Newsflash: job interviews can be fun. They shouldn’t be fraught with stress and conflict, unless the interviewer is particularly masochistic. My most memorable have been the editor who thought it hilarious to show me the way out through the broom cupboard (not the front door) and the publisher who felt it was okay to ask if I had to be home in time “to cook my husband’s dinner”.
Needless to say, I would never have seen eye to eye with an editor who enjoyed humiliation and I accepted the second on the basis that no, I didn’t have to be home in time for dinner (the publisher was given a hard kick on the shins from the managing editor).
The point is, how you fit in with the office team is as important as the skills for the job — and the job interview is your first chance to demonstrate both. Here are a few pointers to creating a great impression:
- Make your cover letter personal. Don’t start with “Dear Interviewer”. Make it applicable to the job you are applying for, not a blanket catch-all.
- A concise CV of one to two pages is all you need.
- Don’t make your CV too complicated in terms of design — unless you’re applying for a job as a creative and want to show your design talents.
- If you include a photo, make sure it is in a professional setting and was taken recently. A beach shot from five years ago isn’t going to stand you in good stead in an office environment.
- Provide recent samples of relevant work.
- If you get called for an interview, scope out the company’s website and their location beforehand so you know where you are going.
- Demonstrate that you know something about the company that might employ you — it shows you’ve done proactive research.
- Read up about who is interviewing you on LinkedIn — if only so you recognise them when you get to the building. You don’t want to be like the person that turned up for an interview and had an argument in the car park over a parking space — only to find out that the driver he had berated was the interviewer. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.
- Arrive in good time, wear something work-appropriate that you feel comfortable in and greet your interviewer with a firm handshake. Sounds basic, but you’d be amazed at how few people nail all these simple points.
- Plan in advance the questions you would like to ask. Tip: your first question should not be to ask about the working hours or pay — it doesn’t show much passion for the job!
- Look at the interview as a chance to make new contacts. It’s a dialogue, not a grilling. Be confident, but don’t oversell yourself. Glaring over-confidence is as much of a turn-off in an interviewee as lack of confidence.
- Follow up the interview with a thank-you email. If you haven’t been asked back for a second chat, it’s not unreasonable to find out why and perhaps ask for some pointers on how to gain relevant experience, or be kept in mind for future positions. Although you might not have the job this time, you may well be a consideration for the future.
- And finally: if you are expected for an interview and have been offered a job in the meantime, call, let your interviewer know and thank them for the opportunity. For your interviewer to wait for you and then have to call you to see where you are doesn’t bode well — and you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
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