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Last Minute Job Interview Advice

If you read many of my other posts, you’ll find much of the advice that is in this one but in greater detail. My purpose here is to recap some important things to remember for the actual day of your interview.

These things may seem a bit trivial but they can make the difference when it’s a close call between you and another good candidate.

Be On-Time

My number one hot button – and I’m positive this is true of most Hiring Managers – is applicants that arrive late for their interview. Believe it or not, this happens often enough that I wanted to stress it right upfront.

Unless you’ve experienced a major and complexly unexpected event, there simply is no excuse for being late to an interview.

And by the way, heavy traffic is NOT considered a valid excuse. This is something you should have anticipated and planned for in advance and there are two things you can do to eliminate this potential problem.

First, be sure to have made a trial run to the location of your interview, preferably during the week and at about the same time as your interview. This will give you a good idea of what traffic will be like.

Second- and this is particularly important – you should plan on arriving at least 30 (45 is better) minutes early. This will give you a cushion for any unexpected things.

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Plus, you can use your early arrival to relax in your car, review your notes, practice your 30-second commercial (you do have one, right?), etc.  

I was once interviewing two candidates for the same position. My office was downtown and according to the address on their resume, both came from the same suburban area.

One arrived on time and came into the interview when called. The other one arrived about 15 minutes late. Although he did call and say he was delayed by traffic, the damage was done.

Traffic is always heavy coming into downtown and is something he should have known and planned for. This was particularly ironic considering he was interviewing for a project manager position.

Oops.

I’m sure the other candidate was equally delayed by traffic because their interviews were at the same time but one day apart. The difference was this person built in enough time so that traffic didn’t make him late.

Finally, plan on walking into the company about ten minutes before your interview time. Any earlier and it’s awkward because they may not have a place to park you. Any later and you’ll raise some eyebrows.

Ten minutes should be your goal.

Review Your Resume, Cover Letter, and Job Description One Last Time

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked applicants a question that could be answered right off either their resume or their cover letter and they couldn’t do it. It always makes me wonder when the last time was that they read either one.

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Make sure you read them both again right before your interview. Don’t overthink this, just do it. It might save you some embarrassment during the interview.

The same applies to the job description, so make sure you bring a copy of it with you. The last thing you want to happen during the interview is for me to ask you something from the job description and you’re unable to do so.

A couple of years ago a I was interviewing a candidate for an IT coding position. When I asked her what two languages she felt were her strongest, she gave an articulate and convincing answer.

The problem was, neither of the languages was mentioned in the job description.

Plus, she didn’t mention the language that the job description gave as the one we were most looking for. I suspect that she was probably interviewing for coding positions at other organizations and that had something to do with her answer. However, it did make her come across as not being the right fit.

Please double-check right before your interview that you’ll be focusing on the right job description!

Make Your Answers Brief

I know it sounds contradictory when I say to be thorough but brief, but that’s what you should shoot for. By brief, I mean your answers should be no more than two to three minutes long at the most.

That’s sufficient to answer all but the most complex questions. I’ve seen many otherwise good candidates drone on incessantly with every answer and virtually talk themselves out of the job.

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Shake Hands With Everyone

Assuming that handshaking is done at all, considering the pandemic, here’s the right way to approach it.

Let’s not make this complicated or awkward: simply reach out and shake hands whenever you are introduced to anyone and then with everyone when you say goodbye.

Use a medium-firm grip so that you don’t come across as overly aggressive or hesitant, about two seconds in length. Just do it as if it’s a natural thing to do – and it will be!

Just Smile!

Be sure to smile when you first introduce yourself and again at the end of the interview when you say goodbye. You want the first and last impression you give to be a positive one.

In between these two times, just smile occasionally throughout the interview. The most natural points are at the beginning and/or end of when you answer a question (or, of course, if one of the interview panel members makes a joke!).

Be a Note Taker

Be sure to carry a portfolio to your interview that contains two pens and a pad of paper (this also makes it handy to carry a few extra copies of your resume and cover letter, just in case).

Don’t try to write down everything that’s said, but do take a few notes of things you want to remember. This not only shows you’re interested in what’s being said but also gives you some material to reference in your thank you letter.

Wear the Right Clothes

Your goal is for your clothes to be completely unnoticed. You don’t want them in any way to detract from what you have to say.

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Dress up one level from the job for which you’re interviewing and shoot for conservative colors and patterns.

For management and professional positions, a coat and tie with dress shoes is the safest bet. For women, a formal and conservative pantsuit with low or mid-high heels is ideal, so that you don’t have to worry about what is the proper length for a dress. Both men and women should keep jewelry to a minimum.

For clerical and trade, men should wear dress pants or at least “Docker” style pants, along with a nice long sleeve shirt with a collar. For women, casual or dressy pants with a blouse or sweater, and hard-soled shoes (no athletic shoes). Neither men nor women should wear any sort of athletic shoes or sneakers.

And one last but important point: no matter what sort of job for which you are interviewing, do not under any circumstances wear blue jeans or any sort of denim.

Even if you think you look great in those expensive designer jeans, many Hiring Managers will see this as disrespectful and/or indicative of someone not serious about the interview or the job.

Remember: you want the interview to be about you and your qualifications, not your clothes.

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