Monday, May 5, 2014

interview do's and don'ts

With graduation happening on Saturday, it seems like the only thing on people's minds are all the interviews they're going on and how they hope they get a job (thankfully, I get another year before I have to drive myself crazy with this. yay, second degree accelerated nursing program!). But with all this craziness that surrounds everyone at college graduation time, I thought it'd be smart to get some interview tips from someone who has done a lot of interviewing....aka, my dad. My dad has always helped me with my own interviewing skills, as well as helping me make a legit resume (it's really fun to impress people with an awesome resume when they don't expect it!). So I asked him to share some of his major tips with us! Hopefully this can help anyone who's in the midst of the craziness of interviews or wanting to prepare for the future (like me!)! 

When Kylie first asked me to offer my thoughts to candidates heading to a job interview, I first had to think whether or not I could add value in this area.  Having conducted well over 10,000 interviews in my career- spanning retail, manufacturing, creative and consulting businesses - I have been able to observe some of the best candidates in the marketplace, and what made them successful during the interview process; as well as those that just missed the mark for not thinking through the process before showing up for the interview.  With that background, I think I can offer a fair perspective on how to effectively present yourself during an interview, and where you can fall dramatically short.

So . . . here are some pertinent points to ponder and remember before heading to your appointment; or shall we say, a listing of Interview Do’s and Don’t’s:

  • Do Your Research – go into each interview with a good healthy knowledge of the company.  With Google and the internet available to everyone, you can always find out a lot of information about a company, and it also helps you in the development of the questions you may want to ask the interviewer.  There is no excuse for going to an interview without knowledge of the company – if you do, the interviewer will know it immediately!
  • Know Your Faults – every interviewer will present you with some sort of question that asks you to tell him/her about your “weaknesses,” or those items you might change about yourself.  There is nothing worse than saying to the interviewer that you 1) don’t have any faults or weaknesses, 2) are not sure, or 3) begin a diatribe of all of the many things you would change!  Be prepared with a couple of simple items that you are working on, without sharing lots of detail, to show you are insightful about yourself.  Let’s face it – none of us are perfect and we know what we need to change about ourselves.  If you are still at a loss, think about what your friends would say about you if asked the same question!
  • Let The Interviewer Ask Their Question Before Answering – interviews are an anxious moment for you (and some inexperienced interviewers!), and you will find that you are equally eager to offer your responses to questions.  But for courtesy sake, let them ask the complete question before answering.  It gives you a moment to formulate your response, and shows them you have good interpersonal skills.  I had one candidate that kept giving me answers to the questions they assumed I was asking, though their answers never addressed the questions I was asking!  And for goodness sake, don’t repeat their question in order to buy yourself some “thinking” time.  Be prepared!
  • Don’t Overtalk – there is a fine line between being too short with your responses versus talking too much.  The key to your success is to be succinct and complete in your response, making sure they see your passion and knowledge, and addressing the question being asked.  Overtalking makes you appear to be scattered in your thought process, and less likely to be focused.
  • Forget The Word “Like” – for some reason everyone injects the word “like” into every sentence, and quite often, as every other word in the sentence.  This practice is quite distracting and shows immaturity.  Practice answering questions by purposely not using that word in any of your conversation.
  • Practice And Video Yourself – with today’s technology and advanced smart phones, videoing yourself doing a mock interview is simple, and a very effective tool.  Video yourself with your phone or computer answering questions asked by a friend or family member, and you will be surprised at how you come across.  Answer questions at an even pace, slow passion when sharing, and answer completely.
  • Be Honest – nothing is worse than to get caught in a fib during the interview (I had one candidate start the interview using a British accent, and was at a loss when I pointed out at the end of the interview that he had miraculously lost his accent!); or for your “interview lie” to be exposed soon after you start.  The best policy is to be honest in an interview – not brutally honest, but honest regarding the questions being asked.  And please, if you are asked about a skill you do not possess, don’t lie that you have that skill.  I would rather see someone who admits they don’t have the skill, but convinces me they have the talent to learn and develop that skill in short order!
  • Don’t Chew Gum – pretty self explanatory, though it happens in almost half of the interviews.
  • Dress Professionally, but Appropriate to the Culture – I once had a candidate show up for an interview in a tank top, torn cutoffs, and flip flops; and of course had an attitude to match.  I can assure you that the interview was over before it even began.  You certainly don’t have to wear your best dress, or a suit and tie for every interview, but you better dress to meet the culture when you go to the interview.  A good rule of thumb is to ask what the company dress code is when setting up the interview, and to dress appropriately.
  • You Are Not Entitled for The Job – despite what Generation Xers and Yers believe, you are not entitled in any way when it comes to an interview, or for an opportunity to work for a company.  You are a candidate, and your success will completely depend on how well you present yourself during the interview. Show up with an attitude, or act like the company owes you the job, and you will have a quiet ride home with no job in hand.
  • Be On Time . . . In Fact, Be Early! – again, this may seem like an obvious point, but you would be surprised at the number of folks who show up late for a scheduled interview . . . and think it is OK.  I always suggest leaving for the interview earlier than you normally would in order to compensate for traffic, road conditions or anything else that may impede your trip.  If your interviewer is experienced, I can assure you they have heard the phrase “I’m sorry I was late, but . . . (followed by an excuse blaming everything other than the fact that the candidate did not arrive on time!).”  Show them you care and get to the interview 10 to 15 minutes early!
  • Prepare a Good Resume – many interviewers use your resume as the guideline for their interview, and will spot inaccuracies and lack of detail immediately – including spelling errors.  If you do not have a clear and concise detail of your work experience, there are hundreds of companies that will assist you at a nominal cost; and their effort will yield a tremendous return on your investment.
  • Have Good Personal Hygiene – I know, another of those obvious points, but maybe not as obvious as you think.  An interview is a pressure situation, and your body reacts to that pressure.  You perspire more and your mouth gets dryer – both of which can be a cause of unpleasant odors.  Despite all of your great work background, or your delightful personality filled with passion, having bad breath in the interview, or having any offensive body odor, will turn off the interviewer faster than you can imagine; and that image of you does not go away.  Take some extra time in your preparation for the interview to account for the anxiety you will feel during the interview.
  • Ask Questions – every interview ends with the interviewer asking you if you have any questions.  This is your chance to learn more, so take it.  When you simply respond, “Uhh, no, I don’t have any questions,” you leave the interviewer perplexed.  How could you possibly not have questions about the company or the process?  A good rule of thumb is to prepare some questions ahead of time, either by writing them down or just remembering them; and then asking them if they have not already been answered during the interview.  I enjoy it when someone tells me they have a list of questions to ask, and opens a notebook with good, detailed and pertinent questions.  It shows they are interested, and are prepared!
  • Send A Thank You Note – this practice seems to by dying, and it does not mean sending an email.  Take the time to hand write a Thank You note thanking the interviewer for their time, and expressing your interest in working for the company.  My advice is to write the note and get it in the mail as soon as you get home from the interview. 
This listing could go on forever, but I think you will get the general sense of what to do, and not to do, from the key points I have shared.  As a final point,

