Your palms sweat. You heart rate rapidly increases. As “the man” sizes you up, you flinch and squirm. You obsess over every word you’ve said, scanning each sentence for any sign of vulnerability or error. You feel over-matched, despondent, and know things are not going the way you intended. And that’s just trying to get your parking validated.
Once you actually get to the interview, your nerves hit a brick wall. It’s not your fault: interviews are weird, awkward, and nobody likes to be scrutinized (besides those who participated in various child beauty pageants). Here to help are 16 tips that’ll most certainly help you win best in show. I mean, get the job. Same thing, really.
1. You’re not maintaining eye contact
When I asked our Executive Editor about the most common mistake he’s seen while interviewing candidates, his answer was “a lack of eye contact.” We then started staring each other down until I was promoted, fired, and hired back. You never want to totally ignore eye contact but you also don’t want to stare into their soul for a solid 30 minutes. A happy medium is needed. Try this old salesman’s trick: see that little space between your interviewer’s eyes? Look right there.
2. You’re not asking any questions
Yes, you’re the one being interviewed, but asking some provoking questions about the company, the culture, the day-to-day operations of the job, etc., shows that you have an inquisitive mind and a genuine interest in the position up for grabs. You should always come to an interview prepared with at least five questions to bring up during the course of the exchange.
3. You’re letting too much weird out too quick
As millennials, we are expected to bring some quinoa-powered, Zooey Deschanel-style gumption to the world—it’s why the workforce loves us so much! Potential companies want to gauge your personality, but you need to hold back a little bit. It’s great you like to LARP in the park every Thursday night, but it assuredly won’t get you hired (unless your boss also likes to LARP and he needs someone on his Tuesday night team…it could happen!).
4. You’re not doing your homework
When approaching an important interview, you need to know the position, the company, and your interviewer, like the back of your eyelids. Seriously, with the creep-tastic reach of the interweb allowing any Joe-schmo to stalk a company or individual down to their mother’s high school prom date, there’s no reason to go in unprepared.
5. You aren’t dressing for the job
Looking the part doesn’t always entail wearing a suit and tie. If you’re applying to be a staff writer at High Times, you can probably dress down a little bit as over-dressing can sometimes be as bad as under-dressing. Here’s a solid rule: dress like your potential boss does at your prospective job. If it’s super casual, wear a dress shirt, blazer, slacks and no tie. If it’s formal, get fully decked out, tie clip and all.
6. You’re being too chill
Bill Murray’s everlasting advice to people is to relax, and you should try to be relaxed in your interview. But coming off as too passive will make you seem lazy, uninterested, and lethargic. Don’t take out your phone and don’t spin in your chair. Be interested; be engaged. Use positive body language, like learning forward in your seat while your interviewer speaks, to convey interest and establish a connection.
7. You’re not asking to be hired
You aren’t at this interview to make friends. You are here to get the job. Make sure when you leave that interview room your interviewer knows that you want the position, without any semblance of doubt. Go right out and say it. Interviewers are looking for ambitious, motivated candidates. You have nothing to lose, kid.
8. You’re lying to yourself
When you put on a facade during an interview, you’ve already lost the battle. Chances are, the person interviewing you has done this before—probably many times, and they’ll see right through your overblown attempt at fitting into the culture of the company. If you aren’t a good fit, you aren’t a good fit. This will shine through eventually and it’s better now, rather than a month into the job after you’ve relocated to Portland.
9. You smell
Smell is the sense most associated with memory (I still remember my first mid-summer trip to Chinatown like it was yesterday). So when that HR rep thinks back on your interview and only remembers the mustard/General Tso/Pop-Tart olfactory combo on your breath, she’ll be feeling unsettled (for more than one reason). Get some Tic Tacs, gum, or simply scour the landscape for some wild Myrrh saplings; but 7-11 is probably closer, unless you live in the New Testament.
10. You’re talking a lot, but not saying enough
Does that sound stupid? Well so do you when you end up telling your interviewer that story about your dog eating some woman’s pizza in Toronto. Be friendly and communicative, but don’t ramble on like your crazy uncle Harris. Your message will be drowned out in all that chatter. Keep it tight, concise, and pertinent.
11. You’re lying about your resume
Exaggerating in your interview is pretty much expected. Out-and-out fabrications are not. You know a little Spanish? Great, say that. You once saved a company from going bankrupt by mediating a high-stakes buyout? This is for an entry-level position. Dial it back.
12. You’re fudging-up your follow-up
A concise “thank you” the day after your interview is all that’s needed. Reiterate your strengths, why’d you be a good fit at the company, and make sure to keep up the enthusiasm. If you don’t hear back for a week or so, send another quick follow-up, asking if there is any news. Like I said, while you are interviewing, you basically have nothing to lose. Just don’t spam your prospective company’s inbox like the son of a Nigerian prince.
13. You complain about your old boss
People make this seemingly senseless mistake all the time. It’s the equivalent of calling in sick, than Instagramming yourself at the park a few hours later. If you talk smack about your old employer, your (potential) new employer can only expect for you to do the same in the future. Not only that, but if you are gunning for a position in a similar field, in the same city as your old job, there’s reason to believe two higher-ups at competitive companies are familiar with each other, and bad news spreads fast.
14. You’re focusing too much on the money
Money is the reason you’re seeking employment in the first place, but bringing it up constantly, or abruptly, can tarnish the way your interviewer sees you. They know you are here to get paid, so focus more intently on why this particular position would be fulfilling to you.
15. You’re not printing out your resume
I know, I know. We live in the digital age where we find out dates on our iPhones and watch pandas give birth in real time. But you need to be a little old school and print out a hard copy of your resume. Every interview I’ve been on—and remember, I work in digital publishing—I’ve brought it out at least once. You can’t expect your interviewer to have memorized the one you emailed him, and having your accomplishments in the flesh, in writing, is a perfect excuse to highlight and detail your experience.
16. You walk into the interview, playing “Dancing In The Dark” on a boombox on your shoulder
Some people prefer Bruce’s older stuff. You need to respect that.