How to Have a Successful Job Interview
As we all grow up and enter into our young adult and adult lives, we all come to terms with the fact that our childhood is over the we need to get a job. Some people are fortunate where they don't have to work until right after college, some get jobs in college, and others feel the pressure to get a job while still in high school. No matter what the timing may be, the day will come where we need to start interviewing for jobs.
First, I want to talk about how great having a job is. I have had a job since my sophomore year of high school and there are so many benefits of holding a position. First and most obvious, money. It's nice to not have to rely on anyone or anything else when it comes to a financial situation. You can put some aside for spending, some for saving, and some in investing. You can do whatever you want with it! Another great benefit of having a job is you acquire so many great skills for the furure. This is why I think having a part time job while in high school or college is important. You learn communication skills, customer service skills, time management skills, how to properly speak to an adult, how to work in a team environment, how to be efficient, and so many more extremely important skills to have. Also, by having a job at a younger age, you are preparing yourself for greatness in the workforce.
When it comes to actually interviewing for a job, it can be really nerve-wracking. Throughout the entire month of August I applied to jobs on and off campus and only a third of them replied calling me in for an interview. It's pretty incredible how you can want a job so bad and your ambitions are all held in the hands of someone else. There are a couple of steps to the interview process and I want to share with you today the different steps I have gone through and how to have success in each area.
The Initial Application
In order to even express interest in a job, you need to turn in an application. You can either do this on the companies website or sometimes you fill out a paper application. On these you need to be honest but understand that if you don't have what they're looking for, they won't give you a call back. Also note that even though you submit an application, you won't always get called in for an interview.
Once submitting this application I would wait for 5 business days so a full business week before panicking. I use panicking as a loose term so seriously, don't freak out. If after those five days you haven't heard anything, make the first move. I would contact the company and introduce yourself on the phone and as to speak to a manager or head of hiring. Once you get them on the phone, express your interest over the phone. Below is a little script of what I said over the phone when talking to on campus jobs at JMU. Keep in mind I needed an on campus job in order for my schedule to work out.
"Hello ___________, my name is Lucy Smith and I am a rising sophomore at James Madison University this upcoming semester. I submitted my application for the position _______________ on July 27th and wanted to call you just to furthermore express my interest in the position. This year, I will be without a mode of transportation to get to an off campus job and this on campus job works perfectly into my schedule. I am more than ready to work evenings and weekends. I am also very comfortable juggling academics and employment because I have managed holding a job and keeping up with studies since I was 15."
After hearing this, employers were very kind and would leave a note on my application, and inform me of the time they would be interviewing. There were a handful of people who would stop there and another handful of people who would be in touch with me after 24 hours calling me in for an interview. Employers like to see applications who are eager to work and who they can see is personable and driven.
The Phone Interview
Once you get that green light to have an interview sometimes the company or position offers you an over the phone interview. This is sometimes a blessing and a curse. It's nice because you can be much more casual. You can wear sweats, you can have lines to read off if you need them, you can even be in your car driving home from the spa and be interviewing. There are a few downsides however to the infamous phone interview. One big one is the lack of personal connection. Phone interviews are often times very efficient and you always know in the back of your mind that the person interviewing you is probably in a rush, answering emails, or multitasking while they're talking to you. It's nice to know that when you're in a face to face interview you and the interviewer have each other's full attention. You also lack that ever so important eye contact, firm hand shake, and the ability to take your time.
In order to have a successful phone interview the key is to making a lasting first impressions through the phone -- something that is super hard to do. You need to make sure the interviewer feels your energy through the phone. Being proper and polite goes a long way and people pick up on it -- trust me. Once you make that lasting good impression, you need to make sure that you are prepared for anything. The main focus of these interviews are going to be the questions that they ask you. This is an efficient type of interview. Be prepared to answer the questions below...
"Tell us about yourself." "What about this position is interesting to you?"
"How were you introduced to our company/brand?"
"What's better? Customer service or a great product."
"What are your biggest weaknesses?"
"What are your biggest strengths?"
"Why should we hire you?"
These are just a few of the questions that you can almost bet you'll be asked. Be prepared to answer these questions at a drop of a hat. Maybe write out your answers to these questions or outline your strengths, weaknesses, and what you want to talk about. Getting your talking points sketched out on paper will help you stay on track and not become overwhelmed. Also focus on your articulation. If you say "um", "like" and "so" throughout the conversation it shows the interviewer that you don't excel when talking to adults or in business situations. They are judging you strictly off of your answers and what you bring to the table on a communication standpoint.
In Person Interview
When asked if I want a phone or in person interview I will always choose the in person interview. I will make a pretty long drive just to sit in the same room as my interviewer...why? Simple. Because I can make a bigger, better, and lasting impression through multiple different factors during an in person interview. First, as soon as you meet the person, stand up, approach them, shake their hand, look them in the eye, and introduce yourself. This will set the entire tone of your interview and studies show that first impressions are made within SEVEN SECONDS. You literally have a few seconds to sell yourself to a hiring manager with only a few words, some eye contact, and a firm hand shake.
No, in an in person interview you can't have a cheat sheet of notes to go off of or an outline of your life but there are a few ways to convey yourself to your interviewer. After introductions are made, they already have their first impression formed. The second way to show your preparedness and professionalism is by coming in with another copy of your resume and cover letter. I know they already have it through your application but coming in with another copy shows that you go the extra mile.
Another thing about an in person interview is that you can come dressed for the part. I know this from person experience. When I interviewed at Lilly Pulitzer, I came wearing a Lilly Pulitzer dress and a little sweater. Without saying anything, I expressed my interest and appreciation for the brand. If you are interviewing at a clothing company, wear their products. It's not being a kiss a$$, it's you showing that you live their lifestyle and are an appreciative consumer. If you are interviewing in the capitalist or business work, you need to look professinal. Ann Taylor makes the greatest Girl Boss outfits at great prices so make sure to have a go-to interview outfit.
Diving into the actual interview process, again, the best way to show off your skills is to answer the question and then some. Be prepared to elaborate, never leave awkward pauses. Fully answer each question and give the interview a great idea of who you are. Be able to establish connections to an extent but not cross any lines. Elaborate on your experience and your assets as well. What can you bring to the table? Are you incredible in customer service? Are you confident in using computer software? Do you have previous leadership experience? All of these things are ways to show how you stand head and shoulders above the rest of the applicants.
I follow these tips religiously. Throughout the summer I applied to 10 on campus jobs, half called offered my an interview, three didn't, two positions were internally filled. I chose to interview at three, and every single one offered me a job.Whatever job you're applying for, go in with confidence. Know that you are a great applicant and sometimes you're just not what the company is looking for. On the same coin, also understand that your job when interviewing is to sell them on you.