Have you ever felt like you were guaranteed the job, only to be turned down hours or days later? When applying for jobs, whether it be immediately after graduation, or just trying to move up the corporate ladder, the interview can be one of the most important aspects of getting the job or not. The aspect of the hiring process that helps successful candidates stand out more than others, I’m convinced, is the short period of time of face-to-face contact in the job interview. While experience is an important thing, we all know that you can get a job without the experience (otherwise everyone would be unemployed – you have to start somewhere).
I have the privilege of maintaining my successful streak. Ever since I have been 16, every job for which I have interviewed, I have been offered. There were plenty of jobs that I applied for that I didn’t get job interviews, but there is only so much you can do about that.
Why Interviews Techniques are Important
Understanding proper job interview techniques is a necessity. It’s important not only because of the level of importance that employers use to judge candidates, but it is also important because it is the one thing that you can improve overnight. You can’t get years of relevant job experience, a higher degree, or anything else to pad your resume, but you can adjust what you do in the interview to help you stand out.
What NOT to Do in a Job Interview
While it is true that I have been offered every job that I have interviewed for since I was 16 years old, the hidden truth is that I have not been offered every job that I interviewed for. When I was 15, I aspired to get a job before turning 16. In the state that I lived in, the legal working age was 14, but most employers didn’t consider anyone until they were able to drive. I had the upper-hand. My uncle worked for a local bank (and was the VP). After a few phone calls and emails, he put me in touch with the HR representative. It was only a matter of days before I had an interview scheduled for one of two positions open. Piece of Cake, I thought…
I went into the interview full of confidence. Getting an interview was more than half of the battle, as I was told, and I had done that with little effort on my part. I assumed that the interview was a technicality. Oh, how I was wrong. I, a 15 year-old-boy walked into a room with 3 HR representatives for my interview. My nerves heightened and sweat began to drip down my forehead as the questions came one after another. I did my best to compensate for my lack of preparation, relaying on my strengths and skill set, but I kept kicking myself as the interview went on. My mind was swirling, full of self-criticism of the answers I found myself giving even while the interview went on. The interview ended with a typing test. The only time that I have been asked to do so in an interview process. If there was one thing that I did correct in the interview, it was far exceeding the necessary 40 words per minute.
It was only weeks later that I learned that I did not get either of the jobs. I was disappointed that I missed out on a great opportunity that had a starting wage several dollars an hour over minimum wage. For a 15 year old, to be able to work afternoons, and occasional Saturdays, thereby having my nights and weekends free, it was the best job in town. And I blew it. Yet, it was one of the best things to happen. It was at that moment, that I learned the secrets of a successful interview. Here are some of the things that I did wrong (and that you should avoid doing in a job interview):
- Feel confident because an interview was requested – Never forget that you do not have the job until an offer has been extended. Remembering this will keep
- Depend on who you know instead of who you are and what you can do. (The job force often becomes about ‘who you know’, but use this to get your foot in the door. Once inside, do the rest of the work, because you have to)
- Doubt your responses (especially in the interview); Doing this will only hurt you. It will be evident to the one conducting the interview and will cause you further confusion.
- Come Unprepared – Coming unprepared to an interview is like trying to make a new meal without a recipe. Some people may be able to manage it, but very few. It’s best to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
- Doubt your ability – One of the things that I regret the most is not being confident in my ability to succeed at a job. I didn’t know it before coming to the interview, but I was also interviewing an open teller position. This caught me by surprise and when they asked me if I could perform the job well, instead of highlighting my strengths, I responded that I would be more comfortable in the other position. (STUPID!)
Best Way to Stand out to Employers
While I am sure many of you are laughing at my rookie mistakes, I have learned a lot in the past 10 years. Learning from my mistakes early on was what led me to land my first job while in high school just months later. There were over 400 applicants for 20 jobs. This meant group interviews and even though I am typically an introvert, I survived with a job offer. I held this job until I graduated, getting a great reference for future opportunities. So, what did I do differently? What have I learned about succeeding in a job offer beyond the things of what NOT to do?
- Dress for Success – Okay, I realize that I am not saying anything new here, but it’s true. If you want to get a job, you have to dress the part. This is one of the first things that employers will look for and if you can’t do this, don’t even bother trying to convince them that you will excel at the job.
- Make a Personal Connection – This is one of the most important things in the interview process. In the interview for my current position, before the interview officially began, I already knew where my current boss was from, his education background, and his wife’s first name. There is no such thing as “small talk,” in an interview. Everything should be done for a reason. As it turns out, I was hired for a variety of reasons, but being easy to relate to helped me stand out.
- Send a Thank You Note – This is another popular bit of wisdom, but it is true. It does take some skill to perfect (to avoid being annoying or obvious, but the right thank you note at the right time can seal the deal for your next job offer.
While you may not be able to get a CEO position without the education to back it up, these should help improve your chances. Take advantage of the interview to secure your next job.
What tips do you have to improve your chances of getting hired?
photocredit: victor1558 via flickr