Tag: interview tips

calm interview nerves

I wish there was a superfood or magical drink I could recommend that would calm your nerves during an interview. Unfortunately, scientists haven’t invented it yet. However, there is one sure fire way to walk into an interview with confidence and walk out of it feeling even better – PREPARE.

I can GUARANTEE that if you adequately prepare more than just the day before the interview, you will exude confidence and leave those pre-interview nerves in the trash. But telling you to prepare is kind of vague, so let me break it down for you.

Research

PLEASE. I beg you. Do NOT go into an interview without researching the company and its employees. Here are some ways you can research any company.

  • Website – Read the company’s website. I don’t mean look at it or check out the home page. I mean READ the website. Go to every page and read the content from top to bottom. Look at their most recent blog posts and think of ways you can mention them in the interview.
  • Search – Do a Google or Bing search of the company and look for articles written about them recently. Identify achievements or groundbreaking work they are doing. These are great things to bring up in the interview and will show your genuine interest in the company, not just the job.
  • Social Media – Find the company on social media and look at what they post about. You can go one step further and engage with some of the posts. You never know, the social media manager may be present during the interview and recognize your name from the notifications.
  • LinkedIn I separate this from social media because LinkedIn allows you to see who the employees are for a company and connect with them. If you really want to show interest in joining the company, send connection requests with the employees listed on LinkedIn. If they accept your connection, scroll through the content they’ve shared. These could be great icebreakers.

Practice

Doing your research isn’t enough. Just like with anything you want to excel at, you need to practice. But practice what? Here are some things to frequently practice at least a week before you interview.

  • Answers – All interviews are intended to gather information, so most of the questions are similar no matter the position. Practice your answers to some of the most common interview questions (Tell me about yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why did you leave a previous position? How will you be an asset for our company? What makes you different than other applicants?) There is nothing more nerve-wracking than being asked a question and sitting there in silence for minutes while you try and pull together an answer.
  • Questions – You may think that an interview is a chance for the recruiter to interrogate you, but it is a chance for them to get to know you and you to get to know the company better. Prepare some questions about the company and the position you are interviewing for.
    • How would you describe the office environment here?
    • Why is this position available (Is this a new position or did someone leave it? Why did they leave?)
    • How will you measure success in this position?
    • What opportunities are there for growth within the company?
  • Basics – This may seem childish, but practice introducing yourself and your handshake. From the moment the recruiter calls you back to the conference room for the interview, you can show confidence. Your handshake is a sure-fire way to start the interview with confidence. Practice standing up and shaking someone’s hand. Get your friends and family to help you. Don’t wait for them to extend their hand to you. Reach your hand out first and show that you mean business.

If you want to add an extra WOW factor during your interview, put together a leave behind. Learn more about that by clicking here to read last week’s blog post!

interview leave-behind

You probably go into an interview with very little in your hands. Your phone is in the car, keys in your pocket, and your resume is tucked inside a notebook you will use to take notes during the interview. What if I told you that you’ve forgotten something? Not sure what it is? Let me help you. You need a leave-behind.

What is a leave-behind? I can hear your panicked voice already. You’ve been preparing for this interview, and you want it to be as successful as possible. That’s why you want to put together a folder with content that you plan to leave with the interviewer at the end of the interview.

You more than likely submitted samples of your work when you applied, but the interviewers may not have seen them or might not remember what was your work. For that reason, you want to pick some of your best samples. Showcase your writing skills or graphic design experience. If you’ve managed social media, bring some analytics that highlights your talent to reach an audience. All of these should be found in your online portfolio, but it is much more convenient for the interviewer if you have physical copies to show them and discuss during the interview.

Here are some key things you should include in your leave-behind.

  1. Folder – Don’t ever leave a stack of loose papers. Head over to Walmart and get yourself a cheap folder with prongs and a pack of plastic paper cover dividers. You won’t impress them by buying the most expensive folder and professionally laminating each paper. Something cheap will do.
  2. Resume – ALWAYS have a copy of your resume. ALWAYS. When you go into the interview, they will likely have a copy of your resume already. Bring several copies anyways. Some interviews are conducted with panels, and nothing is more inconveniencing than having several people lean over one sheet of paper. Print several copies, and put them in the front pouch of the folder.
  3. References – As you know, your references should not be on your resume, so print out your references and put them as the first page in your leave-behind.
  4. Writing samples – If you have a lot of experience writing, or the position you’re applying for requires a skilled writer, you NEED to provide proof of your writing skills. Pick 2-3 of your best writing samples, and include them in your leave-behind.
  5. Graphic Design – Graphic design is a sought after skill these days. Many positions require applicants to have some knowledge of graphic design programs like Photoshop and InDesign. Show the interviewer that you have the skills they’re looking for by including 3-4 samples of graphic design work that you have done.
  6. Analytics – Creating compelling social media posts is impressive, but to impress, even more, provide analytics of social media accounts you’ve managed. Include the following and engagement when you started compared to when you left.

