A season of transition is upon us. Summer is slowly turning into fall as we begin the month of August. I always love this time of year because I know that I’ll be back in the classroom teaching personal brand development to future professionals at USC. For a lot of recent graduates, this is a very exciting time. Many are wrapping up their last summer internship or a vacation and preparing to enter the workforce and launch their careers with a new position. This means doing a lot of strategic job hunting, and even more importantly, planning for successful interviews.
Interviews can be tough when you’re new to the process, trying to break into a new industry, or design a new career path. I’ve had plenty of experience with interviewing candidates for positions with my company Talk To Jess, LLC (learn more about our company transition by signing up for our newsletter!). From great interviewers to interviewers who have room for improvement, I’ve seen and talked to them all. Through lots of practice and avoiding these three mistakes before, during, and after the interview, we can all take control of our careers and receive offers for any job we truly desire.
Mistake #1 (Before the Interview): Manipulating the interview process to meet your needs, instead of being flexible to meet the needs of the employer
One thing that completely turns me off is an interviewee who tries to manipulate the interview process to fit their personal agenda. Asking the interviewer if you can re-schedule a meeting for a certain day/time because you have another appointment creates a less-than-favorable first-impression. Before even meeting, asking for special accommodations paints a picture that you will always try to manipulate a situation to fit your needs, without concern for the needs of the company. Always allow yourself to be flexible when prospecting a job opportunity. Show your interviewer that you’re willing to go the extra mile to land your position. The ball is ultimately in their court – you are trying to earn your spot on the team. Clear your schedule of other appointments when possible. Show your interviewer that their time is just as valuable as your own, and this will create the best first impression.
Mistake #2 (During the Interview): Not being specific about your experience, skills, and what you bring to the table, along with things you want to accomplish in the position
An interview is really your opportunity to show a prospective employer specific examples of your experience and any applicable skills you’re able to bring to the company. Saying you have excellent time management and organization skills or that you can do the job efficiently is simply not enough. When an interviewer asks you the infamous question, “Tell me about yourself,” they aren’t asking to find out your favorite color or where you went to school. Your interviewer is looking for specific examples – or anecdotes – about your past experience related to the position. Always be prepared to follow this question with anecdotal examples that answer why you’re qualified for the position, why you’re interviewing for the position, and tactical examples of what you’ll accomplish once on the job. You’ve got 30 minutes to show the interviewer that you’re equipped to bring success to the company – deliver the details that prove why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Mistake #3 (After the interview): Not following up or sending “thank you” notes
The level of engagement and dedication in your follow up tells an interviewer how hungry you are for the job. I’ve had candidates who interviewed extremely well and showed me why they’re qualified for the job, however, I did not end up hiring them. Why? Because they failed to follow up with me in a way that made them stand out amongst other candidates. Following up is the single most important skill to have in any business or career. Being persistent and saying thank you shows the interviewer that you are both very interested in the position and value their time (and yours). It may be old-fashioned, but handwritten thank-you notes still go a long way in the job hiring process. A handwritten note leaves a takeaway for the employer and shows that you care enough to add that extra personal touch to your representation. If you are committed to following up, a potential employer will commit you to their memory too.
Honorable mention (At all times): Giving weak handshakes
This is a personal pet peeve of mine (hey, I’m a professional brand developer). Please practice your handshake before meeting and greeting people you want to network with! An interview is not only a part of the job hunt; it’s also a networking opportunity. Shake a person’s hand with conviction. Don’t give out weak handshakes – that’s exactly how you’ll represent yourself: weak and lacking confidence. When you shake someone’s hand, be firm and look them in the eye. Exude confidence and make them feel like they’ve just connected with someone worth knowing.
Avoiding these mistakes ultimately show an interviewer that you possess empathy and pay great attention to detail (a requirement for any job). The job searching process can be a long one, but every successful interview is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression for your personal brand and take control of creating the career you want. Think forward and walk in the very best version of yourself before, during, and after your interview.