  • Enjoy Yourself!  - OK, I just mentioned the pressure and anxiety one goes through during an interview, so how does one enjoy themselves?  Embrace the opportunity to share your skills and talents that can be utilized for the open position, and do it with gusto!  Be yourself, be positive, be enthusiastic, and let the interviewer know that nobody is better suited for this position than you!

-Kylie (and my dad!)


  1. The interview process can be really intimidating, but I love all of these tips. They're spot on!

    xo Jen
    Skirt The Rules

  2. Go dad!! These are all AWESOME tips for interviewing! Hopefully I won't need them for awhile haha! Good luck on the job hunt girl! You're almost there!!

    <3 Shannon

  3. Great post! These are definitely great tips and good luck on that job hunt!

    <3, Pamela

  4. GREAT post! These are excellent tips and recommendations!


  5. This is really good advice! I really like your blog! I'm glad that I found it! It would be nice if you could stop by my blog sometime too (I'm from England) as I post my outfits, personal style, likes and much more :) :)

    Raindrops of Sapphire

  6. First off--- your dad is amazing for taking the time to share this advice….
    As for the tips- I think they are spot on. I am fortunate enough to have a job right now, but I do have a sister who is just starting to look and I will definitely share this with her…


    1. Thank you! So glad they could help someone! My dad will be so excited.

  7. Great tips! I used many of these tips when interviewing for physical therapy school! (and they were succesful tips!)

  8. These are all great tips!! Always research the company before you go in. So often a question is why do you want to work here, and if you know nothing about the company it reflects very poorly on you!

  9. These are such great tips!! Interviews are so nerve-racking and take a lot of practice! It is great that you are already thinking about this long before you graduate! :)


  10. Directed @ Dad,

    I think we should arrange to have you go on interviews for me. I can pay you exclusively in Andrew Lloyd Webber paraphernalia, no matter how much it hurts my heart.

  11. Thanks for the great tips!

  12. If only I had this info when I started this process way back when :) Great tips and so much luck to you, it is an exciting journey!!

    xo Kendall


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