What NOT to include in your leave-behind

  1. Your selfie – You may think that having your picture in your leave-behind will help the recruiters remember you, but it can cause more harm than good. Including your image can open up the door for the interviewers to make a decision based on bias. You want them to call you back because of your qualifications, not your face, so focus on your skills and experience instead of your appearance.
  2. Your address – No interviewer on the earth needs to know your full home address. While it’s fine to provide the area that you live in to assure the interviewer that you can make the commute to the office, they don’t need to know exactly where you rest your head at night.
  3. Bad samples – Your goal is to impress the interviewer. Providing samples with grammatical errors or poor design will only guarantee that you don’t get a callback.
  4. Plagiarized work – While it may impress them in the interview, the truth will come out, and let me just tell you – recruiters talk with other recruiters.
  5. Group work without attribution – This falls under plagiarism, technically, but it needs to be stated separately. If you were not the sole author or creator of a piece of work, you need to attribute it to all contributors to the project. It is okay to provide group work in your leave-behind, but make sure you highlight the portions that you worked on the most.

Do you include something in your leave-behind that didn’t make our list? Put it in the comments below!

resume writing

Your resume is the first impression a potential employer has of you and making one of the resume mistakes we talk about can be an instant disqualifier. Some employers admit to discarding a resume if they find even one grammatical or spelling error. A recruiter starts with a massive stack of applicants and resumes to go through which means their starting focus is on rejecting applicants. To make their job easier, the recruiter will look for the smallest mistake or reason to disqualify you. Help your chances and avoid these common resume mistakes.

Spelling and Grammar

The number one disqualifier for any resume is the presence of spelling or grammatical errors. A resume with incorrect spelling or grammar tells a recruiter that you lack attention to detail and the ability to proof-read. These are key skills for any employer, which is why if an applicant shows they don’t possess them, it is an instant ‘no’ for the recruiter.

  1. Personal Pronouns – One very common mistake seen on resumes is the use of personal pronouns. Your resume should never include the words “I,” “you,” “she,” or “he.”
  2. Incorrect Tense – This should go without saying, but when you describe a past position, make sure you use past tense. As well, when you describe a current position, be sure to use the present tense. Recruiters pay attention to details like that, and incorrect use of tenses can put you in the fast lane to rejection.

Format

The layout and format of your resume need to be clear, clean, and concise. The recruiter needs to be able to quickly skim over your resume and identify your strengths, experience, and the type of position you would be a good fit for. There are several mistakes you can make when formatting your resume.

1. Too much text

I get it, your resume is the only tool you have to impress the recruiter and land the first interview, so you want to put as much information about yourself as possible to paint the biggest picture for the recruiter. However, putting too much text on your resume can result in the opposite. By decreasing the margins and text size and crunching as many words as you can onto the page, you might overwhelm the recruiter and land your resume instantly in the ‘no’ pile. The recruiter is only going to spend about 30 seconds looking at your resume. They want to be able to glance through it and be able to identify the key points.

2. Too many bullets

On the other side of the spectrum, you can use too few sentences and too many bullets. An overuse of bullets causes the recruiter’s eyes to glaze over the same as long paragraphs of text. Bullets are meant to be used for important information, so if everything is bulleted, then everything is important, and if everything is important, then nothing really stands out. Use bullets to highlight your responsibilities at previous positions and important skills you want the recruiter to notice.

3. No keywords

Every job posting will have keywords about the job requirements and skills the applicant needs to have. Recruiters are looking for those specific words when they are scanning your resume. If they don’t see any correlation or overlap between your resume and their job description, they are moving on. People tend to think they can send the same resume on every application, but that is a huge misconception. You should rewrite your resume for every job you apply for. Reword your experience and skills to include keywords from the job description. Recruiters want to know that you have the specific experience and skills they are looking for and doing this will make sure you stand out.

4. Hard to read font

This is one of the easiest resume mistakes to fix. Stay away from cursive and italic fonts. Choose something simple and easy to read, not just printed by digitally. Many resumes are reviewed online now, and some fonts are more difficult to read online than they are when they are printed. Test out different fonts to find one that you like but also works printed and digitally.

Professionalism

Your resume should show that you are a qualified professional and you take your career seriously. There are two ways that you can unintentionally tell the recruiter something different.

