Once you’ve gotten the call to come in for an interview, it’s important to know which habits will set you apart and which ones will ensure you never hear from the company again.
At any company worth its stock, you’ll be asked about it. Make sure you Google them beforehand so you’re not left fumbling.
Good: You should know basic facts like the interviewer and CEO’s names, how long the company’s been in business, what its yearly numbers are and how they stack up to competitors’, what its mission and values are, if there are any upcoming special projects or developments, and how connected with social media they are. Bonus points if you can remember this information in your head, but no points taken away if you write it down.
Bad: Not doing any research, asking questions that the interviewer knows are easily found on the internet, or not asking any questions at all.
The rules you thought you knew about when to arrive have changed.
Good: Leave your home early just in case of traffic or accidents, but don’t step through the company’s door earlier than 10 minutes. It looks desperate. If you have half an hour to kill, walk through a park or listen to your iPod—anything but sit in the waiting room.
Bad: Sitting in the waiting room for half an hour, arriving with less than five minutes before the scheduled time, or showing up late. All make poor impressions.
The way you dress might not guarantee you a job, but it can certainly and very easily eliminate you from the pool.
Good: For men, an Oxford shirt, tie, jacket with matching slacks (dark and wool is preferred), dark socks and Oxford shoes; unless you know you have good fashion sense, it’s best to stick to white and solid navy or black. Women have a bit more freedom, but should still dress conservatively: blouse done up to the second-highest button, skirt just above the knee or slacks sitting on the shoelaces, blazer, and light makeup and jewelry.
Bad: Visible tattoos, piercings, ostentatious or excessive jewelry, edgy hairdos, dirty/torn/scuffed clothes, and casual footwear will all increase your chances of not getting the job. Employers know that people dress like this, they just want to see that you care enough to spruce yourself up when it matters most.
Along with practicing in front of a mirror or role-playing with someone else, there are certain behaviors that you should either watch out for or adopt as character.
Good: Speak confidently and at a good rate, eliminate “ums” and “ahs” from your speech, frame your answers in situation-action-result, look your interviewer in the eye, explain how you can benefit the company, and use current examples. And don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, for it’s better to ask twice than answer incorrectly once.
Bad: It’s quite rare that someone is so brilliant, companies trip over themselves trying to get that person. If you assume you are that person—most likely, you’re not—and answer the questions by explaining what a big deal you are, the interviewer is probably going to tune out. Other things that will hurt your chances are leaving your cell phone on—and answering it, not paying attention, asking silly questions, keeping your hands under the table, and providing too little or too much information.
With just a bit of practice, it can become second nature to leave bad habits and ace interviews.