Discover the dos and don'ts of job interviews from a seasoned recruiter. Learn key truths and taboos to master your next interview and make a lasting impression.

By Wendy Wilsker
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Next week marks 34 years since I started my first job out of college. I remember shopping for my “interview suit”,  carrying around a portfolio of resumes to hand out to potential employers and mailing handwritten thank you notes following an interview. Over the years, I’ve worked at seven different organizations and changed careers twice. I’ve interviewed for dozens of jobs and I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates as both a recruiter and a hiring manager. I’ve seen candidates “hit it out of the park” and I’ve watched candidates completely blow an interview. On the flip side, I’ve observed the behaviors of interviewers range from engaging, welcoming  and values driven  interview experiences to those who strive to “stump the candidate” and share every negative aspect of a company.

Interviewing is hard for everyone. Let that sink in – interviewing is hard and stressful for candidates and it is equally hard for employers. An open position often means that those tasks and responsibilities have been given to other staff members who then become overworked and stressed. Hiring managers are under pressure to fill a role and need to consider the impact of a position on current goals as well as future opportunities.

Here are five truths and five taboos for both employers and employees to consider.

TRUTH You only have one chance to make a first impression. In fact, studies have shown that it takes seven seconds to make an impression.

TABOO Don’t take the formality of an interview for granted. No matter the setting, “dress” for the interview. This holds especially true for interviewers. Candidates are taking time away from their work to interview for a role. They are interviewing you as well. Employees are looking to be “sold” on your organization.

TRUTH – Some jobs really suck. Some bosses are horrible. Some organizations do not live their values and have toxic cultures.

TABOO – Do not “trash” your current or previous organization. That holds true both for candidates and interviewers. It is ok to share challenges, how you addressed and overcame challenges. Perhaps you had to “manage up” and maybe you left an organization because of culture or a terrible boss. Craft your story based upon facts and what you are looking for in a new organization.

TRUTH – Hiring managers want to hear your story. They want to gain insights into your successes, how you overcame challenges and what your professional goals are. Your next boss is eager to get to know what motivates you and what environments you thrive in.

TABOO – It’s exciting to share your stories and the longer you have been working the more stories you have. But, not one hiring manger wants to listen to a 25 minute answer to their first question. It’s ok to ask some questions ahead of an interview – understand how long the interview will be, how many people will be in a group interview and it’s even ok to get a sense of if the interview will be more formal or conversational. Whatever the format, be mindful of how long you are talking, make sure to answer the question you are asked with specific examples and be succinct. It’s always ok to ask if the interviewer wants more details.

TRUTH – Employers love to see loyalty and long tenure. And, the longer you have been at your current job, typically means it’s been that long since you have interviewed.

TABOO – If you haven’t interviewed in five or more years, you are definitely out of practice. Make sure that you prepare for the interview. You wouldn’t run a marathon or even a half marathon without practice and training. Do not go into an interview cold. Find a friend who is in HR or has experience hiring or turn to AI for interview practice.

TRUTH – “Slow to hire, quick to fire” is a phrase many HR managers live by. It’s important to take the time to get to know a candidate and for a candidate to meet key members of an organization.

TABOO – Interview processes that take months often result in candidate fatigue and, in this hot job market, can result in losing candidates to other organizations. From the onset of a hiring process, create a timeframe, engage everyone who will participate in the interviews and set expectations for their role. Determine if interviews will be virtual or in person. Have “back-ups” if someone cannot attend an interview.

And lastly, to candidates, YES, send a “thank you note”!!!

Times have certainly changed since 1993 and while I’m stickler for a hand-written note, in today’s digital world, an email note is certainly preferred. It’s also hard to find actual addresses and by the time a hiring manager actually receives their snail mail, they may have made their decision. We always advise candidates to be thoughtful in their thank you note and address something specific that you and the interviewer connected on. Thank you notes should be emailed within 24 hours of the interview.

Transform your interview experience with expert advice. Contact Wendy Wilsker now for personalized guidance.

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