You made it to the interview stage, and that’s huge! If you’re anything like me, you’ve sent out 2-4 resumes and cover letters A DAY, just to get to this point. Applying for jobs is basically your new full time job. Receiving a call for either a phone interview or an in-person interview is something you should be proud of. In a sea of candidates, you stood out enough to warrant a call! Be excited and be proud.
Before you even get to the interview portion, take the time to review common interview questions for the job you’re applying for. Even things as simple as “Why do you want to work here?” or “What salary do you expect/want to make?” I have always looked at previous interview questions or read about a company to get a general feel. It calms you down and gives you some things to prep.
The Phone Interview
Now if you receive a call and they ask immediately for a phone interview, you can say it’s not a good time! I have made the mistake where I said it was okay, but wasn’t in the right mindset at the time, and didn’t do well. I had been working on a Podcast and was in the zone, and couldn’t switch my mind fast enough to answer questions well. But if you do want to do it, take a deep breath, and ask about the interviewers day. This will give you enough time to get focused.
If you are allowed to reschedule and prep, google the company. Glassdoor is a great resource to get information on interviews and possible questions they may ask. Not only that, but you can see other employee satisfaction ratings on working there. I mean, if you don’t see that others enjoy working there, perhaps an interview is all you want to do, and not take any position offered to you. I find these ratings to be relatively accurate when speaking to actual employees.
When answering questions, always take a moment before answering questions. You don’t have to answer quickly, the more deliberate and thoughtful your answers, the closer you’ll be to getting to an in person interview. I always read the job description and hit on key words and phrases that directly reflect on actions and responsibilities from my previous position. Speak slowly, don’t ramble. The interviewer wants to get a feel for you and your personality, so being polite and yourself are vital. At the end of the interview make sure to thank them for their time, and tell them to have a good day.
Normally phone interviews are going to be conducted by a human resources person, as phone interviews are more screenings to see if you’re compatible with the company and don’t raise any red flags. If they don’t think you’re a good fit they’ll say something like “Thanks for speaking with me, we do have hundreds of candidates applying a day, etc.” If they mention other candidates, you probably didn’t say what they wanted you to say. So as long as you get a positive end to the phone interview such as “Someone will get back to you in the next week or two to schedule an in person interview, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me etc.” Then you’re golden!
In Person Interview
You got a call back or were immediately offered an in person interview, hell yeah! Now is the time time to prep farther with more research into the company and the position. You want to review Glassdoor more extensively, dive into as many interview possible questions as possible, and explore their website, mission statements, and so on. Companies purposely put exactly what they want in a candidate in the job description. You don’t want to parrot these ideas back, but rather expand on them with your own personal talents and experience.
Depending on the position the person interviewing you will be another HR person, or a supervisor or manager of some sort. They won’t be the highest authority. This is where having specifics of the company comes in handy. Many questions are to gauge not only you, but your passion and knowledge about the company. “Why do you want to work here?” or “What are some of your core values that you feel match our company/brand?” Being honest here is key, because otherwise you will come off as inauthentic.
These interviews tend to be upwards of an hour and are really important to sealing your position for a final interview. Take every question as a chance to link back to your own experiences that would help you in this new job. “When was a time you bent the rules for a customer and why?” I spoke to the time a woman wanted to do a return that was outside our return policy, and she had suffered a miscarriage. So I worked with my manager to make sure she didn’t have to have store credit, but was able to receive full cash-back. It showed that I had empathy and compassion, was able to speak about difficult matters appropriately, and knew how to react quickly.
Stories are a way to show yourself in situations that the interviewer can visualize, and will lead to follow-up questions. I’ve found that having side conversations with your interviewer are great for bonding and showing that you can be part of the family or team. The end of a positive or negative interview end about the same way with them thanking you for your time and that they’ll get back to you within a week or two. If they really like you, sometimes the process for a second in person interview is expedited. I heard back for one position the same day!
Whether you get offered the second position or not, always, ALWAYS, send a thank you card or e-mail. In defense of the handwritten card, if the other candidates send e-mails and you took the time to write a handwritten card, you’ll stand out from the crowd. This is also great if you interviewed for a few positions, and accept a job, then you can send a thank you e-mail that is also a withdrawal of your candidacy. They put a lot of time and energy into selecting candidates, so if you don’t waste their time, they’ll appreciate it. Even if you don’t get a call to come back in, or get the position sending a thank you is always a polite thing to do, and perhaps they’ll keep your resume on file and contact you with future positions.
Second/Final In Person Interview
You’re kicking ass! This is it, this is the time to shine. This interview is going to be with the Manager, Owner, Boss, or someone higher up. It can also involve more than one person. This is when they really want to see who you are and how you’d attack the jobs given to you. These may be repeats of previous questions, but now is the time to expand and show them who you are. I have received questions such as “What is you way of handling employees who aren’t performing to your expectations?” or “How do you react to theft by employees?”
I always answer with what I have done in the past, but you can always add on that you’re willing to observe their management style and grow and adapt. They want someone who is going to take a position head-on, and not only that, grow to match the values of the company. You’ll receive a lot of situations, rather than questions because it’s about how you’ll be day-to-day. Answer the best way you can and speak to how you honestly would handle situations, not what they want to hear.
These interviews can be long or short, depending on what questions they feel haven’t been answered yet. Once this step is complete, thank them, and they’ll let you know the timeline again.This can be again, upwards of a few weeks. I always throw in comments about how excited I am for the opportunity and such so it ends on a positive note regardless. For positions that are higher up, they really look at a candidate because this is someone who is going to be around for awhile and needs to be the best fit possible. For them these jobs searches can go on for over a year.
Don’t be afraid to send thank you’s after a week or so, just to make yourself stand out a bit more from the pool of candidates. Now I know this advice may not seem especially helpful, but trust me, showing your personality and having them see you as a person and not some resume and cover letter is what gets you hired. Of every position I’ve interviewed for I have been offered the position every single time. So I think I know what I’m talking about.
If you’re nervous, practice. Call up a friend and have a mock interview, or talk with your parents, or friends who are in similar positions. It’s okay to be nervous right when you walk in, but be confident! You deserve this position and you need to show it. Brag! If you don’t talk about it, they won’t know it. Job interviews are fun, treat them that way. They shouldn’t consume you with self-loathing, applying for jobs themselves does that. An interview is the best thing you can ask for!
Now go forth and get some interviews!