I’ve mentioned before that I have been to a lot of interviews. I thought I would reflect on what I have learned from them that are not the usual things other websites tell you – things like research the company and try and come across like a decent human being.
I am going to experiment with a “listicle” for this, they’re popular at the moment. Funny story, about four years ago I thought about starting a blog made up of lists but I never got round to making it. A grave error, I could have beaten buzzfeed to the punch! (it definitely would not have been as popular as buzzfeed, I love buzzfeed)
So here we go, 5 things I have learnt from interviews you may not have heard before.
1. Test drive your outfit
Here’s a quick list (a list within a list?!) of my interviewing wardrobe malfunctions and near misses.
- I once put on a shirt my mum handed down to me that I had not worn before, thinking it was pretty nice. While I was at the interview day I went to the toilet and realised that the natural light I had depended on at my mum’s house was obviously very deceptive, in the well-lit bathroom I saw that the top was very see-through. Cue me self-consciously folding my arms for the rest of the day.
- I bought a pencil skirt that I thought looked very smart and grown up. I found out while travelling to an interview that it was also impossible to move in. Taking any big steps was a bit of a challenge. In a day of interviews for a company one interview took place on a picnic table, where usually you have to swing one leg over and then the other. I honestly don’t know how I succeeded in getting sat down, I did manage to rip the split on the dress a bit higher though.
- I bought a button up shirt and realised that it gaped pretty badly in the *ahem* boob area so I got out a needle and thread and closed that bad boy up a few days before the interview. Disaster averted!
2. Be very friendly and smiley with everyone (even the other candidates)
I remember once I went to an interview and met the other candidate’s waiting at reception. One of them said to me you’re very smiley. I was secretly hoping that it freaked him out that I was happy at an interview, but I also realised that people do notice if you are smiley and seem thrilled to be there, rather than all nervous and serious.
It might help make you more memorable and likable to the people interviewing, and if they do reject you then maybe they’ll feel bad. So they should.
3. Make sure you are “on” the whole time you are there.
Once someone told me they knew someone who did recruitment for a big company, they always took their candidates out for a meal during the interview day. If anyone put salt or pepper on their food without tasting it, they wouldn’t get the job!
So I try to consider everyone to be observing me for any negative signs. When you talk to the receptionist, be lovely; if they give you a “break”, be sociable; if they get someone to give you a tour, be interested and ask good questions. There is a good chance that the people making the decision will ask other people what you were like, so I try to make a good impression on everyone.
4. If you have not done anything to get the interview it might not be worth your time.
Obviously, research the company offering the interview first and see what’s what. But when I first graduated and put my CV on jobs websites I would get emails from sales companies saying things like we have received a lot of applicants over the last number of months that unfortunately haven’t met our standards we have looked on CV searches to headhunt better talent.
Then they would say they were impressed by my CV and did I want to come in for an interview. They would usually ring me as well. I went to a couple like that before I caught on. The interviews were not particularly useful, they were usually less than half an hour, and was mostly just them talking.
If you want to work in sales then it might be for you, but for shy ol’ me who very much does not come across as a salesperson, it was a bit pointless.
5. Be honest, but not too honest
I once had an interview where they asked me what someone who knew me really well would say I needed to improve on. I was not expecting the question so I was just honest and said more confidence. Then she asked me why I would say that and the rest of the interview felt like some kind of therapy session. I felt like I was giving her too much information, but I did not know how I was meant to answer what I thought was a pretty personal question in a professional way.
What I think I should have done was just my standard weakness I’ve turned into a strength answer rather than trying to answer as honestly as possible. It’s important not to be fake, but this is still an interview and I want to come across well!
There we go, I hope someone out there found that useful! Feel free to leave any other tips, lessons learnt or horrible mistakes we can learn from in the comments section.