By Jeff Hastings
Presented to young adults at the Covenant House Texas in May 2015.
Over the past 15+ years, I have interviewed in excess of 6,000 applicants. From file clerks to business owners, there is one trait I looked for in a candidate more than anything else – and that is a great attitude!
As a business owner, it is imperative that I hire and keep good people and my ability to spot talent early on has been an integral part of my business success. While there are some things such as product knowledge that I can teach, others like a positive attitude, confidence, willingness to go the extra mile and work well in a team environment were somewhat innate characteristics the interviewee either had or didn’t have. In other words, I looked for passion, charisma and excitement to join my team! In order to uncover these traits, the interviewer must fine tune his or her interview skills, ask the right questions and sit back and listen.
From the perspective of the interviewee, knowing what hiring managers are looking for is a must before you sit down and discuss prospective job opportunities. I’ve created a list of the top 10 things every interviewee should know to land your perfect job!
- Do Your Research
Researching the company before the interview and learning as much as possible about its services, products, customers and even competition will give you an edge in understanding and addressing the company’s needs and how you can add to the bottom line. The more you know about the company and what it stands for, the better chance you have of selling yourself in the interview.
- Look Sharp
Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want! Depending on the industry and position, get out your best interview clothes and check them over for spots and wrinkles. Even if the company has a casual environment, you don’t want to look like you slept in your clothes.
- Be Prepared
Bring along a folder containing extra copies of your résumé, a copy of your references and paper to take notes. You should also have questions prepared to ask at the end of the interview.
- Be on Time
Never arrive late to an interview. Allow extra time to arrive early in the vicinity, allowing for factors like getting lost. Enter the building 10 to 15 minutes before the interview. When you arrive, greet the front desk attendant with a smile and never, I mean never, complain about how difficult it was to get to the interview, traffic, the weather etc…No one wants to work with a complainer.
5. Show Enthusiasm
A firm handshake and plenty of eye contact demonstrate confidence. Speak distinctly in a confident voice, even though you may feel shaky. Sit up straight, speak loud enough for your interviewer to hear you and speak clearly. Avoid using slang or foul language at all times.
One of the most neglected interview skills is listening. Make sure you are not only listening, but also reading between the lines. Sometimes what is not said is just as important as what is said.
- Answer the Question Asked
Candidates often don’t think about whether they are actually answering the questions their interviewers ask. Make sure you understand what is being asked, and get further clarification if you are unsure.
- Give Specific Examples
One specific example of your background is worth 50 vague stories. Prepare your stories before the interview. Give examples that highlight your successes and uniqueness. Your past behavior can indicate your future performance.
- Ask Questions
Many interviewees don’t ask questions and miss the opportunity to find out valuable information. The questions you ask indicate your interest in the company or job.
- Follow Up
Whether it’s through email or regular mail, the interview follow-up is one more chance to remind the interviewer of all the valuable traits you bring to the job and company. Don’t miss this last chance to market yourself.
It is important to appear confident and cool for the interview. One way to do that is to be prepared to the best of your ability. There is no way to predict what an interview holds, but by following these important rules you will feel less anxious and will be ready to positively present yourself.
A Word about Where You Apply
I can’t finish this list about interviewing techniques without addressing the issue of happiness. There are undoubtedly many of you who read this and are finding it hard to get excited or enthusiastic about working in a grocery store or selling shoes at a department store. Sacking groceries or fitting someone with a pair of Air Jordon’s may not be your “dream job” and it may barely provide enough income to pay the bills. I get it. I’ve been there and completely understand. However, you need to know that becoming a movie star or recording artist is not easy and very seldom accomplished. I don’t tell you this to stomp on your dreams…I tell you this so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
All you need to have now is a plan. Start with your dream and have a crystal clear idea of where you want to be when you finish this life. What is it that you would like to do with your life? How do you want to be remembered? How do you define success?
Once you have an idea of what you really want, create a plan of how to get there. If your goal is to become a recording artist, try to find an entry-level position in a studio. If you plan is to finish your degree and become a doctor or a nurse, try to find a position working in the health field. If you can’t afford the price of college tuition, find an employer who offers tuition reimbursement programs for employees.
Regardless of your career path, always remember to be true to yourself and those around you. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what happened in your past, you have the ability to control your own future.
“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”
- Your Resume and Professional References
- Pad and Pen – take notes!
- Directions to the Interview Location – Don’t be late!
- Professional attire – Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the one you want.
- Company Research – Show the interviewer you have done your homework.
- Great the interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile.
- Questions – Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t ask questions, it may mean you really are not serious about working with that employer.
- What do you offer this employer and why should they hire you? Be prepared to sell yourself!
- Answer the question asked with enthusiasm.
- Know how this position will help you achieve your goals. Be prepared to be real, honest and open about what you want out of life and discuss how, if given this opportunity, you will be able to accomplish your goals.
- Smile! Be positive and approachable.
- After the interview, follow-up with a hand-written “thank-you” card to express your appreciation for their time.
- In two weeks, if you have not heard from the employer, follow-up with a professional email to request an update on your application. Confirm the employer of your interest to fill the position.