A new year… a new job? Maybe you’re interested in moving into a new field in 2024, or perhaps you’re between jobs. Now is as good a time as any to put yourself out there. When you land a job interview, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be ready to ace your next interview.
Dress to Impress In-Person AND Remote
A job interview is your chance to make a great first impression. How you look and carry yourself is a big part of it. Even if you’re interviewing for a more casual work environment, you should dress as professionally as possible. Make sure there’s nothing distracting about your appearance or outfit; you don’t want a tattoo sleeve or a really strong cologne pulling focus away from your words. If you have a pet who sheds, invest in a lint roller and make sure you give yourself a few swipes to get any potentially allergy-triggering fur off your clothes. Speaking of tattoos: look into the company’s policy on body art and cover up as appropriate. Tattoos and piercings are more socially acceptable now than they’ve ever been, but there are still going to be places of employment that want them obscured when you’re dealing with the public.
An important thing to keep in mind is that “dress to impress” still applies if you’re doing a remote interview. Even if they can only see you from the waist up on camera you should still dress as cleanly as you would in an in-person interview. You should also consider getting a ring light; if you have poor lighting, it won’t matter how good you look. Also, consider what else your interviewer can see in the background. A dirty room or something unprofessional hanging on the wall could reflect poorly on you. Take your remote interview in an uncluttered, well-lit space with nothing distracting in the background.
Do Your Due Diligence
A serious employer is going to do their due diligence and look into you; you should do the same. It’s important to do research and look into a company before interviewing with them. For starters: doing so means that you’ll go in knowing what they do, what they’re looking for, and will give you some insight on how you can present yourself in a way that best aligns with that company’s values and goals. Don’t just read sources from the employer: check news sites and the web for information about the company. Look up reviews on job search sites. See what former employees have to say about the company. If you know someone personally who either works there or has worked there, invite them out for a coffee or lunch and pick their brain.
Not only will doing this research make you more prepared for the interview, but it could also impress your interviewer. Displaying that you’ve looked into them and are informed will set you apart from other interviewees who didn’t do the work.
Remember that interviewing is a dialogue. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Don’t just sit there and answer questions: ask them questions as well. Most interviewers will ask you toward the end of the interview if you have any questions—take advantage of that opportunity (and plan your time accordingly during the interview). This is a great time to ask questions about anything that was not already covered in the interview, or to seek clarification. This is your moment to show what matters to you. Ask about scheduling, salary, company culture, benefits, expectations—don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. Again, this is a two-way process: you’re every bit interviewing THEM as they are interviewing you. Accepting an offer of employment is a commitment—you want to make sure that you’re joining an organization that aligns with your ambitions, character and values. If you don’t ask questions, you may end up not finding about major deal breakers until it’s too late.
Stick to Relevant Information
A good rule of thumb for resumes is to only put in what’s relevant for the job you’re applying for; you don’t need to put in those three years you spent as a barista. The same holds true for an interview. Stay on topic and don’t digress on subjects that aren’t pertinent to the interview.
“Listen to questions carefully and answer all questions carefully,” said Gina Pinch, Rio Salado's Faculty Chair of Business, Management, and Public Administration. “Often, your answers are being scored and you must answer all questions to score well.”
Talk about your strengths and professional goals. Share your proudest professional achievements. Have an answer ready if they ask about your weaknesses. It’s okay to banter or chat a bit if you develop a personal rapport with the interviewer and it feels right, but don’t lose sight about what you’re thereto do. Above all else, remember that you’re in a professional setting so keep things formal and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in front of a supervisor.
Watch What Your Body is Saying
How you look and what you say is important, but how you hold yourself matters too. Your body language can say a lot about you, so pay attention to it. Don’t slouch or look too casual. Looking relaxed is a good thing but if you’re too chill it might give off the impression that you’re not taking the interview seriously enough. Relax your hands and don’t fidget . hThat can give the impression of nervousness. Maintain comfortable levels of eye contact. Don’t let your eyes wander.
Explaining Employment Gaps
Employment gaps aren’t necessarily deal breakers but it’s important to have an explanation on deck if you get asked about them during interviews. The key is to not apologize to them or act embarrassed. Don’t frame them as bad things. Frame your gaps as learning experiences. Talk about the soft skills you developed during those gaps and any training or education you acquired during these periods.
“You do not need to provide specific details if your employment gap is related to a family or personal issue,” said Pinch. “However, confirm the situation has been resolved and you are now motivated to return to the workforce.”
The Salary Question
We come now to the big question: how to ask about the pay. Usually salary conversations happen toward the end of the interview. If the interviewer asks you what you want, be careful how you respond. You could very well end up lowballing yourself into less pay or give them a number so large that it takes you out of the running. This is why doing due diligence is so important. Research the average salary for the position you’re taking. Take your locale into consideration as wages can vary by state. Go into the interview with a salary range that is both acceptable to you and also seems like something that would be realistic/attainable from this employer. Ask for your worth and don’t be afraid to walk if you get offered significantly less than that. One way to redirect the money question is to ask them what they’ve budgeted for this position.
Talking about money can be awkward but it’s critical to have this conversation. More so than the actual number you get, the most important information to glean from this exchange is their willingness (or lack thereof) to talk about it. If a prospective employer gets defensive or evasive when the subject of money comes up, that is a HUGE red flag. An employer you can trust will be honest and direct about pay; if they refuse to commit to a figure or get uncomfortable talking about it, be prepared to walk away.
As the interview is wrapping up, ask them about next steps. Find out how they’ll reach out to you. This is important: let them contact you. If they’re interested in hiring you, they don't need to be reminded you exist. They will contact you. You calling them or sending multiple follow-ups won’t help your cause. What you can and should do is send a short and polite thank you letter after the interview. Send a short email thanking them for their time, reaffirming your interest in the position, and let them know you’re available to do any additional follow-up interviews if need be.
Article by Austin Brietta
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