Interviewing… Yikes!

So, you’ve met the right people, made the right connections, applied for the job, and now have an interview. What do you wear? What should you do beforehand? Do you get nervous just thinking about interviewing? I’m here to (hopefully) help.

Before the Interview

Interviewing is as much about the employer as it is about you. Before you go to your interview, you’re going to have some prep work that you need to do. Make sure you gather all the information you can about the company, so you know whether it will be worth the time interviewing. These are the things you should do:

  1. Find out what the company does.
  2. Read a few recent news articles on the company, if available.
  3. Read about the office culture.
  4. Practice common interview questions for the role you want.

Find Out What the Company Does

If you don’t know what the company does, that’s the first thing you should find out. Sometimes you know a company is shady if their business is unclear. Go to the company’s website. If it’s a small mom and pop store or business, maybe you can stop by incognito and get a feel for what they do and how they operate. Read their mission statement, the what we do/about us, and the careers page. This can usually give you an overview of what products or services they offer and who their client base is.

Read Recent News on the Company

Once you have an idea of what the company does, you can read some new articles on them, if available, to understand their place in the larger business world and public opinion. Reading and following these articles is a major key when you go to the interview because it can guide the questions you ask. If you’ve never been to an interview before, usually toward the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. It’s better to have questions than not, which is why reading recent news can come in handy. If there are some exciting things going on, like a new product line or the stock is soaring, you can ask what excites them about the launch or financial gain for the company. If you see that there were recently lay-offs or salary cuts, you may want to ask what career progression looks like at the company over the next few years. Tailor the conversation and your questions to the current and future state of the company.

Read the Company’s Financial Statements

You should definitely be reading the company’s financial statements if you’re going for a role in the accounting or finance departments. However, even if you’re not in finance, you can gather useful information from a company’s 10-K, or annual financial statements for public companies. If you’re interviewing with a publicly-traded company in the United States, you can search the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) EDGAR database. This will bring up public press releases, proxy information, and quarterly and annual financial statements filed with the SEC. It’s an excellent way to get some quick information on how much money the company makes, how many employees they have (as of their filing date), where they spend the most money, and any upcoming key initiatives they have planned. We can talk more about how to read financial statements in another post, but this is the best, quickest way to get some of the information you may be looking for.

Plan Your Outfit

How you keep yourself up says a lot about you. You don’t have to wear makeup, fancy clothes, or have expensive accessories. Ironing or steaming your outfit and making sure you look on point goes a loooong way. I’ve seen quite a few things in my interviewing days, and there are so many terms that could make it difficult to know what to wear, so let’s simplify it.

If you’re going for a corporate job, think dressed up with suits or more formal wear, wear a suit, this is called business formal. Some examples of these companies are banks, investment firms, accounting firms, healthcare agencies, insurance agencies, mainly agencies or firms. If you’re not sure, go back to your research and see if the company has a dress code policy or pictures of employees on a regular workday on the website. If you feel like a suit is too much based on your research, then you can go for suit pants, dress pants, or a dress skirt, and a button-down top or blouse; business casual. Finally, if you see or the company says before the interview that they have a casual dress code, please play it safe. Wear your jeans without the rips, a dress or skirt that hits closer to the knee than the upper thigh, a nice t-shirt or blouse without any statements or graphics (you don’t know anyone yet, so you don’t know how any wording will be received). If it’s colder out, go for a blazer or cardigan. You can also opt for a blazer or cardigan if you know you often get cold indoors. This type of attire is casual/smart casual.

If you carry a purse or another bag or backpack, make sure it’s not too large. You never really know how big the interview room is, and it can be awkward when your bag is literally the biggest object in the room. A good rule of thumb is that you should only need enough space in the bag for a notepad or padfolio, a folder with copies of your resume, PWK (phone, wallet, keys), and a couple of pens.

