Job Search First Aid - The Interview

Advice, Aid, Ideas for the Job Searcher

 

Do your homework.  Before the interview, visit the company's website and learn what it does and who its key people are.  Go to a financial site (e.g., www.morningstar.com or  www.quicken.com) and read news and financial reports on the company.  Find out if its stock is on the upswing or downswing, if there have been recent (or anticipated) mergers, what its net worth is and how many employees it has in various locations, and other noteworthy information.  This knowledge adds depth to your interview and the interviewers invariably take note of the person who knows the company.  After all, it's a given that the interviewer will ask why you want to work there; so why not skip the shallow answers like "I've heard it's a nice place to work" and offer a meaty answer like "because my research indicates that this company will soon be the market leader in its field, that its 24 foreign locations mean that I will have the opportunity of working in an international environment and possibly even travel, and that last year it was 5th in the Fortune 100 in employee satisfaction."   

Take copies of your materials.  Sure the interviewer should not have lost your resume and letter, but he or she will be impressed that you planned for that possibility.  Have extra copies of your resume with you.  If you sent this employer a tailored resume, be sure the version you have with you is the same version you sent them.  

If possible, take samples of your work that you can offer if you decide it's appropriate; be sure they are copies that you can leave behind and not your originals. 

Dress appropriately.  Ask beforehand what the company's dress code is.  You don't have to call the interviewer for this info.  Whoever answers the phone can tell you.  "Business casual" means a coat and tie or suit is not necessary for a man, but don't wear jeans and sneakers either.  Typically, a collared golf shirt with a sport coat for a man or an informal dress or slacks and blouse meets this increasingly common standard.  If you can't determine the dress code ahead of time, wear a business suit (and, for men, a tie).  Be sure your shoes are polished.
 

Don't leap into silences.  During the interview, some people feel a need to be chatty.  You can be friendly without always talking.  Silence makes most people nervous; it shouldn't.  When you are asked a question, a thoughtful answer after a moment's pause is more important than a quick one.  Not only does a moment of silence give you the opportunity to consider your response and rehearse its presentation in your mind, but it serves to emphasize what you say and makes it appear wiser than it would have if it had come quickly.  If banter is your strong suit, then feel free to use it, but if not, then opt for silence rather than trying to fill the void with too-quick answers that you may wish you could take back.

Avoid clipped or yes-no responses to the interviewer's questions.  The interviewer is trying to get to know you and often the question is intended to get you to talk about yourself.  That said, don't ramble on and on.  Stay on the subject, say your piece, and stop (again, don't leap into the silence or talk on and on to avoid silence). 

Ask.  Ask when a decision will be made.  And, ask the interviewer's opinion of your chances for the position.  This will not only give you valuable information, but forces the interviewer to commit to a position.

Write NOW.  Immediately after leaving the interview, write a personal note to the interviewer.  An immediate e-mail and a mailed-the-same-day, hand-written thank you is appropriate.
 

Follow up.  Call back every week -- every single week, same day, same time -- until you receive a firm decision.  Get to know the interviewer or assistant to whom you talk and call them by first name.  As long as the company tells you "maybe," keep calling.  Often this perseverance will be the deciding factor between you and other applicants.  Most employers appreciate polite, firm persistence.  Follow up telephone conversations with an e-mailed "thank you."

After-action Tasks: When you lose out to another applicant, call the interviewer and ask for suggestions for improving your presentation (resume, appearance, interviewing skills, etc.) and for any other suggestions.  Most will be willing to give you a few moments and, if you learn from what they tell you, you'll be better prepared next time.