Latest update: January 6th, 2013
The elevator ride seems to take forever, and your stomach feels like it is dropping. Glancing at the mirror, you realize this may be the last opportunity to be sure you look professional. You wonder if they will notice the little wrinkle in your clothes your spouse told you to take care of before you left. You take a deep breath and try to relax, but it is no use. Your heart is racing as you walk though the elevator door, and you force yourself to remember to smile.
It is time for your interview, and it feels like the weight of the entire world is bearing down on your shoulders. Everyone has told you to relax, but that is much easier said than done; there is a lot riding on this opportunity.
Most job seekers can relate to this experience. Unemployment can be a frustrating challenge, and every interview offers a glimmer of hope. First you have to get through the interview, though.
Interviewing can be the hardest part of the job search process. There is no hiding behind your resume or even the great recommendation you received from a friend of the firm’s partner. You need to perform at the interview, and no one else can do it for you.
So, while you know you need to relax, the truth is you have every reason to be nervous. Your performance at this interview can make the difference between a job offer and months of continued searching. In Touro’s Career Services office, we have seen the most confident and professional students feel a little intimidated by the interview process, and we tailor a specific interview preparation strategy for each student to maximize his or her opportunity for success.
Fortunately, there are some general things you can do in advance of the interview to make sure it goes well. First, it is completely normal to be nervous before an interview. Interviews are, by definition, high stress events because of the opportunities they provide.
We often advise students to refocus their perspective. Human Resources professionals have no interest in wasting their time. They called you in for an interview because they saw something in your resume that leads them to believe you would be the right person for that position. In other words, you are not an unknown entity. They are interested in you, or they would not have called. Some career professionals would go so far as to say that the interviewer has, to some extent, staked his or her professional reputation on your potential for this position, and they do not do so lightly.
Be that as it may, seize the moment. Instead of looking at the interview as your one desperate chance to sell yourself, try to reframe your goal as a process of confirming to the interviewer that their inclinations about your qualifications were correct, and that you are the right person for this position.
Often, that little shift in perspective alone allows interviewees to feel more confident, but that strategy is just the beginning. An interview is just as much an opportunity to see if a company is right for you, as it is to prove that you are right for them. Bearing this in mind places you on equal footing with the interviewer. You can turn a one-sided interview into a mutual process.
Sometimes people are in a situation in which they have to take a job, whether it is what they want or not. There is no question that looming mortgage, tuition and food bills can make any job opportunity seem enticing, but remember that you are not required to accept one just because it’s offered to you. Finding a job that properly utilizes your strengths is a key to long-term success, and it can stop you from having to go through this whole process again when you’re unhappy where you wind up. You do have a choice.
In any event, appearing desperate at an interview is a good way to ensure that you will not receive a job offer. Trying to look at the interview as a mutual investigation can go a long way toward helping you stay calm.
Make sure you take care of all of the details that are under your control. What you do to prepare yourself and your appearance for an interview can make all the difference in the world. As the cliché goes, there are no second chances to make a first impression. You must dress professionally. That means suits are required for both men and women (sweater sets may be nice for women on Shabbos, but they are not appropriate for interviews).
Your clothes need to be freshly pressed, and it is important to make sure that your shoes are polished. It is usually better to go with a more conservative look, so wild blouses, shirts or ties are out.
You must be well groomed. Your hair (and beard) must be combed and neat. Your nails need to be clean (yes, people do notice your nails, especially during a handshake) and freshly cut. We generally advise people to avoid perfume and cologne, as they can be overwhelming to some. If you feel you must wear perfume, choose a subtle scent.
Make sure your teeth are clean as well. A well-timed breath mint is also a good idea to make sure that your breath is fresh. If you use a product like a Listerine Pocket Pack, make sure to use it at least five minutes before you will be greeting any staff members, as they can be overwhelming.
Any colored beverage or food can stain your clothes, especially if you are wearing white. While Tide Sticks and similar products are a good way to clean up any last minute stains, it’s better not to eat or drink anything aside from water after you leave your house.
Bring 5-10 copies of your resume on professional resume paper. Yes, the interviewer probably has a copy of your resume, but if you submitted it online or e-mailed it, s/he probably does not have it on resume paper, and presenting a more professional copy makes you look better. In addition, there are occasions when multiple interviewers will be working with you, and it is possible that some of them do not have a copy of your resume.
Interviewing is all about your professional persona, and carrying your resumes in your hand can be a bit awkward. We recommend that you bring a professional portfolio to carry the copies of your resume, a pen, note cards, and whatever else you may need. Make sure to hold the portfolio with the opening facing upwards, otherwise your resumes may fall out, and it will look like you have never carried a portfolio before.
Be sure to arrive at your destination at least one hour before your interview. Being late is the quickest way to lose a job opportunity. Traffic and public transportation are not always reliable and are not an acceptable excuse for not being on time.
When you arrive, make sure you know the location of the correct office, but do not walk in too early. Arriving too early can be just as bad as arriving too late, as the office staff wonders what to do with you as you wait your turn. We often advise students to pass through security to make sure there are no difficulties and spend their time in the cafeteria until right before their scheduled time. A local coffee shop is a great option for small companies that don’t have their own cafeterias. Arriving at the office 5 to 10 minutes early is your best bet.
Everything you do, from the moment you walk into the office building until after you leave, must be completely professional. Stories abound of folks who ruined their opportunities by behaving unprofessionally while waiting in the cafeteria or a local coffee shop. Another great tip: Make sure to be nice to the secretary. It is the right thing to do and secretaries often have a lot of influence over their bosses.
The appointed hour has now arrived and the dreaded moment is upon you; it’s time for your interview. What do you do? What will they ask? How do you remain calm? These are all great questions which we will address in the next article.
We welcome your feedback. Please email your career-related inquiries and/or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Touro College’s Career Services assists Touro students and alumni in all aspects of their career search. Contributing to this feature are Ron Ansel, MBA, CPC, Director of Career Services, Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, and Sarri Singer, Assistant Directors.
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