In the past week, I've seen a couple of blog posts dealing with the interview. At harvardbusiness.org, blogger David Silverman offers up seven tips to "Ace the Interview." Yesterday, TechRepublic's Toni Bowers gave us "10 ways to be liked in your job interview."
Useful posts, both of them (I particularly like Silverman's Harvard Business blog in general, Words at Work), but they both illustrate what I was talking about in my very first post here when I said most job advice is the same.
Between their two posts, Silverman and Bowers give us seventeen pieces of wisdom to arm us for the job interview. Seventeen-a gold mine, right? Well, let's look at some of them:
- Don't lie (from Bowers)
- Do your homework (from both authors)
- Don't be high-maintenance (from Bowers)
- Dress appropriately (Silverman)
- Don't trash your former employer (Bowers)
- Don't talk too much (Silverman)
- Listen (Silverman)
- Show interest (Silverman)
Really? People need to be told these things? When I ask this (rhetorically), I'm not addressing the authors of these blog posts. After all, they're dispensing wisdom people apparently need, right? They can't help it if people need to be advised not to lie in a job interview. I'm addressing today's (senior-level!) job seekers. Moreover, while I chose some of the above nuggets of advice out of sheer incredulity (Don't lie? Really?), others I pulled out because to me, these are things you can't emphasize enough.
Take Silverman's "Dress appropriately" tip, for instance. I don't even want to know what sartorial horror shows this implies Silverman has seen as an interviewer. Never mind. I just want to take this opportunity to agree-and add that "appropriately" doesn't just mean a suit. Make sure your garments are of good quality and low-maintenance. Always wear a silk tie. A good one, not too loud, not too trendy. In the summer, avoid wrinkle-prone linen suits and go for lightweight wools. I'm not saying people are going to critique your getup when you leave, but quality is one of those things-if it's missing, people notice.
Don't trash your former employer. Just don't. First of all, that's not what you're at the interview to tell them. Second, they don't care about the details of your nightmare job-their main takeaway from your venting session is that you're really negative and bitter. By the way, no matter how awful a job experience has been, there's always something positive you got out of it. Why not talk about that? A headhunter once told me about a candidate who spoke kindly about working for a manager who was actually known for being a monster. That candidate got extra points for being a gracious sport.
Don't talk too much, and listen. Individually, these are pretty self-explanatory. Together, though, they form a powerful reminder that may ease nervous interviewees: the interview is a conversation. You are not defending your thesis. Hence, don't do all the talking. More important, relax. Listen to the question. If it's a toughie, it's perfectly fine-some interviewers would even say refreshing-to pause a moment to think out your answer before delivering it. And, as Silverman points out, listen to what the interviewer says and remember it, avoiding potential gaffes later in the conversation.
I want to end with a piece of advice of my own, from my own experience. It's such a common one it almost sounds trite. But for me, it's not so much a tip as an entreaty: Don't give up!
I'll spare you the boring details, but I will say that I gave up once. I was at the offices of one of my top two all-time dream employers. Some time during the interview I registered where I was. I am here-at the Vatican! Suddenly I panicked. The Pope is not going to hire me. I actually remember the moment I mentally threw in the towel. I'm sure you know how the story ends. You can't give up because the only thing worse than not getting the job is knowing you have no one to blame but yourself.