A client once told me “If we’re going to pull our pants down, we might as well pull them down all the way; not halfway.” By this, I choose to believe he meant that if you’re going to put yourself out there, give 110%, go for broke, finish strong, “YOLO” or your pick of any other cliché colloquialisms meaning “give it your all.” Oddly enough, his bizarre analogy is applicable in every aspect of life. Having begun my PR career in recent memory, I see a particular opportunity during this time of the year for students graduating with a PR degree to apply this idea when interviewing for internships or entry-level positions.
If you’ve been contacted for an interview, I’d like to extend my sincere congratulations. It’s no cake walk out there right now, so this is not a small feat by any means. Now that you know a company is relatively interested in you, don’t screw it up with a lackluster interview. Separate yourself from the herd with these eight strategies:
1. Do your homework.
Visit the website. Study company history. Make educated references throughout the conversation. This one is pretty cut and dry, yet overlooked far too often. Nothing is worse than interviewing someone who isn’t intimately familiar with the position they’ve applied for and the company doing the hiring.
2. Stay hydrated.
While this is just flat out good advice in general, it’s particularly important during an interview. When asked if you’d like a glass of water, just say yes. Not only is it the best defense against a scratchy throat, this refreshing beverage can double as an object to hold to avoid fidgeting, a preventative measure against “talking head syndrome” and a convenient opportunity to pause for a drink while carefully contemplating your response to a difficult question. Humphrey Bogart had his cigarette, you have your water.
3. Bring something to the table.
Literally bring something to the table. A copy of your resume and a comprehensive portfolio with your most impressive work from previous positions would be ideal, but any kind of tangible material to share is better than nothing. Having examples on hand to reference as you’re attempting to sell your experience and skill is invaluable. Anybody can say they have the experience, but showing the work itself is what makes an impression.
4. Exude confidence.
There’s a fine line between being confident and being just plain cocky. Walk it. Walk that line like Johnny Cash. Shake hands firmly, sit up straight, make eye contact, speak with authority, smile, gesture and for Pete’s sake, relax. Remember that these people you’re talking to are just that, people. If it isn’t evident to everyone in the room that you believe in yourself and your abilities, then who are you to expect that anybody else would?
5. Have some substance.
Many recent college graduates are consumed with the notion that acting “grown up” and professional are the keys to a job offer. This is not the case. Although professionalism and etiquette are prerequisites for most positions, it’s important to always remain authentic and show some personality. Qualified individuals that are genuinely interesting people trump equally qualified professional zombies any day. But don’t come back here complaining that you didn’t get the job because you opened up a can of weird during your first encounter with a potential co-worker. That’s on you.
6. Make a suggestion.
It’s true that not everybody appreciates constructive criticism. But nobody likes a brown-noser. It’s all well and good to communicate how much you like the company, but perfection is an elusive beast and flattery is flagrant more often than not. Share several areas of the company that you think could be improved and provide realistic solutions for doing so. This shows that you’ve done your homework (see #1), you have some original ideas and that you’re not afraid to voice them.
7. Interview the interviewer.
Typically an interview will conclude with a Q&A. Be prepared to ask a few questions. While the interview is an opportunity for the company to check you out, it’s also your chance to determine whether or not you’d actually like to work there. What is the company culture like? What brand of coffee do they brew? What, if anything, is required of the position that is not stated on the job description? Are pets allowed? An interview should be approached like a first date; you should be slightly more concerned with whether or not you like them than you are about their feelings toward you. If it’s not a good fit, sneak out the bathroom window and don’t look back.
8. Send a thank you note.
Now it’s time to seal the deal. Contrary to popular belief, hiring managers at some companies do not spend their entire day searching for candidates. Chances are, interviews are not this person’s only responsibility at work. It takes a great deal of time behind the scenes to screen candidates, schedule interviews and manage the process. Showing you understand that their time is precious and you appreciate being given a shot will go a long way. Handwritten is always better.
That’s my spiel. You’ve already got the interview. The hard part is over. Now make the necessary preparations, be yourself, go out there with your metaphorical pants around your ankles and get hired.