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After a summer of interviewing potential replacements for Unnamed Publisher, I realized that some common sense interview skills aren’t necessarily¬† common. I may not be a top HR expert, but here’s what I’ve learned from my tours through retail management and recruiting as well as the gauntlet of interviews I’ve survived myself.

For any interview

  • PREPARE. Please prepare. Please, please, please prepare. Research the company, reread the job description, talk to anyone you know who works/worked there. You should never go to an interview without knowing what you’re walking into.
  • Make a list of questions. If you’re one of those people who always has a questions for everyone, this may be less of an issue. But if you’re like me, you have a hard time thinking of questions when you’re in the midst of the interview adrenaline. I make a running list as I’m doing my research and study that list before going into the interview. And if they have you interview with lots of different people, it’s better to repeat a few questions than to tell someone important that you have nothing to ask.
  • Read over your resume. You may be reminded of a relevant project or responsibility from years past that had slipped your mind.
  • Speaking of resumes: edit, reread, edit again, and have someone else read it. You can maintain a several page resume, but based on the job you’re applying for you can tailor that down to ONE page. If you haven’t made it to the interview stage and you just want someone to respond to your resume, make sure key terms from the job description are in your resume (but, you know, without lying). In this period of high unemployment, your resume is likely in a huge stack that’s being filtered based on keywords.

In-person interviews

When I was screening for the publisher this summer, most of the people were well-prepared, but one person inspired this post and every item in this category.

  • She showed up wearing sandals, short shorts, and a spaghetti strap tank top. Whaaa? Dress one step better than you would dress to do the job you’re applying for. Even if you’re applying for a part-time job or as in this case doing a more casual interview with an employee who would be on your same level, you still need to show that you take it seriously.
  • She showed up carrying only a set of keys. No resume, no questions, no paper to take notes on. BRING YOUR RESUME. Yes, you’ve likely already submitted your resume with your application, but if you end up getting thrown into an office with someone who knows nothing about you and hasn’t seen it, you’ll wish you had a copy. And if you’re going into an office to meet with multiple people, bring multiple copies. I would also recommend having your list of questions and some paper/pen to take notes with tucked into your folder just in case.
  • She rarely made eye contact. I PROMISE I am not that intimidating. You know I’m not intimidating, right? Particularly if you’re applying for a customer-facing job, you should be smiling, nodding, and making eye contact. I was interviewing this gal for a SALES JOB, and she was staring at the floor.

Phone interviews

  • Treat it like a real interview. Phone interviews do not equal “I don’t have to prepare, we’re just having a casual convo among friends.”
  • Get ready for the call. Assemble any papers/websites you want to have in front of you, go to the bathroom, and get a glass of water. Remember: the interviewer’s clock may be faster than yours, so you should be prepared for the call 10 or 15 minutes ahead.
  • Get rid of distractions. Your brilliant wit won’t come through on the phone if you’re sidetracked by a muted TV or a chat window.
  • Find a quiet place. Home is ideal, but when I was applying to work for the publisher I did a couple of interviews in my old company’s parking garage over a lunch break. If you are at home, make sure barky dogs are bribed with a treat or put away.

Sales interviews – Show your sales skills in the interview. More than just about any other job, you can prove that you’ve got the chops by how you handle yourself in the interview. Most importantly, prove that you can close a deal. My favorite line? “Do you have any concerns or questions that I can address so that you will be completely confident in offering me this job?” It may sound pushy, but it works.

Marathon interviews – Do NOT complain. If you’re interviewing for a job that involves talking to people back to back all day and you gripe and grumble about how tough it is to interview with different people back to back, you will not get the job.

Good luck!


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