So, you're among the 5.5% of Americans currently unemployed or underemployed. Or maybe you're a college student about to graduate and enter the workforce. Or perhaps you just hate your current job and need to find something less soul crushing. Whatever the reason for your job search, the result is the same: You're going to have to master The Art of the Interview. Learning how to be good in job interviews should really be its own college class. Anecdotally, I feel like interviewing is a lot like public speaking in that more people feel they know what they are doing than actually do. We all know the basics: Wear a nice outfit, highlight your strengths, have a polished resume, act as though this is the only job you want even if you actually have seven other interviews at companies you prefer lined up later that afternoon, etc. But I must say, in one of my past jobs (at a museum) I used to interview large groups of candidates three times a year for internships and the things I experienced were... startling. A short list of crimes:
- Showing up in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops
- Describing why they wanted the job as, "just seeing this as a way to get their foot in the door someplace."
- Texting during an interview
- Telling me they visited the museum on a day when it was closed and go on to lie about things they saw there that they couldn't have because such items didn't exist
Clearly, there are a lot of basics that are being overlooked and it would be my pleasure to help you out.
Educate yourself about the company
This is, by far, what I found to be most lacking in every candidate I've ever interviewed, no matter the position. While you may be quick on your feet in answering personal questions you had not anticipated, you likely won't be able to do that in answering questions about the company (and any interviewer worth her salt is going to ask about the company). If you attempt it, you may wind up looking like an idiot, and moreover, an underprepared idiot. Conversely, if you sprinkle in knowledge of the company in answer personal questions, you look like a put together whiz who is super serious about landing the job. A great way to get educated about a company (aside from going over their website and doing some Googling) is to set up a Google alert, which will keep you informed about the most up-to-date information.
Social Media: Lock It Down
The only social media your potential employer should be able to see is your LinkedIn account (and that should be up to date). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, current blogs, old blogs, and whatever new thing the kids are doing these days should be set to private. It's absolutely not unusual or out of bounds for a potential employer to do a basic Google search after an interview. It's better to let them get to know you before they learn how good you are at beer pong or that you keep a blog for My Little Pony fan fiction.
Show Up On Time
This is very basic and obvious, but I really can't stress this enough. It makes such a bad impression if you show up late for an interview. It also makes a bad impression if you show up more than 10 minutes early. This interview may be the most important or even only thing you're doing all day, but your interviewer likely has a very busy schedule (and are likely understaffed at the moment, given the fact that there is an option position in their department). Having you hanging about the office, just waiting for them, is not only awkward, but potentially an added stressor; be respectful of their time.
Be Nice To The Receptionist, Security Guard, or Maintenance Staff
You want to make a good first impression—on everyone. It's generally a pretty good idea (and good manners) to be kind and respectful of people, but from a self-serving standpoint, everyone you encounter in the office could not only be a future co-worker, but could be friends with the person you're interviewing. So if you're a jerk to the receptionist, she could go into your interviewers office later and talk about how you didn't make eye contact with her and completely ignored her when she tried to engage you in small talk.
As they say on Sesame Street, "Asking questions is a good way of finding things out!" It also makes you look thoughtful and serious about the position. See if you can't come up with your own based on the job description or institution, but this is a pretty handy list of questions to ask on an interview if you find yourself stumped. Remember that it's helpful to ask questions not only about the job and the company, but also the team you'll be working on, the teams you'll be working with, and the office/company culture.
Write A Thank You Note
Follow-up is important. It serves as good manners, a friendly reminder, and a great way to add in any extra selling points you'd forgotten while in the interview. You can do this via mail (I'm a fan of a hand-written card, but that largely springs from the fact that I'm a sucker for cute stationery) but this can be done by e-mail as well.
For the love of God, don't say your biggest flaw is that you're a perfectionist
At best, this answer will make you sound unoriginal. At worst, it will make you sound arrogant, unoriginal, annoying, and dishonest to boot. There is really no way you can answer this question without showing you lack self-awareness one way or the other. When employers ask, "What is your greatest weakness?" (and they often do), the best way to answer is to demonstrate how you have overcome a challenge in the past. For example, "In my last position, I found that I would have a tendency to merely accept standard operating procedures rather than innovate new ways of doing things more efficiently. So I began organizing brainstorming lunches with my team to try to come up with new ways to tackle an upcoming project differently," or, "I'm not a great public speaker, so I began volunteering to give presentations to the rest of the office when my team had something to show; I definitely started out shaky and I have a way to go, but I've seen improvement in myself and I'm proud of that."
Images: Fox 2000; Giphy(7)