The Only Interview Tip Sheet You’ll Ever Need

Our Very Best Job Interview Do’s & Don’ts

Jobs are won and lost based on that initial job interview. We hear from countless HR managers, employees and interviewers, and the same advice for job hunters comes up time and time again, whether it’s about bringing coffee to an interview or arriving five minutes late. We’ve compiled that advice into a definitive best-of list.

Got the call? Great work – you’re half way there. These Do’s and Don’ts will take you the rest of the way.

Top 5 Interview DON’Ts: Don’t Even Think About It

    • Don’t Be Attached to a Coffee Cup. Don’t be fooled by the culture’s caffeine fixation – if you and your Flat White just won’t be separated, then you’re headed for a job interview Don’t. Bringing a cuppa joe (or any beverage) is unprofessional, and it can end up being a distraction. If you’re a smoker, refrain from smoking before you go, too. The smell will follow you, and you want to be remembered for other qualities.
    • Don’t Bring Someone. Our interviewers weighed in on job candidate Don’ts, and they agreed: unless you’re Vincent Chase from Entourage, arrive alone. There is no need for anyone to go with you to an interview. You can do it on your own. Another person might be distracting, and your support system may be a window to your lack of confidence, even if Ari and boys stay in reception (see Do #1).
    • Don’t Be Late. It’s as familiar as the first rule of Fight Club, and it’s just as important. Even candidates with the best of intentions falter on this Don’t, whether it’s because of poor directions, difficult parking, traffic, or scheduling. Being late makes it look like you’re not interested in the job, or that you’ll show up late for work. Plan well, take a practice run, and show up fifteen minutes early instead.

The Thank-you Note:
Do or Don’t?

Is the thank you note an outmoded tradition? The answer is no. While stamped, addressed envelopes can be unnecessary today, e-mailed thank you notes are obligatory, even if you only had a phone interview. Write one as soon as possible after your interview and no later than 24 hours. Make it brief, courteous, and include a reminder of why you’re interested and qualified for the job.
Use this sample thank-you note for guidance.

  • Don’t Ignore the Dress Code. Our advice on interview clothing? Look like you’ve been working even if you haven’t been. Today’s conventions call for business casual when the job is labor-related, and professional attire when it’s a professional or office position. Casual daytime attire is almost never an option. Show your interviewer you’re making your best effort by looking professional and polished no matter what the job description.
  • Don’t Be Undone by Your Phone. We can’t say it enough. A candidate that doesn’t turn off their phone during a job interview won’t make it past round one. If you’re answering your phone, texting, or getting phone calls or alerts, you’ll send a clear message to you potential employer that it will happen on the job, too. An accepted part of today’s digital culture? You bet. An acceptable job interview practice? IMHO, not by a long shot.

 

Top 5 Interview DO’s: You Got This

 

  1. Greet the Receptionist. Our interviewers tell us they often check in with everyone you meet during your interview. (Sometimes that’s where they get their best information.) Be pleasant to everyone on the team from the get-go. When you arrive, start by telling the receptionist your name, with whom you’re scheduled, and the position for which you are applying. Make wardrobe adjustments at home or in the car, because the minute you park in the parking lot, it’s showtime.
  2. Hone Your Social Skills. How important is looking your interviewer in the eye? Extremely, according to our HR contacts. What about handshakes? Crucial, they tell us. Eye contact shows honesty and self-confidence. The handshake is a first impression – make it firm (but not overly so). Know your interviewer’s name and use it at appropriate times as well. If you’ve been off the interview circuit for a while, take interviews even if they aren’t the perfect fit in order to practice your social skills and grow your confidence. When the right job comes along, you’ll be ready.
  3. Hit the Highlights – of You. You are well on your way to a successful interview if you focus on what you do well. Your interviewer wants to hear what you bring to the table, and most questions can be answered by mentioning certain talents, interests or skills. Candidates sometimes tend to make excuses for past performance, lack of skills, or lack of education – don’t. Talk about what you’ve done to improve these aspects of yourself instead. Practice by answering these common interview questions.
  4. Be a Listener. It’s discouraging when we hear interviewers say that a candidate didn’t seem like they were interested in the job because they seemed distracted or disengaged. Listening means you’re paying attention and showing you really want to work there. Even if this is your umpteenth interview this month, take time to learn about the company and the department, prepare questions, and listen during your interview so you can ask more.
  5. Applicant, Know Thyself. It happens more often than even we would have predicted. Interviewees fail the easiest test of all: the one about themselves. An interviewer will almost always ask about your resume or application – that’s their only reference point. Why you left a job, what you learned from past employment, or why there are gaps in your history can be common questions. Be prepared. Review the facts of your resume and rehearse clear, straightforward responses. If you feel like you need to enhance your self-awareness, take our Know Thyself questionnaire.

Need more tips on preparing for a job interview? You’ll find plenty of career support resources in our Job Support Center.

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