If you’re anything like me, you probably have Googled “Interview Tips” a million times before any interview. Of course, most of the advice is definitely solid. Recently, however, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and hire people myself, and sitting on the other side of the table has been an interesting experience, to say the least. As an interviewer, I can say that there are a few things that most of the tip lists you visit almost never broach. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Don’t show up to your interview early.
Of course, any job seeker worth his salt knows not to show up to an interview late. But I was surprised by how many candidates showed up to interviews ten or fifteen minutes early. While it’s better than being late, being early can conflict with your interviewer’s schedule. More often than not, I wasn’t completely prepared for an early arrival, and I found myself going into the interview annoyed. The last thing you want to do is annoy your interviewer.
2. Try to slot your interview time mid-morning.
If you are given options in terms of setting up your interview time, try to choose something between 10:00am and before lunch. I’ve found that most people’s attention and memory works best at this time. Think about it—if you arrive too early, the interviewer will still be in the process of waking up. If you schedule a time after lunch, your interviewer will be in a food-coma haze and probably wants to go home.
3. Find something that you have in common with your interviewer that doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the job.
Interviews are probably nerve-racking for you. Believe it or not, they can be nerve-racking for the interviewer as well. Meeting a stranger for the first time to talk about future employment is never at the outset an enjoyable experience. But if you can make a connection—better yet an emotional connection—with your interviewer, the whole process becomes much more comfortable. I’ve noticed that when I find something in common with an interviewee, everyone is more relaxed, and both parties leave the room feeling good.
4. Companies almost always run background checks and call references.
You may have heard online or elsewhere that companies don’t necessarily call references or run background checks. Of course, I can only speak from my experience, but I know that at every single one of the four companies where I’ve worked, references were called and backgrounds were checked. Be sure that you clean up your online and offline reputation, and be sure the references you list will actually have something remarkable to say about you. That means not listing professors who won’t even remember your name.
5. Be memorable.
Of course, being memorable doesn’t mean being ostentatious or goofy or weird. It means standing out in a positive way. There’s tons of things you can do to be memorable, like, as I mentioned before, finding some sort of personal connection with your interviewer. But just be aware that hiring managers have tons of other things to worry about. They sifted through millions of resumes and interviewed dozens. If you want any chance at getting the job, standing out is not just advisable, but essential.
Jane Smith is a Houston-based freelance writer and blogger. She can be reached at: janesmth161 @ gmail.com.