Preparing for In-Person Interviews

Preparing for an in-person interview is similar but know exactly where you are going and allow more than enough travel time. Arrive ten minutes early to check in with security, perhaps visit the restroom to check your appearance, and catch your breath. Know the specific name of the person(s) with whom you are meeting. Smile and be very personable with reception/security. Engage in some casual small talk of a positive nature. Compliment the parking options or the décor (do not criticize anything). Ask them how long they have worked there, what they like best, etc. If they are busy or do not seem to want to engage with you, take a seat, or look around the space and get to know the organization more. Many companies have videos playing or awards/plaques to read. Show your engagement, interest, and a genuine curiosity. Do not sit down and scroll through your phone as if you are doing them a favor to be there. 

A little-known fact is that many recruiters and receptionists are in partnership to gauge candidates’ friendliness and personality. Someone who is dismissive of “lower-level” employees and then switches into full charm mode for the interview is not the ideal co-worker. Again, every little thing you do and say in this process matters.

What to wear for an interview is a difficult decision. A decade or so ago, the answer would have definitively been your most professional business suit. Today, you need to know a bit about their culture to make a good wardrobe choice. For a tech company who wears jeans and Hawaiian shirts every day, khakis and a long-sleeve button-down shirt or a simple skirt/dress is probably best. Even for more professional/traditional settings, we recommend more professional attire Monday through Thursday and a little dressed-down on Fridays (if they have casual Fridays). You want to balance professionalism and sending the signal that this is important to you with the idea that you fit into their culture.

When you have selected the right wardrobe, make sure it is clean, pressed, and fits you appropriately. Your best suit 20 pounds ago is a lesser choice than well-fitting slacks and a shirt/tie without a jacket that fits you to a ‘T’. It is not necessary to go into debt buying new interview attire. Borrow from friends and family and shop resale stores. If you have purchased something new, be sure to remove the temporary cross stitches holding down the back flaps of a suit jacket. You would be surprised how many men and women of all ages overlook that detail.

Bring a portfolio or nice notebook with you to take notes, a working pen and back-up, your prepared questions, extra copies of your resume, and the job description. Leave your phone in your car or turn it completely off for the entire duration of your visit unless you are a doctor who could get called into a medical emergency at any second, in which case you need to disclose that upfront.

When they call you back into the office or conference room, work extremely hard to shake hands (or follow customs they use like elbow bumping or bowing) and learn the names of everyone in the interview. They will hopefully introduce themselves and give you a business card. It is not necessary to have business cards printed for your job search and its poor form to hand your current employer’s business card to a prospective employer. Your resume tells them all they need to know to contact you further.

If they offer you something to drink, only accept if it appears that it is very convenient. If it involves someone traveling to a break room two floors away, politely decline. Stay tuned tomorrow to hear specific interview questions, what they really want to hear, and how to turn a boring conversation into something they will remember!