How to nail an interview
Confidence: don’t be a church mouse—the competition is fierce—rather, be a social butterfly! Dress nicely, of course (it doesn’t hurt to ask what to wear when scheduling the interview). A professional appearance not only impresses the interviewer, but gives you self-confidence (ever heard of a power tie?) Be a few minutes early to demonstrate your punctuality and make a good impression. Give a good, firm handshake. Don’t fidget or swivel inside the interview. Make eye contact. Articulate what makes you excited about the position, what you can contribute to the company. Study the job description and the company. Know your future plans: are you planning on going back to school? Have questions in mind for the interviewer after researching the company (maybe other than “What is the hourly wage?”). Practice out loud, if not with someone, the typical questions asked:
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- How have you handled an upset customer?
- What is your biggest strength/weakness? (Can you upsell yourself? Can you recognize your own imperfection?)
- Tell me about yourself. (Describe your previous experience, your qualities, your skills, in a story-like fashion with flow and relevance.)
What you say should relate to your future with that company, or at least display yourself at your best. That’s what they are looking for. Interviews are to get to know you as well as your values and abilities. Don’t just tell them what they want to hear with a plain or obvious answer (e.g. “I helped an angry customer by offering them something else.”) Tell a story about how you personally chose to resolve something (e.g. “I did not know the answer to a customer’s question but I told them I would find out for them and contact them when I found out. I was able to serve them much more directly and put our company in a better, more personable light by preserving a relationship as opposed to a careless, computerized automated response.”)
There is a happy medium between talking too much and not enough. You want to say enough about yourself that answers the question with evidence to support your claim (e.g. “My biggest strength would be that I am very detail-oriented.” vs. “My ability to pay attention to details would be my greatest strength because I have been able to save the rest of the staff time and money by fixing errors in the documents before they go out. As a result, there have been less occasions where clients point out the faults in our statements, and we lose credibility and have to take the time to go back and revise them and apologize.”)
There is also a difference between being confident and boastful, which shows in the manner that you respond to questions. If you are under-confident, uncertain about the position, too meek, or just want a way to pay the bills, the interviewer can tell through your answers and your preparation. Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. This is the big chance that you have to display your best self and possibly earn a job with a company. Show that you take them seriously and value their time!
Resumé construction basics
Your resumé is the main ticket to getting a job interview. Its format as well as its content is important. You may have a lot of relevant experience and skills to list, but a mess of words on a piece of paper can lose you that opportunity to score an interview. There are several templates online, but you want your resumé to be personalized, with your own flair, mildly.
Don’t forget your contact information: your name, professional email, and a phone number at the very least. Otherwise, even if they wanted to contact you, they couldn’t! You will want everything listed on your resumé to be related somehow to the responsibilities or qualifications of the position. That is why it is so important to revise your resumé specifically for every job you apply to! When you tailor your resumé to a certain position, you aren’t giving the employer a bunch of fluff that he must search around for something useful to him.
The standard format is to list your experiences starting with the most recent. If you are going to list a job, make sure under the description that you use good, strong, specific action words. (e.g. “Cleaned the bathroom” vs. “Ensured sanitation for customers”). Which sounds better to you? Which one sounds like you care? Like you value health and cleanliness? Make sure your listed tasks sound important and demonstrate your skills/values. Why does the employer care if you “Mopped the store every night at closing”? Were you just doing your daily tasks, or did you go above and beyond to promptly maintain the safety of customers/employees?
Remember— be professional, make it relevant, use engaging words, be organized and efficient with your space, and have another pair of eyes look at it! Typos can be detrimental.