You’ve read Anna F.’s basic job-gettin’ guide. You followed that up with Joe’s career-wrangling advice. And…congratulations! IT WORKED. Someone from the place where you hope to be gainfully employed emailed you or left a message on your phone! And that person wants you to come in for an interview!!! OMG, NOW WHAT????!!!!
Most people do not think of job interviews as “fun.” There’s a lot of nervousness and uncertainty involved—it’s hard not to have a searing, aching, heart-bursting-out-of-your-chest, OH MY GOD, PLEASE HIRE ME, I’M PERFECT FOR THIS JOB–type feeling when you are sitting across a desk from a person for whom you would like to work. Plus, there’s a solid chance you will sweat through the pits of your most professional-looking shirt. Some people hate interviewing for jobs so much that they will stay at a terrible job just to avoid it. THIS IS 100 PERCENT UNDERSTANDABLE.
We (Krista and Lena—hiiiiii!) are not “some people”! Interviewing for jobs is not our favorite thing to do, but we actually enjoy the process—partly because we’re good at it. (Lena has also been the hiring interview-aire many times in the past.) Between us, we have reeled in offers from almost every place we’ve ever had in-person interviews with. We advertise this fact without much fear that we’ll jinx ourselves for the future, because we know the following to be true: We are smart, personable, hard-working, and capable people. So are you! And when it comes to totally nailing an interview, really believing that you are the best possible candidate for the job is essential. The fun part lies in convincing someone else of that fact. Deep breaths, babes. Let’s get to it!
Before the Interview
The first step (after calling your favorite person and screaming and doing this) is to write or call the employer back as soon as possible to thank them and to schedule your interview. If you can help it, DON’T WAIT until the next day. These people haven’t met you yet and don’t know how badly you want this job (really badly!!!!), or how perfect you are for it (so perfect!!!). Silence runs the risk of being interpreted as apathy. Don’t sweat what you’re going to say when you write or call back—all you need to say is some combination of “yes,” “thank you,” and “what time?”
Next comes pre-game prep. Before you even think about what you’re going to wear or how you’re going to dazzle them with your intellect, head to the computer. It is time for DEEP INTERNET RESEARCH. How much do you actually know about the job that you’re interviewing for? Is it at a major corporation, or a tiny independent business? Who is the owner? What products does the company sell, if any? Have you checked out their social media presence? If you’re interviewing at an online or print publication, are you extremely familiar with that publication? As in, have you EVER READ IT? Do you know a little about each of its main editors? If it’s a restaurant, can you talk about the kinds of food they serve? If it’s a boutique, are you familiar with the lines they carry?
You’re probably going, “DUH, YOU TWO!” but you’d be surprised how many people waltz into interviews without having done a full (or even partial) reconnaissance mission. Being informed about the business you want to work for is one of the few parts of a job interview that is totally in your control, and it will be noted by the interviewer.
The added bonus of doing Deep Internet Research—besides impressing the sox off your interviewer—is that it helps you decide if you want to even work for these people in the first place. Google the company and pay attention to the “About” and “Staff” pages on their website. Read any news stories that come up about it. Are there any women in leadership roles? Are the company’s business practices in line with your values? Have there been any major scandals? Did they just lay off a bunch of longstanding employees (if so, they may be hiring you as a low-cost replacement, which is at least a little shady).
Next: Having dug through your potential workplace’s (figurative) drawers, it’s time to go through your own (literal) ones. As in, what are you going to wear? This is actually the least difficult part of the process, so don’t spend a lot of time on it. Unless you’re interviewing at, like, Vogue, as long as you look “professional” (as in: NO JEANS OR SNEAKERS—seriously, not even if you’re interviewing at a SUPER COOL STARTUP/BLOG FARM/FASHION MECCA), you’re good. (If you are interviewing at Vogue, this should be helpful. Good luck!)
Some jobs—like in business, finance, and politics—require employees to wear suits. If you’re looking for a job in just about any other field, that is NOT the case, and might even appear awkwardly formal. In most instances, the following dorky-sounding but “professional” articles of clothing will make you look “put together”: a dark pair of dress pants (avoid khakis or cargo pants because they tend to look a little too casual) or a clean-lined skirt WITH a nicely pressed button-up shirt (tie optional) or a (PLEASE forgive us for using this word) blouse. If you own a pair of dressy leather shoes, like oxfords or low heels, clean ’em up and wear those.
If you’re still unsure about how people are dressing for work these days, check out ::dying a little inside:: Ann Taylor at your nearest mall for a bit of inspiration. Ann Taylor is basically the czar of business caszh, but J. Crew and Banana Republic are also good reference points. After you’ve scoped out one of those places, you can then merrily head to your nearest thrift shop, consignment store, or friend’s closet to build your own (super cheap) version of the professional outfits you saw there.
All dressed up in your freshly pressed button-up shirt and most capable-looking pants? Great! Here’s a basic grooming checklist:
- Take a shower.
- Wear deodorant. (Even if you have strong feelings about not wearing it, this is a good time to make an exception.)
- Wear your hair the way you usually wear it, so you look like you.
- Bring mints. Eat one before the interview. (Especially if you smoke.)
- Don’t wear perfume. (What if your potential boss hates perfume or is allergic?)
- Keep your nails simple. This advice will truly sound like it’s coming from olds (AHEM), but a chipped mani will look “sloppy,” which your work is not.
- Piercings? Your call, based on the business. But if it’s on your face and it doesn’t hurt to take it out, it won’t hurt to take it out.
KRISTA: I always take my lip piercing out for interviews, as I’ve found it terrifies some potential bosses. Once I have the job, the lip ring magically reappears, like, Oops, I had this all along, maybe you just didn’t notice it because it looks like such an integral part of my face!