Whether you are in college seeking an internship or further on in your career and looking to advance your position, making careless mistakes in a job interview can cost you, even if you have the experience, credentials, and intelligence.
Katherine M. Rothman is the CEO of KMR Communications, a public relations firm she founded at the age of 28. The firm specializes in beauty, health, and fitness PR. Since the agency’s inception in 1998, Ms. Rothman has interviewed hundreds of applicants for positions ranging from interns to directors and vice presidents. Here are nine tips on interviewing straight from the CEO herself.
Research the company.
Google the company. Visit their website. Know who their clients are, what they do, and who their competition is, and find out what sets them apart from other businesses in their field. It is important to do your research prior to the interview. It will give you greater command of the topics you will be asked about and make you feel more confident, which will translate into a better impression. If you are asked why you want to work at XYZ Company, you will be able to answer intelligently and specifically, instead of in a cookie-cutter manner.
Dress to impress.
How you dress has a lot to say about your presence in business. Do your best to do some sleuthing and find out what the culture of the company is. If the company is artsy, it’s better if you don’t come in looking like a corporate stiff. Conversely, if the atmosphere is corporate, ripped jeans and a tank top won’t get you far. When in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. When you are asked back for a second-round interview you can better tailor your attire to the office norm. If you must wear fragrance, keep it light and subtle. The last thing you want is an interviewer sneezing with watery eyes because you have gone overboard on the perfume or cologne.
Bring ample resumes.
If you are meeting with one or even several people, there is nothing that makes you look more unprepared than assuming the interviewer has your resume handy. Make sure that you carry ample resumes in a professional looking portfolio so that the paper is not wrinkled when you hand it over.
Don’t let your body language give you away.
Skilled interviewers are adept are reading non-verbal clues—i.e., body language. Most likely, the handshake will be your only moment of physical contact with the interviewer. Studies say that handshakes play a significant role in first impressions, so make it count. Aim for a firm handshake, and as you shake, make eye contact and smile. Once seated, do not slump, fidget, or lean back in your chair, which can signal boredom or arrogance. Lean slightly forward to indicate interest. Don’t cross your arms, as this can make you look defensive or like you are hiding something.
Don’t give cliché answers to questions.
If you are asked what your best qualities are, avoid saying, “I am an organized self-starter and team player, and my biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist.” These may all be true but find another way to state these attributes. Instead, if asked about a weakness, choose a real weakness and put a positive spin on it. You may say, for example, “I always want to meet my deadlines, but sometimes in doing so, I rush too much. I am trying to slow down and be more meticulous.”
You are being judged on how articulate you are and how you present yourself in a corporate situation. An interview should not be your own monologue. Answer the questions concisely and wait for the interviewer to ask the next. As you are speaking, try to gauge if you are keeping the interviewer engaged in what you are saying. If their eyes are glazed over and they are tapping their pen, you have spoken enough.
Ask not what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for the company.
To loosely paraphrase JFK on his inauguration speech, make it clear how your skills can help the company you are interviewing with. A first interview should not be about: “How many vacation days do I get? Do you have summer hours? What are your benefits?” These questions should be saved for second-round interviews, when the company has indicated that they have a sincere interest in you. Round one should be strictly about what you bring to the table.
Don’t be silent when the interviewer asks if you have questions.
Too often, applicants say, “No, thanks I think you covered everything.” You may feel you are being polite by saying this, but you actually come across as disengaged and docile. Come up with at least two thought-provoking questions that refers to something the interviewer commented on or asked.
Don’t forget to write a thank-you.
Write a thank you e-mail to every person with whom you met. Do this even if you do not want the position. It’s a small world and being polite goes a long way! If you want the position and it comes down to you and another candidate with identical credentials, and you are the one who writes the note, most likely you will be “the chosen one.”
Katherine M. Rothman is the CEO of KMR Communications, a public relations firm founded in 1998 that specializes in beauty, health, and fitness PR.
The theory of relativity: Five years to a whippersnapper like me is a different length of time to someone, say, my mom’s age. To me, five years is basically a lifetime, while to my mom, it goes by in the blink of an eye since she’s done more five-year cycles than I have (though she’ll yell at me if I tell you how many).