By: Alisha Sedor
The job search can be exhausting, and when you finally make it to the interview stage it can feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. That’s not a reason to let your professionalism take a break, in fact it’s time to step it up! Over years of interviewing hundreds of candidates, below are 10 of the most basic things that candidates sometimes forget to do. They’re small but can make a big impression!
1. Be flexible
When the recruiter or contact asks you for your availability, provide multiple times and try to be as available as possible. You don’t want to force them to work around your schedule too much (they might decide it’s not worth the effort). They probably have lots of interviews to schedule so you can get off on the right foot by trying to make it easy for them!
2. Be on time
You would think this one goes without saying, but I’ve seen folks show up late for interviews more than you would think. Whether you’re looking at a new company, taking a phone interview, or meeting with your boss to discuss a new role/promotion don’t be late. If something extraordinary happens, like a car accident or family emergency, let your contact know as soon as possible and apologize for the tardiness. Don’t just brush it under the rug - quickly acknowledge it and move forward. By pretending it didn’t happen at all, your interviewer is likely to think you don’t care or respect their time.
3. Have questions ready
The interview process is a chance for the employer to get to know you, of course, but it’s also your chance to get to know them! Many interviewers even purposefully leave time at the end for your questions, and good questions can earn you bonus points in their mind as they know you’ve done your research and are invested in the role. The best approach is to spend some time researching the company and role and thinking up some interesting things that you’d like to know. Try to avoid things you could learn from the company website or your interviewer’s LinkedIn - this is your chance to dig in on things that you can’t find yourself!
Feel free to write them down and bring them with you in a notebook to reference if the interviewer leaves time for questions. No need to remember them in the moment when you’re already likely a bit nervous.
Stuck and can’t think of any? Here are a few old standbys:
What’s your favorite part of working here?
What’s the most exciting thing your team plans to tackle in the next year? What do you think the biggest challenges will be?
Should I be selected for this role, what would my first 2 weeks look like?
What’s something you wish you knew about [Company] before you started here?
Could you describe the company culture? What’s great about it? What’s challenging about it?
What’s your style as a manager and how would we work together if I were to be hired?
4. Research your interviewers
If you’re provided a list of interviewers beforehand, take the time to review their LinkedIn and do a quick Google Search. That way you know who you’re speaking with ahead of time and can frame your discussion and questions accordingly.
5. Make sure you pronounce your interviewer’s name properly
This also seems small but it can save a really awkward moment! If you’re not sure, you can let them introduce themselves first, or even ask. “Is it A-lih-sha or “A-lee-sha?” Easy peasy! (It’s A-lih-sha, by the way).
6. Bring a printed resume (just in case)
This might seem a little old school in the digital age, but some employers expect it and others might not send your resume to your interviewers in advance! Having something to reference can be a big help to the interviewe and anything that you can do to make your interviewer’s life a little easier will put them in a positive state of mind for the interview.
7. Don’t speak ill of prior employers
This isn’t to say that you need to pretend everything was sunshine and rainbows at your previous jobs. However, negativity, blame throwing, and manager-bashing just aren’t a good look. If you’re talking to your potential manager, they’re likely to think, “Yikes! Are they going to talk about me like that if I hire them?”
Better to stick to neutral and objective assessments. Use framing like, “It was challenging at my prior role when… and here’s how I dealt with it.” More “me” statements than “they” statements - for example, “I found the culture there a little challenging and wanted to seek a new opportunity” rather than “Their corporate culture was terrible and I had to get out.”
8. Ask about the dress code (and then over-dress just a smidge)
Company dress codes can vary widely these days, so you’ll want to be sure you don’t stand out when you come in for an interview. Ask your contact what the dress code is and then I recommend taking it up just a little bit from there - better to be a little overdressed and professional-looking rather than under. Need some inspiration? Check out Emma’s post on dress codes as demonstrated by TV icons.
Once it’s done, send some appreciation! Tips on that here.
10. Don’t issue ultimatums
Last, if you get to the offer stage, you should definitely negotiate (stay tuned for a future post on that). However, don’t issue ultimatums like, “If I don’t get $XX I’m walking.” Even if you get the number you ask for, at that point you’re coming in to the job with an impression that you might be difficult to work with. If you negotiate in a way that at least tries to make it work for both parties, you’ll even be able to turn down the offer without burning bridges.
In sum, be thoughtful, appreciative, and polite and you’ll get yourself off to a good start. We’re always here to help with some interview coaching to shake off the nerves too!