Some Interviewing Tips, From Someone Who Cares

It’s interview season again at Legion, and as usual, I’m astonished by the approach so many people take to interviews. I know that it’s an employee’s market out there right now, and we’re all scrapping for talent, but there has to be a limit to how desperate people think employers are. Or maybe people just don’t know any better. If that’s the case, I feel it incumbent on me to offer some interviewing tips to job-seekers out there.

1. Show up on time. I always tell people that interviews are first-date behavior, and that what you see at the first interview is the best version of that person you’ll ever get. If they show up late to an interview, they’ll show up late to work, guaranteed. In our industry especially, where the entire point of our existence is to get things to where they belong on time, it is critically important to me that candidates show up at their scheduled time. In fact, if someone is so much as a minute late for an interview at Legion, they are turned away. I had a man show up ten minutes late for a group interview last week and act completely put out that I wouldn’t let him in and start over at the beginning, when the other four candidates had all shown up on time, as expected. My advice? Get to the interview at least 15 minutes early. Make sure your directions are clear and you know what traffic is like around the interview location. If you actually want the job, act like it. An interview is not the time to play hard to get – that’s during the salary negotiation phase.

2. Dress up. I know we live in a casual world, but again, this is first-date behavior. I run a casual office – jeans and polo shirts – but if someone shows up for an interview with me in jeans, they are turned away. You will never regret dressing up for an interview. A suit is not required, but it’s also never out of place. My mother always told me that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, and I’ve found that to be true my entire life. Also, no hats, flip flops, cleavage (men or women), midriff-baring tops (I’ve had more men than women show up in those – make sure your polo covers your tummy), etc. And for the love of all things holy, skip the Axe body spray (or any fragrance) when you interview. Most of the time, these meetings take place in small rooms and even a little cologne or perfume can quickly become overwhelming. I get migraines from any kind of smells, and my assistant warns me when someone shows up smelling like the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. Those folks get a much shorter – and less detailed – interview, because I’m desperately trying to get out of the room as quickly as possible. One day without perfume won’t kill you, and it could save your interview.

3. Do some basic research. What kills me is when someone comes in for an interview with me and they haven’t even gone to our website. I always like to ask what attracted them to the job, and to Legion, and to hear someone who knows nothing about the company try to come up with an answer is pretty spectacular. If you aren’t interested enough in the company to look them up, you aren’t really interested in the job. And I’m not going to hire someone who just wants ANY job, and will go to ANY interview, and figure out if they like the place in the first couple of weeks working there. Google, and spend fifteen minutes reading about, any company where you are going for an interview. Who knows, it might eliminate a company from your consideration and save you and the interviewer some time.

4. Ask questions. This is another strong indication that you have interest in the job. If you show up for an interview with me, I expect you to have some questions about the company, the position, our training, etc. No matter how well my recruiter has prepared you, there has to be something you don’t know that you want to. And even if you think you know everything, ask something anyhow. Especially with salespeople, I’m looking for folks who know how to ask good questions, listen to the answers, and follow up with more good questions. If I get done talking to you and you have nothing to ask me, I’m going to assume you aren’t that interested. I know I keep returning to first-date behavior, but if only one person is asking questions, it’s pretty obvious the interest is one-sided. And I’m not hiring (or going on a second date with) someone who isn’t as interested in me as I am in them.

5. Send a thank-you note. I’m talking a hand-written card, folks. When I was young, my mother trained me to always keep a pack of thank-you notes and a sheet of stamps in the glove box of my car. After an interview, I’d write the note and drop it in the closest mailbox to the office so they’d be sure to get it in a day or so. I encourage my sales students to do the same, and I require my salespeople to send handwritten thank you notes to their new customers. This is an action that takes five minutes, tops, and will set you apart from the crowd in a hiring situation. And I don’t want to hear about bad handwriting. My seven-year-old daughter can write well enough to send thank-you notes. So can you.

Bottom line, if you don’t want a job, don’t go to the interview. You are wasting everyone’s time, and it’s obvious. If you DO want a job, put the effort in to show that. Get there early, dress up, do some basic research, have questions to ask and send a thank you note. None of that will guarantee you the job, but it certainly can’t hurt.

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