  1. Unprofessional email address – The email address you provide on your resume is a large indicator of your professionalism. We all have our first email address, but that doesn’t have to be the one on your resume. If your email is LadyKiller@hotmail.com or iheartjustinbieber77@gmail.com, then it is time for an update. I recommend having an email address that is your name. You can add numbers if just your name is not available, but make sure they are not inappropriate. The good news is, making a new email is completely free.
  2. Irrelevant social media URLs – In some positions, it would be beneficial to include links to your social media profiles. However, your social media is not relevant to all positions. Unless you are applying to a position where you will be required to write, manage social media, or be in the public’s eye as a representative of the company, there is little need for a link to your Facebook page. If your accounts are full of inappropriate or offensive content, it will do more harm to include your URLs.

If you want more resume help, we hosted a Facebook Live Resume Workshop. Watch the video here.

The key to impressing any employer is showing confidence during your interview, and a sure way to feel more confident is to dress the part. Every interview is different, which means you may have to switch up your go-to interview outfit. You’ve heard “dress for the job you want not the job you have,” but that can be not-so-good advice sometimes. You don’t want to be like Brennan and Dale and wear tuxedos to an interview to clean toilets.

Dress the part

When you’re picking out your interview outfit, take into account the actual job you will be doing if you are hired. Take whatever you would wear on a daily basis to work, and spruce it up a bit. If you would wear jeans and a t-shirt to work, wear slacks and a collared shirt for the interview. If you would wear slacks and a blouse to the office, add a blazer for the interview. There are 2 styles of interview attire – business casual and business professional.

Business Casual

business casual
Business casual outfits for men and women.

Business casual is acceptable for most job interviews and provides a more relaxed look while still looking presentable. Stables for business casual in a woman’s wardrobe include solid color or simple pattern blouses, black and khaki slacks, light sweaters, low heels, and flats. For men, business casual looks like slacks with a solid color collared shirt or button-up with dress shoes.

Business Casual Don’ts

  • T-shirts
  • Tennis shoes
  • Bold patterns
  • Bright/neon colors
  • Clothing with writing
  • Dirty clothing
  • Ill-fitting (too tight/too loose)

Business Professional

business professional
Business professional outfits for men and women.

Some interviews will call for a more formal attire. This is where a business professional outfit will be worn. A business professional outfit for women consists of a pantsuit or a dress suit. The key is the blazer. Often, a business casual outfit can be made into a professional one by simply adding a blazer or suit coat. For men, you will also want to wear a tie. Always keep it simple with a solid color or basic pattern.

If you need more inspiration for your interview outfit, check out our Pinterest page.

Virtual Interview

To keep in line with social distancing protocols, many companies that are still hiring employees have switched to a new interview process – virtual interviews. Platforms like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts allow companies to interview potential employees without being in the same room. Even though you are interviewing from the comfort of your home, it is still an interview and you should treat it with the same importance. All interviews can be nerve-wracking, but the changes that come with a virtual interview can make it especially overwhelming. Though the essence of the interview won’t change, many aspects of it will require you to prepare differently. That’s why we want to give you the do’s and don’t’s of virtual interviews. If you take our advice, you’re sure to win during your virtual interview!

Do

  • Practice interview questions – typical interview questions include “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your strengths and weaknesses,” and “Tell us about a time you overcame an obstacle in the workplace.” Practicing answers to these kinds of questions will help ease your nerves and confidence during your interview.
  • Wear a professional outfit – Even though you won’t be in the office with your interviewers, you still need to dress the part. You may think that because you will be sitting and the interviewers will only be able to see your top half, you still need to wear a complete professional outfit. So, yes, you have to wear pants.
  • Print your resume – Your interviewer will most likely have a copy of your resume on hand, but you need one too. During your interview, you may want to make references to your resume, and having your own hard copy will show your preparedness and only help you during your interview.
  • Make sure your computer is updated – Imagine this: your interview is scheduled at 2 p.m. You power up your laptop at 1:30 p.m. to find out you have a hefty update required before you can log on. The day before your interview, check your laptop for any needed updates and get those taken care of.
  • Do a trial run – practice using the app, website or software that you will be using for your virtual interview. Have a friend pretend to be the interviewer and practice the interview, from start to finish to get all the kinks out before the real-deal.

Don’t

  • Wing it – This is still an interview, so you need to treat it with the same significance you would if you were driving to an office to interview.
  • Wear stripes or loud patterns – Camera don’t like patterns or stripes. They create weird images on your interviewers screen, so stick to solid colors that look good on camera.
  • Chew gum – This goes for in-person interviews also. You might think ti will keep your breath fresh during your interview or help you focus, but really it can be a horrible distraction for your interviewers. Plus no one wants to see you smacking on gum while you’re talking to them.
  • Go to a public place – Unless you absolutely have to, don’t go to a public place for the interview. Instead, find a quiet area in your house. Make sure the decor behind you isn’t too distracting.
  • Panic – No matter what, keep calm. Your interviewer is most likely conducting virtual interviews for the first time. They have their own struggles and nerves coming into the interview. Keep your cool and you will do great!