Great Resumes Fast » Interviews » Interviewing Basics – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

It astonishes me how many job seekers in this day and age are held back because they lack the information and skills necessary to interview well.  I have developed a simple list of basic interviewing skills every job seeker should possess before stepping foot in the door for an interview.  You may be amazed by what you don’t know.

Prepare a resume that sells. Is your resume merely a timeline or historical document—or a sophisticated marketing and sales piece?  Sell the employer on your best attributes and what you can bring to them.  Quantify when possible!

This may sound like a no-brainer, but practice makes perfect. Actually practice answering interview questions.  When I’m getting ready for a big job interview I think about all the questions I could possibly be asked—and I already have my answers formulated in my mind.  This way, there are no long, uncomfortable pauses, and I’m not scrambling to put something together on the spot.

Be prepared. Boy Scout motto or instrumental piece in landing a great career?  Take a notepad to the interview with you.  I usually jot down 3-5 accomplishments I am most proud of, my three biggest strengths, and my one weakness.  You know they’re going to ask, so you may as well be prepared.  In addition to having this list handy when they ask you those big questions, you can jot down notes during the interview.  This is important because it gives the interviewer the impression that you really are interested and that you’re paying attention to what he or she is saying.

Be early. I recommend showing up 10-15 minutes early.  Sure, you will have to wait, but what happens when the interviewer walks into the waiting room and you’re not there yet?  If you are going to be late because of an earth-shattering emergency, call ahead.  But don’t be late!  That pretty much ensures the job will not be yours.  The common belief here is: If you can’t make it to an interview on time, you won’t make it to work on time either.  And I would say that is a fair assessment.

Be sure to show up by yourself. I once was a recruiter for a staffing agency, and I don’t even want to go into how many people showed up for their interview and had brought their family or kids along.  This is a BIG NO-NO!

Bring along extra copies of your resume. You never know when more than one person may sit in on the interview.  I always bring one copy for everyone, a copy for myself, and a few extras—just in case there are additional interviewers.

I know you are nervous, but do not fidget, play with your clothes, hair, jewelry, shoes, etc.  It is just bad form.

When introduced, be sure to smile, shake the interviewer’s hand firmly (but don’t break it), and wait to be seated until he or she sits down first.  Common courtesy and professional etiquette—it’s the details that matter, believe me.

Answer their questions professionally, and when applicable, use an example from your previous experience.  This confirms to your potential employer that you really do have experience in the area(s) in which they are questioning you.

If they ask, “Have you ever done …” something before and you have not, DO NOT just say, “No.”  Say something like: “I have not had specific experience with that, but I am confident that if someone showed me how, I could do it.”  Or, “No, I have not done that before.  However, I am a fast learner and I am confident that I could learn quickly and provide the results you expect.”  This communicates your willingness to learn new tasks, your ability to adapt easily, and your confidence in your abilities.  Being flexible and open is always a great quality!

When they ask if you have any questions, DO NOT say, “No!” This is one of the biggest mistakes I see candidates make.  If you don’t ask any questions, then it appears as though you have no interest.  Even if they have answered all of your questions, surely there are some you can think to ask.  I always have 2-3 questions jotted down on my notepad before I go in.  They usually consist of: how the position/person is managed, what the management style is of the person who will be managing me, and what the next step will be in the hiring process.  This last question is always important; you want to know where the process is going once you’re done interviewing.

It is not okay to ask the interviewer, “How did I do?” That is BAD FORM!  It puts the interviewer on the spot, and they will most likely not tell the truth anyway. If your interview was awful, they’re not going to come out and say, ”You did horribly; you’re not getting the job.”  Also, the majority of interviewers will discuss your interview with other team members before they come to a conclusion about your performance and the next step for you.

When you leave, be sure to thank them for their time, and let them know you look forward to hearing from them soon.  This conveys your interest, and it is a professional way to exit.

Follow up with a thank you note.  Yes, you MUST send a thank you note.  Do you have any idea how many people don’t send them?  Do you know how many people that do send thank you notes actually get the job?!  Every interview I’ve been on that I’ve mailed a thank you note to I’ve received an offer (except one).  In addition, the majority of hiring managers I know will give someone a second look if they thought enough to send a thank you note.  It lets the interviewer know you are still interested in the position, you are excited about it, and you are thoughtful, organized, and professional enough to send a thank you note.  Don’t question it—just do it and see what happens.

Do not call the interviewer every day asking about the status.  This is so annoying, and YES, people really do this.  Please do not be one of these people; it will get your name scratched off the list so quickly you won’t even see it coming.  Calling a week after you mail your thank you letter to check the status is acceptable; anything after that becomes a nuisance.  Chances are, if the job was yours within two weeks of your interview you would have heard something.

Last but not least, do not put your eggs all in one basket.  I knew someone that every time he had an interview he immediately stopped his job search.  I never understood this; he stopped sending out resumes, stopped applying online, and stopped mailing out letters.  He put all his eggs in this one basket, and sadly, when it didn’t work out, he had lost two weeks in his job search, had to start all over again, and was more discouraged than ever.  Getting a “no” is inevitable; you are not going to ace every interview and be the perfect fit every time.

If you remain consistent and focused, and look at finding a job as though it were your full-time job, then eventually you will succeed—and it will all be worth it.  Keep these interviewing tips tucked away, and refer back to them before each interview.

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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!

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