Protect your data
Artwork by: Katya Simacheva
After waiting eagerly to hear back about the job application you submitted weeks ago, you have finally received word that you’re invited for an interview. Congratulations! You have made it through the hardest part of the job search, only a small percentage of applicants for any given position make it to this stage.
The invitation alone should give you some confidence. This indicates that you are being valued for your experience and qualifications. Trust yourself – your hard work has gotten you this far, now it’s just about bringing in some personality to show your potential employer why you are the right choice for the job.
Today’s workforce is saturated with job seekers. With the growing use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), resumes are being put through digital screenings that automatically position some people ahead of others. Many resumes are never even seen by the eye of a recruiter. Because of this practice, the interview pool can come out somewhat homogeneous. The key to nailing the interview is to find ways to highlight why YOU are the right candidate. This means elaborating on your work experience just as much as your work ethic, motivators, and personality.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are the standard applicant filtration system used by over 50% of large companies. The basic concept is simple: an ATS uses technology to extract data from resumes. It scans a resume to identify the applicant’s contact information, industry, education, and years of experience. This happens in seconds, and if your resume doesn't use enough keywords that a specific job posting is targeting, the resume will not make it to an interview.
At this point in the application process, it’s time to focus on the small details. Although easy to overlook, practicing good self-care on the day of your interview can be the detail that sets you apart.
If you are tired or lethargic during your interview, it shows! Take special care the night before to get to bed early. If you are one of the many people whose sleep is affected by stress or anxiety, this might be heightened on the night before an interview. There are many resources to help alleviate this effect, now is a great time to explore those options.
Nerves can distract us from our basic body needs: food and hydration. Try to eat 30-45 minutes before your interview to give yourself a clear mind. Hydrate throughout the day so you don’t go dry while speaking. Use the bathroom in advance so you don’t end up squirming in your seat. And remember, if you ate something aromatic, brush your teeth and wash your hands before entering the office.
It was once believed that to show professionalism, you should arrive at least 15 minutes early, if not more. Times have changed though, and this would be seen as a bit extreme. For instance, you might end up having to wait outside the interviewer’s office while another interview is being conducted. If there’s a window, it could make everyone uncomfortable. Similarly, if you arrive during the interviewer’s scheduled lunch break, they might feel hurried and cut their break short. A hungry interviewer benefits no one.
Try to arrive 5-10 minutes ahead of your scheduled interview time. This should be enough time to ride the elevator, check in at the front desk, and have a brief moment to review your notes.
Whatever you do, do not show up late. Is this your first time visiting the building? Do a test run a few days before to see how long it takes to get there, what bus route you need to use, what floor your interview is on, or if there’s public parking available. If there’s only street parking, add an extra 10 minutes to your arrival time.
While this makes your arrival time easier to figure out, there are still other ways to be prepared. If you are conducting the interview from your house, do you have a well-lit and professional space set up? Will your family be home, and do they know to be quiet and not interrupt?
To create a professional background for your video, make sure anything inappropriate or non-professional is removed from your walls. If possible, choose a neutral wall without busy patterns. Place your computer in front of a window so that when you sit down, you have natural light on your face. If there are no windows available, make sure there are plenty of lamps. Place the lamps behind your computer screen so that your face is illuminated. Any light coming from behind you will make you hard to see.
Open the platform your interview will be conducted on (Google Meets, Zoom, Skype, etc.). You can preview your screen to get an idea of what your interviewer will see. Test your microphone and camera. Grab your charging cord and have it plugged in ahead of time.
Sign in a few minutes early. You will typically be put in a virtual waiting room until the interviewer turns on their audio and webcam. Remember, you might be visible and/or audible to the interviewer at this time, keep it professional as you wait.
Most of us have a general understanding that interviews are a time to put some effort into our appearance. But what exactly does that mean, and how can wearing the wrong outfit affect your interview?
While employers should never discriminate against someone because of their appearance, be aware that your choices do make statements. You want to show your interviewer that you care to be there, and an easy way to do that is to look like you prepared yourself.
