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Scoring Big On A Job Interview

By Erik Folgate

My first big interview was nerve racking.  I didn’t know what to wear, I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t even really know much about the company that called me in for the interview.  All college graduates will have that big day of trying to score the first real job.  It is different.  It’s nothing compared to walking into Chili’s and walking out with a serving position.  You need to set yourself apart from the competition and all you get is one or two chances during the interview process.  Here are some pointers for doing well on your first interview for a real job.  A “real job” is a full-time career-like job that you plan on being there for more than a year. 

Dress to impress, but don’t go over the top.

There is a middle ground when it comes to how you dress for an interview.  Call the human resource department or the interviewer prior to your interview and ask them what the company attire is during business hours.  If the company has a business-casual attire, then your interviewer or panel of interviewers will most likely be in a polo and khacki pants, business slacks and a dress shirt, or dress skirt and a blouse.  Business casual usually means that you won’t see anyone wearing a tie, suit, or women’s business suit.  If the company does business-casual, then dress one notch nicer than them.  Wear a tie, a nice skirt, or nice dress pants with a button-down shirt.  You can go with a suit, but you’ll most likely look nicer than the interviewer without it.  If the company is very conservative and traditional with their attire, then you need to wear a suit (business suits for women).  The point is that you do not have to buy a tailor made Brooks Brothers suit in order to look nice or fit in for an interview.  Make sure you know your audience and dress accordingly. 

No-No’s for interview attire:  Make sure you iron or dry-clean your outfit.  No stains or rips should be anywhere on your outfit.  Guys, NO polo shirts, unless it is a very casual atmosphere.  Girls, no short skirts or revealing shirts.  If the interviewer is a guy, you want him focused on your brain, not something else.  Shoes are not so important, but make sure they are presentable and they need to have somewhat of a business-look. 

Be Prepared to Answer and Ask Impromptu Questions

One of the biggest mistakes that I made during the four interviews I had straight out of college was that I did not prepare and do my homework about the companies from which I interviewed.  I looked at their websites, and I did a read a little here and there, but I did no formulate good questions to ask the interviewers during the interview.  Luckily, the interview for the company that hired me went extremely well.  God definitely helped me ask and answer some meaningful questions that sounded good enough for the company to like me.  My advice is to be prepared, but do not memorize an answer to a certain question.  You don’t want to sound like a robot when you’re answering a question.  Also, one of the most important parts of an interview is when the interviewer says, “Do you have any questions for us?”.  If you sit there with a blank stare on your face, then you might as well walk out and forget that interview.  Avoid questions like, “What’s the starting pay?” and “How often do you give raises?”.  Try asking questions about the company, the company’s goals/vision, the advancement stages of the position, the management style, and the company’s culture. 

Let your body language do the talking

Psychologists say that we communicate more with our body language than our speech.  I agree, because certain looks, gestures, and movements speak volumes over what comes out of one’s mouth.  Obviously, make sure that you are making good eye contact.  My interview for the company that I currently work was a panel interview with six other interviewers.  I had to make sure that I distributed the eye contact and not focus one just one person the whole time.  Don’t slouch, but don’t sit as stiff as a board.  I try to push the seat in far enough to where it gently pushes against my stomach.  Keep the hand gestures to a minimum.  People might get distracted by your constant hand motions.  If you have a problem figuring out what to do with your hands then fold your hands together.  Try to avoid clenching the arm rest, hold a pen or pencil tightly, or twirling your thumbs. 

Be Honest and Genuine

This is the most important rule to master when being in an interview.  The person or group of people across the table are doing their best to look straight through you.  They will sense if you are lying, trying to impress them, or putting up a facade.  I believe the reason I scored a job quickly out of school was because I went in with the mentality that I was going to be myself.  An interview is definitely a time where you want to boast about yourself and convince the interviewer that they NEED to hire you.  However, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.  Answer questions honestly, and open up to the interviewer.  The interviewer wants to hear something different about you.  They want to see and hear something that they cannot grasp from a sheet of paper (your resume).  When you talk about your weaknesses, offer up solutions to how you can improve upon the areas that you do not excel.  Let the interviewer know that you are a human being, and that you are proactive in trying to make yourself a more complete and better person. 

I am not an expert when it comes to interviews, but I know that it is not rocket science.  Follow these tips and you’ll be surprised at the results. 

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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