I’ve interviewed a fair number of people over the last few years, and I can confidently say this: ya’ll don’t know how to go through this process.
Applying and interviewing for a job is a stressful process, and involves a lot of important steps. Make certain mistakes in any of those steps, and your chances of getting that job are POOF! gone, just like that. It can be stressful and overwhelming, and let’s face it: there’s usually a lot riding on you getting a job!
Now, I know from experience that the skills you need to master that application and interview steps aren’t generally taught at school, so I’m here to pass on some tips and tricks!
Here are the major steps in the application and interview process:
Generally, you have to actually apply for positions that you are interested in. This can be on a job board site like Indeed or Monster, the companies website, or very rarely, in person on paper. Applications can be extremely detailed and thorough, or more a cursory overview (for example, Are you eligible to work in the US?).
DO NOT LIE on these applications. Not about your job history, education, or basic information like your address. Dishonesty will get you disqualified from any application process in a heartbeat.
Be accurate and PROOFREAD! Spelling and grammar mistakes are red flags no matter where they are; yes, even in forms. Use a system such as Grammarly to help you identify mistakes before clicking Submit.
Ahhh yes, the infamous cover letter. For a long time, I was so intimidated by cover letters that I simply did not reply to job postings that asked for one. Big Mistake.
Cover letters are a fantastic opportunity to put your personality, experience, skill, and drive in front of a potential employer. Don’t waste that! Set the tone of the cover letter to match the tone of the job posting (and the company website and social media, if you want to look that far), and flaunt what you’ve got. Keep it brief; 1-3 standard paragraphs is sufficient. Trust me, you will be one step ahead of most candidates just by submitting a cover letter!
PROOFREAD THIS. Remember I mentioned Grammarly? I’m serious, it could save your butt. Be willing to share with your friends and family, too! They might see areas that could use improvement that you missed. And keep it on topic! Don’t ramble about irrelevant information. The marketing manager at an IT firm does NOT want to read about your exotic plants collection in your cover letter.
Your resume outlines your education, experience, past job duties, and any volunteer work. A potential employer or hiring manager will spend about 30 seconds scanning your resume, so make sure it is tidy and has the important information up front. There are a lot of snazzy templates and designs for resumes out there, which is neat, but be careful not to go overboard. You want the employer looking at your qualifications, not distracted by the font you used.
I am personally a fan of the phone screen. If I find a resume I like, I will schedule a phone screen with the candidate to get a brief feel for their personality, as well as exchange important information about scheduling, etc. I don’t expect the candidate to regurgitate all of the information on our website back to me, or have detailed questions about what their responsibilities would be. Instead, I expect them to provide a brief overview of their work history and why it makes them a good fit, answer a few simple questions, and perhaps ask a few brief questions of their own. The phone screen is mostly to see if an in-person interview is worth having.
Please, for your own sake, be polite and professional during a phone screen. While it is more casual, do not forget that the employer or hiring manager is going through a process of eliminating candidates; an off-hand or off-color remark could very well get you kicked off the island, so to speak.
- Be On Time
- Be Prepared
- Be Presentable
I cannot stress these enough. If you are late for your interview (you know, that meeting where you are fighting for a chance to work at that organization), the assumption is automatic that you are consistently late to work on regular, less critical days as well. And remember, On Time does not mean exactly when the interview is scheduled; you should arrive 5-10 minutes early.
Come prepared! You know that resume we talked about earlier? Bring some printed copies for the interviewer(s). Know your stuff. What company are you interviewing at, what industry are they in? What markets do they sell to? What did their last year of business look like? What about them, specifically, is so appealing to you? Detailed knowledge about the company shows that you are genuinely interested, and that you care enough to do the research. Be sure to come armed with your own questions, too! And not just about salary and benefits, though those are important. Ask the interviewer what they enjoy most about their job and what they find difficult. Ask what the company culture is like. Find out what their vision is for the next 1, 3, 5 years.
Please, please, PLEASE make sure you are presentable. Looks aren’t everything, but the amount of effort you put into your appearance says a lot about your work ethic and drive. If someone walks into an interview with me and they haven’t bothered to brush their hair, or they are wearing hole-y jeans and stained t-shirts, I’m not going to be at all confident in how much effort they will put in to their job. There is a saying, “Dress for the job that you WANT”. This is largely true! If the culture seems to be casual, wear business casual. If it’s shirt and tie, be sure you have a nice blazer or something to add to it. Dress to impress!
Trust me, a professional email after the interview thanking them for their time is classy and goes a long way. If you are still interested in the position, do this.
If you don’t hear back from the interviewer, be sure to reach out yourself in the next week or so; it keeps you at the front of their mind, and shows that you are truly interested in the position!
Follow up interview
If you are called in for a follow-up interview, great job! Get excited! Now, go do more homework. Show that you took what you learned at your first interview and intentionally built on it. Have actual stats and numbers to talk about and ask about. And be prepared to talk more in-depth about our own skills, qualifications, and weaknesses. Highlight the successes you experienced in past positions; don’t be afraid to toot your own horn! This could be your last opportunity to sell yourself as the perfect fit for the position.
So, you’ve gone through all the steps in the interview process, and now you’re just waiting to hear back! Generally, at this point, you’ll receive an offer or a rejection. It is important to respond graciously and professionally no matter which one you receive.
If you are told you did not get the position, don’t let your first emotional reaction dictate your response. Instead, thank them for their time and consideration, and perhaps mention your desire to work with them in the future. If you are younger or newer to this process, you might consider asking where you could improve; some employers and hiring managers appreciate that and will take the time to give you some advice. You never know, they might end up reaching out again for a different position or opportunity!
If you receive an offer, congratulations! Be sure to read the offer in it’s entirety to be sure you are not missing important information about what the position entails, salary, benefits, or other critical items. Respond expressing your thanks and excitement, and be sure to ask any follow-up questions at that time as well. Then go celebrate a new chapter in your life!
What other interview questions do you have? Do you have tips and tricks of your own? Ask away and comment below!