The main idea is dressing appropriately for the job. If you are interviewing for an outdoor or labor position, wearing a nice flannel, boots, and cargo pants might be appropriate. If you are interviewing for a position at a trendy restaurant, you can bring in elements of your streetwear. If you are pursuing corporate roles, consider clothing items that fall into categories such as slacks, blouses, or suits.
Even if you know that the appearance protocol will be more relaxed once hired, always put effort into your interview outfit.
You made it! You are mentally and physically prepared for your interview, you arrived on time, and the interviewer just called you into their office. Below is a breakdown of how to introduce yourself in an interview.
As you approach the interviewer, be sure that you are making direct eye contact. A warm smile is a great addition. Overly eager smiles might show desperation or lack of experience, and the absence of a smile might come off as apathetic to the opportunity.
Extend your hand as you approach the interviewer and offer a handshake. Everyone should feel comfortable initiating a handshake in the workplace; it’s a professional courtesy that instills mutual respect. If you feel timid about the idea of a handshake, ask a friend to practice with you and listen to their feedback.
Always start with a simple, “Hi, I’m _______”. It’s common for this to occur during or immediately before the handshake. After you’ve both sat down, feel free to offer up some gratitude. This should be a short statement; one to two sentences will suffice.
Expert Tip Analyze this example!
“This position really excites me, I’m eager to speak more about it.” Or “I’m really impressed by what this company stands for, thank you for taking the time today to speak with me about joining the team”.
At this point, the interviewer will likely have their own introduction prepared. After sharing their name and title they might ask you some more personal questions.
Employers aren’t just hiring someone who can get the job done, they’re hiring a member of a team. This includes someone who has good communication and is multi-faceted. Use this insight when answering the following questions. There are many ways to bring attention to all the skills you possess as a human, even if they are not directly related to the position you’re applying for.
You should give some thought when answering this question. Remember, the focus of this entire interview is standing out from others. Being asked how you’re doing is a great opportunity to bring in some flair. Rather than a basic “I’m good, thanks”, opt instead for something more personal.
Ex. “I had my art class this morning and this interview now, so my day is going great!”
Other ways this prompt might be delivered are “So, what brought you here today?” or “Tell me about your background”. From here, you can lay out the story of your professional journey as you see it. Resumes don’t always tell the story of our inspirations the way we experienced them. Perhaps you’re applying for an entry-level tech position, but your work experience is in retail management. This is your opportunity to paint the image that best represents you.
Expert Tip Analyze this example!
“I have a decent amount of experience in project management but my previous job taught me to handle unexpected situations. I think that most roles benefit from flexible thinking and really caring about the success of your team.
For example, in my previous job: one day our store systems crashed, and we lost everything. Our tech specialist was out of town, so I was put in charge of rebooting our systems. I got us back up and running, learning everything as I went. This is when I realized I really enjoy learning about IT security and that I have an affinity for programming languages.”
You are well on your way to landing that job. Keep these last couple of tips in mind and the interviewers will put you in the top running.
Be prepared and take care of yourself! Part of your introduction is how you dress, how well your Zoom call works, and what physical state you’re in. Not all introductions in an interview are verbal.
Do your research! You want to be able to back up any praise you give the company. If they follow up by asking, “What do you like so much about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?”, you want to have done enough research to speak from an informed place.
Visit their website and read their mission statement. What does the company value? What precedents do they set? Check out their LinkedIn page. What kind of posts do they make? If you see something that resonates, bring it up in the interview.
Be your (professional) self! While it’s easy to work ourselves up over interviews, it’s important to be yourself. Interviews don’t have to be a rigid encounter.
Relax those shoulders and take a few deep breaths. You have the power to turn the interview into an enjoyable conversation, something that everyone will walk away from with a positive association.
Emma is a certified employment specialist with over 6 years of experience in career mentorship and employment training. With an affinity for technical writing, Emma is passionate about developing training manuals, policy and procedures, onboarding documents, and fiscal management systems. In 2020 she helped design Colorado’s first state-certified training program for people with disabilities entering the workforce.