Plan Your Questions

Your questions can come from what you’ve read in the news, inquiries about the company culture, or what the company’s biggest challenges are currently. If you feel a more personal connection to the interviewer, you can ask what they love about the company and what their least favorite thing is. If the interviewer has been with the company for a long time you can ask something like: How do you feel you’ve grown personally and professionally being at the company for X years? I guarantee you that’ll make them think, just make sure they’ve been there long enough for that question to have any impact.

In this day and age, you can also do some research on your interviewers if you have their names ahead of time. Put your LinkedIn viewing in private mode for a day or so and just look them up on LinkedIn or do a Google search. Your future boss or teammates could have similar interests, backgrounds, or alma maters. There’s nothing like being able to connect to someone on a more personal note and have an interview turn into a genuine conversation.

Print Your Resume

Girl! Or guy! Or just you! What are you doing if you don’t have a copy of your resume? How did you apply for the job? Make sure you print a few copies of your resume to bring with you to the interview. If you know how many people will interview you, be sure to print enough plus one or two extra. Trust me, you never know what can happen in the course of a day. Make sure you keep them in a folder, your notepad if they fit, or a padfolio so that they don’t get crumbled in your bag.

At the Interview

Be Nice… to EVERYONE!

Now is not the time to have a chip on your shoulder or feel you’re above the administrative assistant that works at the front desk. Be friendly and smile. You know those Instagram posts that say, “good morning,” and the captions say something like: “don’t be stingy, say it back”? Do that. Say hello to everyone, even if it’s another candidate interviewing for the same role. I guarantee you it will rattle them more than hurt you. The reason that I say you should be nice to everyone is that your interview technically starts the moment you walk into the building or virtual waiting room. That company is sizing you up to see if you’ll be more than a good technical fit, but also a great cultural fit. Once you talk to your interviewers a bit, you should also be able to get a feel for whether you’d fit in.

As a side note, just generally be a good, kind person. It goes a long way not only in business but life in general. Okay, preachy moment over. On to the next point…

Be Cautious Eating of Drinking

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll spill something if you’re anything like me. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory, but if you want to mitigate having this issue and need a coffee or snack before the interview, try wearing a darker color or stain-resistant shirt. If you find a truly stain-resistant shirt, please share a link or store in the comments below. Please.

Slay the Interview

You’ve done your research, planned your questions, have on a bomb outfit, and have copies of your resume. Now you go in confident, but not too confident, and if that’s not how you feel, just fake it. Take notes while you’re talking to the interviewer. If there’s something that interests you during the interview, feel free to bring it up later as a question. Once the interview has concluded, ask for a business card or if there’s any way you can get in contact with the interviewer afterward. Whether or not they provide this information, thank them for their time and mention that it was nice meeting them.

As long as you’ve don’t everything you could do to prepare, know that the rest is out of your control. If you don’t get the job, it says nothing about you as a person. If you have a good rapport with the interviewers or recruiters, you can ask for any feedback. Not all feedback is good feedback, but it can be constructive if you really ponder it and consider how you can improve on something if you feel it’s valid.

After the Interview

At least 1-2 days later you must follow up. Following up is essential in making sure people remember you, particularly if you’re going for a very competitive role. Those notes you took? This is where they come in handy.

Write a draft email where you thank the interviewer again for their time, the opportunity for the role, and mention 1-2 things that you enjoyed speaking to them about (refer to your notes). The subject line should be simple, i.e., Thank You, and you can close the email by saying that you look forward to hearing from them or use your general “best,” or “regards.” It’s a draft because if you’re not, you should consider using a spelling/grammar check service like Grammarly, or have a friend double-check it. Note that Grammarly is free to use for basic grammar checks. Friends are good resources if they are good writers, communicators, already have a job(s) that they interviewed for, or can be repaid in food. Now, send the email.

If you don’t hear back in a week or two, it’s okay to follow up with your point of contact. This is not the time to be pressing people. A simple email asking how that person is and if there is any update or timeline for receiving an update is fine. Whether or not you hear back right away, keep it pushing because the hustle never stops, and that may not be the position for you. If you stay faithful and consistent, the right role will come along, and you’ll be on your way to a great new company!

Good luck!

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