As I announced earlier this week, I recently was offered and accepted a new job in Chicago!
Unless you’re a Kardashian or someone else completely unqualified for any line of work, you will have to interview – probably multiple times – before being offered a job.
Yes, it’s awkward and inconvenient and stressful and all sorts of other things that you’d rather not experience but it’s just the way the game works and you have to play along.
Now, I’m not an expert on interviews or getting jobs but, if I’m allowed to do some bragging here – I guess I’m not really asking because I’m just going to start telling you all how great I am… ahem… – I am pretty damn good at interviewing and I’d like to contribute this skill to Target.
I obviously had to interview to get into the company but here’s the thing with Target, if you want a promotion, you have to interview for it. And it’s not just a simple little interview. No no no no – of course not, that would be too easy! No, it’s at least 3 long interviews with anyone from a potential direct manager to directors to senior managers.
Just wait, it gets better, before you even get to the actual interview process, you have to participate in these things called “mock interviews.” Yep, you get the joy of practicing interviews which are often more awkward than the actual interview itself.
So where am I getting with all of this? Let’s do the math… I had 3 promotions during my time at Target and had a minimum of 3 mocks and 3 real interviews for each of those promotions, so I have interviewed no less than 18 times in the past 3 years.
Needless to say, I’m considering myself an interview expert today and want to share my brilliant expertise with all of you.
Whether you’re getting ready to graduate, looking for a change in your career or just want to freshen up on your interview skills, this post is for you!
Let’s jump right in…
1. NETWORK! (This actually comes before the interview process, I thought I’d start at the beginning.) I cannot stress this tactic enough. Companies get thousands upon thousands of applications for each job listing they post <– True story, I was told this by a recruiter in the Chicago area! Basically the only way to get your foot in the door to even be considered for an interview these days is to know a friend of a friend of a friend at the company or organization. It’s sad that this is the way it is but that’s life so here’s how to work around it.
A few months before you’re ready to look for a job let your friends and family and every random person on the street know that you’re interested in a job at X company or in Y location. Bring it up in every conversation (I’m not kidding!) – See someone with a company badge on the commuter train? Ask them what they do for the organization and show your interest. Grabbing a quick drink after work? Let the bartender know that you’re looking to make a career change. Make new friends at your gym and ask them where they work and where their friends work. Update your LinkedIn profile and start reaching out there as well. Soon enough you’ll find someone who has a connection at your desired company.
Make sure your resume is updated and available at this time too in case you’re asked for it. It would also be beneficial to have a 30-second elevator pitch – a quick summary of your accomplishments, career experience, your future career goals and how you can make a positive impact for the company. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for the company.
2. Be yourself. I mean this in a professional manner. Don’t you dare step into an interview after a few glasses of vino wearing your favorite lululemon pants. Please no. I mean be yourself in the way you speak, in the way you act, in the way you answer questions. An interview is just as much your time to learn about the company as it is for them to make sure you’re qualified and good fit for the team and organization. If you’re not yourself, you could end up in a job that doesn’t fit your personality and both you and your team will be miserable.
There will be times you go into an interview thinking that you would LOVE to work for a company and then realize that it’s totally not your style. Guess what – that’s 100% okay! It is so much better to realize this before you commit to a job (think of interviewing kind of like dating, you want to get to know them just like they want to get to know you!) and then hate it for the next few months until you find a new gig.
3. Be confident. Yes, be confident even if you’re not a confident person. This is one of the few times I’ll actually promote the phrase: “Fake it ’til you make it.” (*Cringe*) YOU know your resume and your experience better than anyone else so own it and show it off! Did you start a new process for your current team? Did you save your last company millions of dollars? Are you awesome at telling compelling stories with data? Yes? Then do a little bragging and find ways to bring it up in your interviews. Your interviewer will not know how awesome you truly are unless you tell them.
Be loud. Be proud. Be confident.
4. Have the “leg up” in the process. Let me remind you that YOU are the one looking for the job here. Yes, the company is looking for an employee but let them need you more than you need them. I know, I know… this is hard to do when you have bills to pay and don’t want a blank time period on your resume but trust me, it will work out in your favor.
Not that I know from experience or anything, but do not tell them that you’re already planning on relocating. Don’t tell them that you are already planning on quitting your job. Don’t tell them anything that might give them the hint that without them, you are going to be in this desperate, I need a job right now kind of state.
By holding this “leg up” or playing hard to get (c’mon ladies, don’t pretend like you don’t know how to do this…) – you will naturally come off as a confident, self-supported individual that doesn’t need them to succeed which will make them want you even more!
