Interviewing: Tips from the Other Side

I love to help conduct interviews. My company often asks for help from across the front lines for interviews. It is neat to hear about other people’s experiences. Not to mention, one day out of the office, talking to people I have never met before helps energize me.

Here are a few tips I have picked up from my experiences and from conversations with others who conduct interviews often.

Appearance isn’t everything… but it is something.

It may seem like Interviewing 101, but present yourself well. This means, more likely than not, wear a suit. Even if you are in college and just looking for an internship. (The exception to this is if you are interviewing for a specific industry, like fashion or design.)

I know they are expensive. It’s worth it. Make sure it fits. This will make you feel so much more confident. Many stores, such as Nordstrom, have complimentary hemming. It’s also something you can typically have done at the dry cleaners for a small charge.

Speaking of dry cleaning. It’s another “do” and it’s, again, worth it.

I have a girl friend who had been interviewing all spring before graduation. All of these interviews were out of town so her suit was constantly going in and out of duffel bags or sitting in the backseat of her car. One afternoon she was wrapping up an interview in Chicago and the male (!) interviewer asked if he could give her some advice. Of course she said sure. He told her that her she needed to get an iron or take her suit to the cleaners because it was so wrinkled.

She was mortified. My stomach did a pity flip flop when she told me. She didn’t get the job. But, she learned. The twenty dollars it would take to clean and press her suit could mean so much more than cover and four cocktails at the bar. It could mean a career. (She is now employed by a great company where she is able to get her dry cleaning done and have -top shelf- cocktails too. See! Growing up can be fun!)

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

A few months ago I was interviewing a recent college graduate. She was green, but we all start somewhere. I was trying to get her to tell me about a time when she had to go above and beyond to repair a negative situation with a client or customer.

She struggled. She said she didn’t have any experience. All she had done was wait tables. Wait tables?! Unless she lives in Pleasantville, she has had to encounter a customer who had a negative experience. She didn’t see waiting tables as a learning experience. It’s a huge learning experience.

Tell Stories

When I was a senior in college I interviewed with a major hotel company. There were about six people from the company conducting the interviews in the basement of hospitality building on campus. They were mainly alumni from the university working for the company across the region all lead by the national recruiting director.

Guess who I got to interview with?

Yep. The recruiting director.

I thought it was a pretty basic, typical interview. That was until he asked how I work with a diverse group of people. I had just come back from an internship in southern California where I managed about fifty people that came from many different backgrounds, but majority were Hispanic.

I could have said, “I think I am pretty kind and tolerant. I don’t judge. I value everyone’s background and opinions…” Yadda, yadda… But, to illustrate how well I managed this group of people, a group that was very different from me, and how much they embraced me I told him about a day we all had a few minutes to spare before lunch service. We were discussing meals we like to make at home. Tamales came up and I chimed in. I had never had a tamale and really didn’t even know what a tamale was. Each lady said they made “the BEST tamales” or their mother’s had the best recipe for tamales.

The next day, I received about seven Tupperware boxes full of tamales.

The recruiter lit up.

We finished the interview and as he walked me out he said, “Man, I love that tamale story.”

In the next few months I was invited to other interviews and a college senior conference hosted by the company. Every time that recruiter saw me he said, “It’s Claire, the tamale girl!”

So not only did he remember my interview; he remembered my name. This story opened a huge door with this company and enabled me to make a great relationship.

Do Your Homework

Dear God, please, know who you are interviewing with.

I was interviewing a man in his late twenties with a representative from human resources. We asked him why he wanted to make a career change. He proceeded to tell us that he didn’t like the company that had just acquired a contract at his current employer.

Guess what? We were that company.

Uh, oops?

We have been blessed with Google. Use it.


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