Earlier this week, Esquire magazine published an article titled “How to Nail the Job Interview.” It’s written in the style of Esquire‘s recurring “What I’ve Learned” feature, which I also love – concise little statements with lots of wisdom per ounce.
In my most recent client-side position as vice-president of marketing, I hired 10 staff. And I interviewed 40-50 others in the process. With that in mind, I’d like to expand on a few of Esquire‘s tips that I thought were spot-on:
“Bring a smile.”
Yes, it’s a pressure-charged situation, and different interviewees wear that differently. But also remember that most organizations aren’t looking at “overly serious hard-ass” as a cultural fit. Relax and be yourself, and that hopefully includes an amiable disposition.
“…you have done a lot of research about how you can help the company.”
I’ll be more pointed: If you can’t research the company very well prior to the interview, save everyone some time and stay home. My last employer was notoriously private and thus difficult to research, but several interviewees found ways to gather information. One asked very good questions about rising input costs that affected the whole industry. Another did multiple store checks, took notes and drew conclusions. A third worked his network, gathering perspective from competitors and even retail buyers. This kind of research not only shows initiative; it also gives the interviewer a taste of your thinking. That combination can be an important tie-breaker in a close decision between candidates.
“That same day, e-mail your thanks and mail a handwritten thank-you note to everyone you met. Overkill is better than underkill.”
Very true. Several interviewees did neither; again, if it’s a close decision, this can be a tie-breaker. Most interviewees thanked me electronically. So a handwritten thank-you, with specific references to our conversation, is a very memorable and pleasant touch.
Three More Tips to Get the Job Interview Right
I’ll add a few of my own:
Come prepared with a long list of good questions.
I was dismayed by interviewees who, when given the opportunity, asked only 2 or 3 surface-level questions. (Or, in a few cases, NONE AT ALL.) Believe me, nobody ever said, “I’d like to hire her, but she just asked too many good questions.” Do your research on the company and industry, know what’s important to you personally, and craft your questions accordingly.
Lay off the technique.
There is polish, and then there’s disingenuous presentation of oneself. I don’t want to feel like you’re feeding me lines that were fed to you by your career coach. Nobody wants to invite a bullshitter into their orbit. Again: Relax and be yourself.
The job market is tough right now, and employers are aware that many of you may have been on dozens of recent interviews. But “jaded and/or entitled” is not the vibe you want to send. Same goes for bad-mouthing past employers or bosses. If you can’t keep a positive attitude during the brief window of a job interview, what am I to expect if you join my team?
Readers, what other tips would you offer – from either side of the interview desk? Please add your thoughts in a comment below.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win. Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.” His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation. Contact Matthew here. He calls Chicago home.
Copyright 2012 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.