Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Impress at a Job Interview

This past week was a big week in the life of Nicole Gartside: I attended my first real-life job interviews. I know, scary. But having interviewed for several intern positions throughout my short lifetime (and receiving the highest score for interview during my pageant days. Not that I’m bragging…), I felt totally prepared. It turns out that I wasn’t. It took me a few interviews and a lot of advice to get myself in the swing of things, but I now come to you with my advice for big kid job interviews.

Have good questions ready
I was always the kind of person who researched a company or publication before I interviewed there. However, because of my extensive research, I’d usually answered my own questions before even arriving. I was always proud to say no when companies asked if I had any questions for them. Turns out that’s a BAD IDEA. Companies want you to ask good questions, to be curious about the direction they’re going and to interview them as thoroughly as they’re interviewing you. Obviously you shouldn’t be asking a question you could find the answer to on their website, but think of some things you’re actually curious to know about their company.

Don’t get companies confused
If you’re like me, scrambling to find a job post-graduation and spending hours a day either applying or interviewing for jobs, it’s easy to get small details scrambled. For instance, while in Austin this past week, I interviewed with three companies that represented themselves as “tech marketing.” After hours researching the companies, the finer details started to blend together. Which one had a strong social media approach? Which one focused on “clean tech?” I had no idea. That’s why  made flash cards. The cards had the interviewer’s name, important details about the company, and the questions I wanted to ask. That way, I could do a quick review to make sure I had my head on straight before I walked into each interview.

Research the dress code
I’m very fond of my traditional interview outfit; fancy blouse, pencil skirt, high heels, and some fabulous accessories. But when I sent a picture to my mother, her response was, isn’t that too dressy? Too dressy?? How dare you! I’ve worn a variation of that same outfit to nearly every interview since high school and it has worked well so far. However, I grudgingly took the advice of my mom’s friends working in Austin and dressed down my outfit to a casual blouse, pants, and low heels (I couldn’t go all the way to the floor. I just couldn’t). And thank God I did. When I arrived to my interviews, nearly every interviewer was in jeans and some were in T-shirts. Had I gone with my original outfit, I would have looked absolutely out of place in the dressed-down atmosphere of Austin. When prepping for an interview, figure out what the office environment is like then take it up a notch. That’s how I like to show I’d fit in, but that I’m professional enough to take the “office look” to the next level, at least for the interview.

Tell a story
When meeting with a PR agent in Austin, he asked me what my story was. So I told him about my background, my jobs, etc. No, he said, what’s your story? Your story, he explained to me, is why you majored in what you did, how your experiences shaped you into a great employee, and why you are a better fit for a job than every other person they’re interviewing. Whatever your story is, be passionate and confident about it. Figure out why the path you’ve taken makes you unique and how companies can use that to their advantage. I’m still perfecting mine every day.

I hope my little words of wisdom from experience have helped. But most importantly, be confident in yourself! You deserve a job that makes you happy and you’ll get it with a little hard work and a great attitude.

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