Yeah, I know...I'm not an expert! But after 6 months of applying and interviewing, nearing 20 interviews finished, I figured I would share with you the Seven Do's I try to tell myself when gearing up for an interview.
1. Keep your look simple, polished, but original.
I was really tempted to wear my new white sweater with my favorite pants, which are black, to my most recent interview. Maybe with a bold piece of jewelery? Well, I don't have bold jewelery. And black pants with a plain white sweater looks so blah....I've watched too much What Not to Wear to make that mistake. Instead, I decided to wear my new white sweater with a floral skirt I made earlier this summer. Not only does this add some color and pattern to my outfit, the skirt fits perfectly around my tummy, so I won't worry about any unflattering lines, and it is long enough to be work appropriate, not sexy or frumpy. For makeup, I go more neutral and natural than I would for a nice dinner, but with the basics covered. Moisturizer, light mineral powder foundation, eyes and a light lip tint. I don't want them to think I'm going to be late to work because of my makeup routine.
2. Remember the names of the people interviewing you, and use it.
I learned this from my boyfriend, who deals with many people in his company over the phone. I thought it was silly when I first met him, he would repeat the person's name three times on the phone, but when I went into an interview and had no idea who I had talked to on the phone, I realized how lame I seemed. Ask for the name if you don't remember it, write it down and use it. Which brings me to my next point...
3. Send thank you notes!
I didn't send these when I first started my job search and quickly decided to incorporate it into my routine. Which is one reason you should remember the interviewers' names...you're going to want to include them in your thank you note. If you've interviewed with a large company or with a school district (like me), addressing the company as a whole, HR or whom it may concern makes it sound like you didn't take the time to learn anything about who you spoke with, so why would they want to take the time on you?
4. Be polite, even when they aren't.
Early on in my search, I came across a couple people who were less than professional. Whether it was asking inappropriate questions (someone ate her lunch during our meeting, told me I would be hard pressed to find a school that would offer health insurance, only wanted to know how my previous school ran their program and paid their teachers, and nothing about me), or making rude assumptions to your face (someone told me I was obviously in teaching for the money because of the age group I wanted to work with), it is always better to take a deep breath and handle the situation with tact. It isn't always easy, and it can be tempting to make a smart remark, but I try to be polite, yet not ignore the comment. Rather, I try to address it as politely as I can without seeming wishy-washy or apologetic. If all else fails, thank them for their time and make your escape. It can be a jungle out there.
5. Have a portfolio of your work to refer to during the interview.
This is a standard item to bring to teaching interviews, but I'm not sure how it works with corporate settings. I've found that my portfolio, when it is complete and polished, can be my best asset in an interview. Sometimes I have difficulty explaining exactly how I implemented an activity without going into a long winded speech, so I pull out my portfolio to show photos and lesson plans of successes, as well as documentation. My portfolio contains all the items I would send in initially (cover letter, resume, recommendation letters, transcript, and licenses), writing samples, documentation of lessons and environments I've planned. Pictures are a fast way to show the interviewer what you look like in action, without them taking your word for it. And having work samples gives them a way to preview what they might see around review/report time. I always makes sure I refer to it at least once, especially if they don't ask for it.
6. When you get home, apply for at least one more job!
It's never a good idea to think you've got one in the bag. It can take a while to hear back from someone, and that is time you could have been interviewing at more places. If it's a no, you haven't lost any of that precious job search time, and if it is a yes, you can always let the other employer know you've accepted another position. This is the hardest part for me because I always want to put all my eggs in one basket, but it isn't realistic.
7. Remember...they want you to succeed!
This is another thing that has helped me stay calm. The interviewer wants to find the right person, and they are hoping you are it! While you may not always be the best fit, they aren't there to prove you're bad at what you do...which is what used to cause a lot of my nerves. Just do your best and prove to them why you were such a great candidate that they called you in!