Don’t assume this company is the perfect place for you. The purpose of the first interview is to allow the hiring panel the chance to get to know you. Applicants often forget this is also providing the chance for them to determine if this company is a good fit for them. Yes, unemployment is high so you can’t afford to be very picky but if you pick up signs of an extremely dysfunctional organization – run away! You don’t need to cool your heels at an awful job while looking for your perfect job. What do you look for? In the interview listen for sarcasm, indications of in-fighting among the interview panel, and the types of questions posed. As you wait for the interview to begin, observe everything you can see in the office environment. Use your interview visit to determine if you want to work for this company.
Don’t try to negotiate the terms of your employment. You have an interview; this is not an offer of employment. This is not the appropriate time to try to negotiate a salary, benefits, and time off. Unless, of course, you are offered the job! Wait until a second interview or a job offer before you start negotiating.
Don’t appear blind to your own weaknesses. Almost every interviewing panel will ask you to disclose your greatest weakness…or a failure. They then want you to describe what you did to compensate for that weakness/failure. It seems tacitly unfair for prospective employers to ask you to air your dirty laundry for them. That said, you will be required to provide a story that sets you in a bad light. Think carefully through this question before you go to the interview. Ask others how they have answered this sort of question and then practice how you will answer it. Your identifying the weakness/failure indicates you are self-aware and insightful. Your story regarding how you compensated for it shows you know how to pick yourself up and move the company’s interests forward even when things haven’t gone right.
Don’t provide the politician’s answer. If you’re asked a question and you have no idea what they are asking – request some clarification. If you still don’t know the answer, say so. Don’t try to answer the question by providing an answer to an entirely different question. They know what they’re asking and they’ll notice if you don’t answer it. You could also say you would need some time to thoroughly consider the question but, off the cuff, you would say….
Don’t exaggerate or embellish facts (i.e., don’t lie). It’s easy for prospective employers to gather information about you. Assume they will call your past employers, Google your name, and call your references once they are seriously considering you for the position. If they uncover any lies in the process, you will most likely lose out on the opportunity.
Don’t sell yourself short. Sadly, many applicants will downplay their abilities and past successes. This is also an error that can cost you the job offer. Talk to people who know you well and ask them to identify your strengths and what you have done well in the past. This will help you answer questions in an interview as well as make you feel pretty good about yourself! Take careful notes and then craft a narrative that really shows off your skills, abilities, and accomplishments.
Good luck at your interview! Check back with us when it’s over and let us know if you learned any other tips to get you through the interview and onto your great new career path!