Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been interviewing candidates for an open position in my organization. I’ve learned a lot as this is my first time to really hire someone into an organization. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions for those looking for a job and interviewing right now:
1. Make sure that you ask for an offer.
When you take the time to interview with a company for an open position that you know they are hiring for, ask for an offer. Make sure when you leave the interviewer’s office that that person knows that you want the job. If that person doesn’t know you want the job, then they might offer it to someone else that has stated an interest in receiving an offer.
There should not be a doubt in the interviewers mind about your wanting the job, even if you’re not sure you want the job… if you don’t express an interest in receiving an offer, then you likely won’t get one, and you might decide after the interview that you really do want that job.
Get as many offers as you can, then pick the best offer/job for you, don’t leave an offer on the table because you aren’t sure you want the job during the interview.
Ask for an offer at the end of your interview.
2. Wear a sharp outfit to the interview.
First impressions are a bitch. I don’t care what the corporate attire at the company you’re interviewing at is, wear a sharp outfit to the first interview. It’s always better to be over-dressed and impress the interviewer than to be under-dressed and make the wrong impression on the interviewer.
If you’re a guy, this means wear a suit and tie. The days of wearing shorts and sandals to most offices is over, and if the office you’re interviewing at has a relaxed dress code, it’s better to impress with a sharp suit than to look like a lazy person, or someone who doesn’t think they need to dress nicely.
If you’re a woman, wear sharp business attire. Don’t show up in a skirt that might be perceived as too short, or with your mid-riff showing. It’s just not professional.
If you’re interviewing for a blue collar job, wear the best outfit you have if its not a suit and try to look as impressive as you can. Wear a pair of khakis and a jacket if you think it’s appropriate.
Over-dressed is better than under-dressed. Wear a sharp outfit.
3. Answer questions honestly.
If an interviewer asks a question, take a second to think about your answer, and then answer the question succintly. Don’t blab on and on, and stay on topic. Be honest. If you’re not honest and succint with your answer, you’ll likely not be happy in the job if you’re offered the position. And if you bull-shit an answer and can’t back it up after being on the job, you’ll likely be in the position for a very short amount of time.
4. Take time to write a cover-letter.
And don’t write a bullshit two paragraph form letter. I received over 100 resumes for the position that I’m interviewing for. Know what my first filter was:
No cover letter = trashed resume.
Did I perhaps lose a good candidate? Maybe, but you know what? I still have 10 really good candidates that I’m having to weigh each other against.
update: Read Joel’s thoughts on cover letters for a good example of why it’s important to have a good cover letter
Write a good thoughtful cover-letter.
5. If you want the job, apply for it.
Even if you think you’re not 100% qualified, and you want the job, apply for it. It can’t hurt your chances. I have two main qualifications that I wanted in the candidates I was planning on interviewing. Know how many people had those two qualifications? One. One out of 100. So guess what? I called everyone that had at least one of those two big qualifications and have interviewed in-person 10 of those people I called. (after I trashed the ones without cover letters, of course).
6. Research the company a little.
When you apply for a job, assume that you might get a phone call from the hiring manager, or the HR screener. Have a little folder that you keep with you on all of the jobs you want. In that folder, have a quick summary sheet of the research you’ve done on the company (and make sure you’ve done at least a cursory glance at the organization’s website or some other document so you can ask a few questions about the company or the position).
I called one candidate, and they said “You know, I really don’t even remember sending in my resume for that position. What company are you with again?”
That phone interview lasted less than 5 minutes after that statement… Sorry, I wasn’t interested at that point anymore.
7. The interviewer might not know what they’re doing
Most people interviewing to hire someone aren’t trained at it, so keep that in mind. Make sure that the interviewer knows a) why you want the job, b) what sets you apart from all the other candidates they might be looking at c) that you want to receive an offer and d) what sort of impact you can make in the open position. If they aren’t asking you the ‘buy questions’ like “What would it take to get you on board here?” ask them the buy questions. Once you get to those questions, your likely-hood of getting an offer goes up dramatically.
If you’re looking to get a job, follow these steps:
1. Apply for lots of jobs
2. Ask for an in-person interview if you get a phone interview
3. Ask for an offer at the in-person interview
4. Get as many offers as you can, then pick the job you want.
I learned that and many more tips from reading the Knock ’em Dead series by Martin Yates. I’d recommend that to anyone out there looking for a new job. I’d also recommend 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions as an interview primer, if you need it, but most of what you’ll need is in Knock ’em Dead.
Hopefully, I’ll be making an offer to a future employee next week.
updated April 2004: I just posted More lessons for the Job Seeker as a follow up to this post.