The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” could not describe the hiring process for human resources any better. One person could have an outstanding resume but then come into an interview and not at all live up to the wonders that were put on paper. In contrast, another person could have a subpar resume but express determination to do well during the interview and turn out to be a perfect candidate. So the question is, how do you go about narrowing down candidates and making the executive decision to hire them or not?
Yes, business needs to get done but it shouldn’t always be about the hard pressed suits and the straight faces. No one wants to wake up in the morning and despise going to work 9:00-5:00, but that’s unfortunately what work can feel like. I’ve noticed more overall satisfaction working in business settings that express good company culture.
I’ve been interviewing candidates for the past couple of decades for nonprofits, government agencies and businesses. I could spend an eternity sharing all of the successes and epic fails of the thousands of candidates that have come before me. I’ll somehow narrow it down to 7 things to consider when applying for your dream job.
- A first impression is a lasting impression. Candidates apply for jobs at all times of the day and night. I receive notifications of a new application almost every time I open my email. Never get the false impression that you are “friends” with the interviewer. If putting your best foot forward equates to you texting my HR Team shorthand or slang then my final offer will have to be a definite “NO.”
- Dress for success. It does sound cliche but it can’t be more true. My company usually schedules multiple interviews in one day. If everyone else comes dressed in business wear and you come in a tank top and flip flops, you will stand out…Just not in a good way. I don’t care if we are interviewing for entry or management level staff. We expect our entire staff to be professional. Professional doesn’t have to mean a designer suit. It can mean clean and neat clothing from a discount or thrift store but it should show that an effort was made.
- Being late is not okay. I’ll refer you back to #1. Almost everyone has access to a cell phone. If you are going to be late, then call at least 20 minutes ahead of time. Things happen and that’s ok. Being arrogant enough to believe that a scheduled interview starts when you decide to arrive is not.
- Check the attitude at the door. You’re not doing your interviewer a favor by being interviewed. If your resume made it to the top of the “to be interviewed” pile then consider yourself lucky. There are lots of jobseekers that have just as many degrees, years of experience, etc. When a prospective employer invites you into their office to be interviewed, they’re affording you the opportunity to convince them that you’ll be an asset to their company. If said, employer entrusts the future of their company to a panel of millennials and you happen to”have shoes older than them”, please keep that information to yourself. You reserve the right to end an interview at any time if you don’t like the company culture. However, if you are truly looking for a job and wish to show the team that you’re serious then demonstrate humility. No one wins when the trusted interview team is offended, especially the prospective candidate.
- Stand out. Can we be really honest? After about the 8th single interview or 2nd group interview, we get a little bored. I’m lying. Interviewing the wrong candidate can oftentimes feel like watching paint dry. Listening to candidates tell us that over and over again that their only weakness is that they are perfectionists becomes redundant. Give us something positive to remember- a touching story or a response that shows you actually prepared for the interview.
- Show real interest. Interviewing is like a first date in many ways. If your date tells you that he/she is allergic to seafood and you take him/her to a seafood restaurant for the first date, there most likely won’t be a second. Provide a thoughtful answer when asked what you know about the company. Better yet, try to mention what you know before being asked. It’s equivalent to having a significant other ask if you noticed their new hair color (an immediate argument) vs. complimenting them before being asked (brownie points).
- Follow up. A thank you email, hand written note or a call to check the application status goes a long way. It could be the determining factor between one candidate and another. It’s much bigger than “kissing up”. Following up with the interview team conveys a sense of what they’ll be getting if they bring you on board. Who doesn’t want a team member that follows up and expresses gratitude?
The average interview lasts about 30-45 minutes. The interview team likely has other responsibilities and many other positions to fill. Their job is to determine if the candidates before them will bring a unique skill set, add to the company culture and work with the entire team to meet and exceed department/company goals. In other words, if we allow the said “tank top wearer” to get past the interview process, what should we expect should we have an occasional dress down day?
Translation: If you convince your interview(s) at first sight that you think that the HR team isn’t important enough to be convinced that you’re worth the investment of time and resources then we’ll believe you as we prepare your rejection letter.