Interviews 101: Do This, Think About This, & Definitely DO NOT Do That

A little known fact about me is that I go to a lot of interviews. I wouldn’t say that this is some sort of hobby that I enjoy, but even if I’m unsure about a prospective job, or even if I’m pretty much 98% sure that I don’t even want the job, I jump at the opportunity to meet with the potential employer. Now depending on how you look at it, this might seem strange or you might even think it’s a waste of time. But the way I see it is that interviewing is a skill, and if you want to be a successful interviewee (and essentially land the job), this skill must be perfected. You can find a million articles on Google pertaining to how to dress for an interview, what to ask in an interview, what not to do in an interview, but reading all of these can get overwhelming. And how can you really trust all of these faceless authors anyways? So take it from me – I’ve lost some, but I’ve won a lot, and I’ve over analyzed every single one. These are the best tips I could give to any potential interviewee.

Pay Attention to Social Cues: Reading between the lines of what the interviewer is saying can really help you adjust to the interview’s atmosphere and perhaps more importantly, the interviewer’s personality.  Every interview is different in the sense that some of them are super casual, and the interviewer is more interested in getting to know you as a person; whereas some interviews are strictly business. In one of my more recent interviews, I walked into the interview space and realized I would be sitting in a leather arm chair, in front of a coffee table. This was a definite first for me, as I’m used to a standard conference room where I can hide my fidgety fingers and nervously cross and uncross my legs undetected. So I sat down on the edge of the chair (didn’t want to seem too casual) and hoped for the best. Well obviously sitting on the edge of a big comfy arm chair looks more awkward than anything, and clearly the interviewer sensed this as he said something along the lines of “to help put you at ease….”. Well I picked up on him picking up on my nerves and relaxed into the chair enough so that I didn’t look like I was attached to some sort of back brace and tried to look as comfortable as possible. I think it’s so important to realize that everyone knows interviews are nerve racking, no matter how nonchalant you may try to look. So if the interviewer suggests that you relax, take their advice! They really don’t want to scare you!

Under Any Circumstances – Do NOT Ask About Money: I’ve broken this cardinal rule before and have still gotten the job, but looking back on it I wish I never even went there in my interview. This is one question that obviously burns inside everyone when they’re on the verge of employment, but no matter how badly you want to know the answer, just don’t ask. The only reasoning I can give you is that it basically makes you look extremely unprofessional. There’s enough interview related articles out there that can tell you why you shouldn’t ask (it makes you look like you’re just in it for the cash, etc.), but because of all of these articles and other resources, this should just be inherent knowledge by now. So by asking this question, you come off as not only someone who has money on their mind, but as someone who just hasn’t taken the time to find out how to interview properly and professionally.

Research the Company: I can not stress this enough – research research research. I don’t care if you blindly apply to a position without looking into what the company does, but if you make it to the interview stage this needs to be a priority. I’ve actually been in a position where I was the interviewer, and had to watch while people explained why they wanted to work for my organization without knowing a thing about the kind of events we have, and some even went so far to say they saw us on social media websites that we don’t even have accounts on. You may think you can improvise a vague answer that’ll cover your butt – but oh are you wrong. An interviewer can tell if someone has looked into their organization, because this interviewee is going to flaunt it and drop examples of their knowledge. So do yourself a favour and take 20 minutes to skim a company’s website, you’ll get bonus points if you can discuss why you’re particularly passionate about some of their programs and initiatives.

Be Specific: One of the best pieces of feedback I received on one of my interviews was that I should have provided specific examples of the work I have done. It’s easy to name an overarching experience, for example “I was a leader in this position because I supervised this large amount of staff”. Well, that’s great, but name a time when your leadership really sparkled, EX: “I was a leader in this position because employee morale was on the decline, so I developed an incentive program that increased employee morale in this particular way and even boosted sales by this many dollars”. THIS is the answer that the interviewer is going to remember, and it demonstrates that you not only have the qualities they want, but that you know how to use them too. Obviously an answer like this takes a little bit more thought, but think of an experience that you’re extremely proud of and practice explaining it beforehand. When the interview comes you won’t remember how you practiced it word for word, but you’ll remember the important points you wanted to for sure cover.

Dress to Impress (that Company): I used to be so silly and naive and think that every interview calls for formal attire. Yep, I was THAT girl that wore high heels and a sharp blazer to an interview at a campground. Looking back I can just imagine how funny I looked sitting in the grungy garage trying to convince my interviewer that I was an outdoorsy kind of girl. And truthfully, I am an outdoorsy girl, I love camping, I’ve portaged for kilometers before!! But my outfit definitely said otherwise, and I probably would’ve felt more comfortable in flats and khakis anyways (RE: campgrounds don’t have paved roads – and walking on gravel with heels is not fun for anyone). Outfits are a good thing to consider while you’re doing your research on the company; but obviously if you really can’t figure out the company’s exact dress code, it’s always better to be overdressed – just learn from my mistake and use your brain. Because when are heels EVER associated with camping?

And whatever you do, don’t do what these guys did:


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