The next step: getting ready for job interviews

So you’ve written a dynamite resume and married it with the perfect cover letter, and after sending it off to the company where you want to work, you receive the much-anticipated call.  The firm would like to invite you to an interview!

It is a thrilling feeling when the phone rings and the hiring manager is on the other end of the line  – kind of like having having someone you like say “yes” when you ask them out on the first date.  It is also slightly terrifying – also kind of like having someone you like say “yes” when you ask them out on the first date.  Seemingly thousands of thoughts race through your head: what to wear?  when should I arrive?  what does the company expect from me?  what will the interview be like?

It can be overwhelming, but in the next few posts we will take deeper look at the various types of interviews that companies employ to find the right employees.  Some are very traditional, such as meeting the hiring manager in his or her office, and some are very eclectic, with such hoops to jump through as impromptu essay writing, math quizzes, and team building exercises.

The long and the short of it is that all of the work that you have done to this point – researching the company, writing a resume, crafting a cover letter, and sending it in – is wasted unless you can close the deal in the actual interview.

Before we get into the individual interviews and how best to prepare for them, we first need to go over some basics.

Remember always that the purpose of the interview is for the company to fill a need in their organization.  It is never about what a great person you are.  That said, if you fit the need of the company, then you are likely to be hired.  That’s right, you are likely to be hired.

Why is that?  Why only likely?

I’m glad you asked.  Your skills and talents are what got you the interview in the first place.  In the eyes of the company, they are bringing you in and expending resources (in terms of the interviewer’s time, maybe lunch, or maybe even airfare and a hotel room) because you look good on paper and are worthy of a closer look.  Your resume opened the door, but it is up to you to go through it and secure a job offer.

Simply put, the interview is more about how you will fit in with the company’s culture and the way things are done there than your skills.  They want to see how you articulate yourself, how you dress, what your manners and mannerisms are like.  They want to see if you trim your fingernails or pick your nose or scratch yourself in awkward places, or if you project the image that the company wants.  That is what the interview is really all about.

So in the next few posts we will look at how to prepare for specific types of interviews, but before that let’s look at things that pertain to all interviews.

First off is personal hygiene.  Ask someone you know and respect of the opposite sex how you look.  Don’t ask your mom or dad (because they still think of you as a kid in the third grade) but someone who will give you an objective opinion.  Ask them to look at you in terms of a hiring manager.  How does your hair look?   If it is a super-motivated flat-top then you may want to consider growing it out a little bit.  Your posture?  If you slouch in your chair it will project an image of slovenliness.   How do you speak?  If every third work is the “F”-bomb or you use acronyms in every sentence then you need to change your vocabulary.  Do you have any mannerisms that you are not consciously aware of yet are distracting to others, such as drumming your fingers, wiggling your toes, or biting your fingernails?  If so, recognize that you do and make a conscious effort to stop.

Make sure not to take anything that your friend says personally because they are really helping you out.  An unintended benefit is that you may actually pick up on some things that will improve your appearance and help you find a date for Saturday night, but that is an entirely different subject.

Look at how you dress.  As a transitioning military person you likely have a closet full of uniforms and a single navy blue blazer with a rumpled pair of khaki trousers.  That was fine for your time in the military, but it is completely underwhelming in the corporate sector.  Time to do some shopping.

I personally like going to the clothier Joseph A. Bank.  They carry a quality line of professional clothing, and more importantly the staff in the store is there to help you build a complete wardrobe.  This is a bit more challenging than you may realize, but after years and years of wearing exactly the same thing to work has a tendency to dull your fashion sense.  Nobody wants to hire an employee who wears a suit fresh from decades gone by, and just as importantly the sweet threads you wear to a nightclub are definitely not going to make a good impression at your interview.

Talk to the salespeople at the store.  They will show you the current trends in professional attire as well as instruct you on how to coordinate your wardrobe.  Believe it or not, there are color choices outside the green, brown, and khaki palette, and if you choose poorly you will end up looking either comical or color blind.  Swallow your pride and listen to the experts- you will be better looking for it!

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Lessons Learned:

1.  There is a lot more to interviewing than just showing up at the hiring manager’s office.  Before you show up, you need prepare, and a significant part of preparation centers around how you will come across in the interview.

2.  Have a trusted friend give you an honest evaluation of your appearance, habits, and hygiene.  Then work on your deficiencies and shortfalls.

3.  Get a new set of clothes.  Talk to the pros at a place like Joseph A. Bank, and listen to what they say. You will look a lot more professional, and that will go a long way in presenting a solid impression at your interview.  They also have some wickedly good sales on suits and whatnot- so take advantage of them when you can.

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