to disguise a hummus stain from lunch.
DON'T use the words "thus," "therefore" or "thar" in your responses.
The first makes you sound like a wannabe James Madison. The second paints you as a pompous child lawyer, renowned for shaking your child-size maniacal cane at your charges. The latter makes you sound like a pirate. Proving you can converse like a normal person is entirely underrated in interviews—your ultimate goal is convincing the interviewer, “Hey, I could work with this person.” Try and find some common ground, and leave the monocle and jophurs at home.
DO find a way to apply your strengths to a job you know nothing about.
Never slogged your way through the slush pile at a literary agency? We bet you have read US Weekly and other tawdry claptrap, which means you’re qualified for the job! For your first job, you are going to know VERY LITTLE about the world of offices and important jobbish things, but an ability to think creatively about where you can help out will be invaluable. You’ve already begun building these skills during your time on the hockey team, stint at directing the school play, founding of your Kickstarter cause, captainship of the national forensics team, whatever. I once got a job as a Christmas tree decorator after arguing in my cover letter that I “embodied the spirit of Christmas.” Was this true? Did they even read my cover letter? Who knows; what’s important is that you show enthusiasm.
DON'T recite canned answers.
Job interviews can quickly devolve into a smashed pinata, shelling the floor with words like “hard-working,” “dedicated,” “professional,” and “creative.” Finding a way to differentiate yourself from other candidates is as simple as BEING YOURSELF. When the interviewer asks you why you want to work for them, try something a little unique: “Because I think working as a veterinary assistant will prepare me for my future career as a lifelike Major League mascot at the forefront of his profession.”
DO know the company you’re interviewing for.
With a company’s website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts just a mouse click away, you have NO EXCUSE not to know something about the job you are interviewing for. You can demonstrate this one of three ways: a) Drop it casually into conversation, e.g., “So I see this company builds wastewater treatment plants, and I just wanted to thank you for the fabulous tasting agua that comes out of my faucet.” b) Ask questions about the company that demonstrate knowledge, e.g., “I noticed you have offices overseas, and wanted to know how often employees get to travel, or when I can run with the bulls in Pamplona, BECAUSE I AM READY.” c) Gush: “Did you really invent the font for the menu at my FAVORITE RESTAURANT OF ALL TIME and do you get free haloumi stacks whenever you want?!”
DON'T forget the interviewer’s name.
Some of us are worse at this than others. Before your interview, you will likely be given the name of the person you interview with, say, Lori. Drill this name into your head. Use it. Pepper it in your conversation with Lori. RESIST the temptation to use words like “capt’n,” “cobber,” “matey,” and “pumpkin” when addressing your interviewer. Conclude the interview with “thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Lori, I really appreciate it.”
Do treat the interview as a learning experience.
Even if you don’t get the job, every interview gives you 15 more minutes of experience than you had in the past. Perhaps you learned that singing Irish pub songs in an interview is a no-no; perhaps you’ve learned that there IS a statute of limitations on the relevancy of work from eighth grade you thought your interviewer might like to see (“Oh, a collage about airplanes … lovely”). Perhaps you’ve learned not to use the word “quantifiable” in a public situation. Speaking with strangers will become easier with practice, we promise.
Don’t be too overbearing.
When will I hear about your decision? Do I seem qualified? How much do you pay? When will I have enough vacation time and cashola that I can holiday in Majorca? AVOID dropping a gazillion irrelevant/angsty questions on your interviewer, and instead ration out thoughtful questions about the follow-up, if they don’t make it clear when you should hear from them. Avoid imperatives like “I would KILL a small mountain goat to get this job.”
Do thank your interviewer.
Offer a verbal thanks and a handshake at the conclusion of the interview. Remember, whomever you have just spend 20 minutes with has taken time out of the rest of their job to get to know you. The internet world is divided on whether emailed thank-you notes are okay, or if you should send a physical thank-you card. One one hand, email is faster; on the other, cards appear more sincere. Knowing the company/industry and age of your interviewer should provide a little guidance here (if they remember black and white television, send them a real card).
What have you learned in job interviews?