Let them think that you love your current job. Let them think that you make an amazing salary. Let them think that you’re only interviewing because the opportunity became available. Let them think that you’re happy just the way things are. And remember this when we discuss negotiations :)
5. Be conversational. Guess what, we’re not living in the 1950’s anymore. Shocker, right?
An interview shouldn’t feel like the interviewer is doing all of the questioning and it shouldn’t feel intimidating. You shouldn’t be sweating profusely and you shouldn’t feel like you’re on trial. You shouldn’t feel anything of these things if you’re doing it correctly.
But that’s the thing, most of us don’t know how to do it correctly.
Like I said above, an interview is just as much about you learning about them as it is them learning about you. So, be conversational.
Yes, they’re going to ask you some behavioral questions and some skills questions but there should also be some “get to know you” questions as well. Make that time as conversational as possible. Ask them about the team. Ask them about their current projects and their passions at the company. People LOVE talking about themselves so take advantage of this and have a conversation with your interviewer. When they start talking about something they are passionate about at work, ask deeper questions. Get to know this person because they might be your coworker in the future!
Plus, if your conversation goes well, it’ll mean fewer scary interview questions for you ;)
6. Do NOT apologize. Lord help me if I ever find out ANY of you utter the words “I’m sorry” during an interview. No. Do not do this.
The only time you should apologize is if you’re late (call ahead if this is going to happen) or you burp really loud during an interview (if you do this, please tell me – I could use a good laugh!).
They want you. Besides the obvious (you’re awesome!), how else would they have selected your resume and experience from the thousands of other applicants? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Therefore, no apologies.
Do not apologize if you’re not a Microsoft Access guru. Tell them that you have a bit of experience with the application but are a fast learner and will be ready to jump in if offered the position. Do not apologize if you ask them to repeat a question. You’re nervous, it is totally normal to need to hear a question again.
Remember #4 above? Apologizing will not give you a leg up in the process so just don’t do it.
7. Ask for what you’re worth. This is where negotiating come in. Oftentimes HR will ask you what your salary requirements are prior to providing you with an offer. (This happened in my most recent scenario.) Because of this, you need to do your salary research ahead of time.
Figure out the cost of living difference if the job would require you to relocate. Figure out what you’re worth in your current job – it is possible that you might be underpaid or even overpaid (if you’re a lucky one). Figure out what dollar amount it would take for you to accept this position.
Once you have all of that determined – be brutally honest (plus a few thousand). Yep, I went there. You need to ask for a bit more than you think you’re worth. Companies are notorious for “under-bidding” you. So say you think you’re worth $10,000 (obviously this is super low and unrealistic so just go with me here…), ask for $12,000 and you’ll probably get $10,500.
And once you tell HR your numbers, like I just previously mentioned, DO NOT APOLOGIZE. You’re worth every damn penny that you just asked for so do not back down.
If they bring up something lower say something along the lines of, “Before this conversation, I performed quite a bit of market research and for someone with my experience, background and knowledge I expect the salary that we discussed earlier.” Then leave it at that. Most likely, they’ll respect your terms and be impressed by your negotiation skills.
And if they don’t, they don’t deserve your awesome self.
8. Speak in terms, not questions. This goes hand in hand with #7. Don’t say things along the lines of “Oh, well I think I’m worth $10,000, what do you think?” or “Well, I’d really like to have 5 weeks of vacation time every year but what do you normally offer?”
Nope, tell them what you expect and what you’d accept and leave it at that.
When I negotiated my most recent contract, I was very happy with most of the offer but I did need more vacation days for the remainder of 2013 than they had originally offered. I replied back and told (see that, I told them, I didn’t ask) the company that I needed a few additional days for 2013. And guess what, I got them.
I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t demanding. I didn’t ask for anything outlandish. I told them what I needed and they obliged. That’s the thing, if the company wants you, they will give you what you want – you just need to make what you want clear to them!
9. Be polite. Just because you can’t apologize doesn’t mean you can’t be nice and polite.
Say hello. Say it is nice to meet you. Say thank you. Be as courteous to your interviewer as you would be to your grandparents.
It’ll show that you can be mature and thoughtful when working with clients outside of the organization and they will appreciate the gesture.
I could go on and on with little interview tips but I think I’ll leave it at this because this post is super long!
What interview and negotiation tips do you have? Do you have any specific questions you would like to ask me about interviewing? I am willing to do a Part 2 if there is an interest!