When I interview for a job, I’m generally relaxed, doing my best to enjoy the experience. I see interviews as a process of career-oriented research and development, and if you don’t make your interviews feel like an all-or-nothing high-stakes game, then they won’t be.
Interviews can be successful even if you don’t get the job, and I have some rules for making it more likely for your interview to feel successful.
Some simple rules of interviewing are the same as face-to-face networking: dress up, show up, and follow up. But there’s so much more.
Here are some of my top interview rules:
Rule #1: Dress for success. I’m sometimes shocked at how casually some people will dress for an interview. It can feel really uncomfortable if you feel underdressed, so it’s never a bad idea to overdress just a little bit. Wear clothes that are comfortable, well-pressed, and sharp. Your shoes should be clean and polished. Men should be well-shaved and groomed, and women can wear whatever amount of make-up feels appropriate for their personal preferences. Dressing nicely is key.
Rule #2: Know where to go. Nothing will stress you out more than getting lost on the way to an interview. If you have time, do a trial run to the location of your interview one or two days prior, and make sure you know where to park. If you’ll need change for a meter, make sure you have it on hand. If you need to park in a lot, be certain which lot is closest. And if the building is a large and complicated, you can go so far as to find the room in advance so that you can easily navigate to the interview location on the day of the meeting.
Rule #3: Be on time. You absolutely need to be on time for an interview. No excuse will make up for being late. Your trial run should let you know the approximate time you need to get to the interview location, but make sure you allow for traffic, construction, and other unexpected delays.
Rule #4: Smile, make eye contact, and shake hands. Smiling is a simple human form of communication, and smiling along with eye contact creates a feeling of warmth, trust, and connection. And when you shake hands, make sure to use a grip that is firm but not overpowering. In our culture, a handshake can be interpreted both consciously and unconsciously. Have you ever shaken someone’s hand, and their handshake feels like a limp fish? Don’t be that person. Your handshake should be firm, confident, and only last one or two pumps.
Rule #5: Be aware of body language. Your body language speaks volumes about you, so be aware of what your body is doing during an interview. The crossing of legs is considered normal in our culture, but if you switch legs frequently or tap your foot repeatedly, you may be demonstrating anxiety and nervousness. Be certain not to sit with your arms crossed, relying instead on a more open posture. Fidgeting with your hair and eyeglasses can be distracting (and also a sign of nervousness, as can scratching your head, ears, or nose. Of course, if you have an itch, by all means scratch it, but be conscious of the ways in which you move or act out of simple habit.
Rule #6: Take your time. Rushing to answer questions may trip you up, so take your time in responding. If a question makes you uncomfortable, you may rush to answer quickly in order to get it over with as soon as possible. Instead, take a sip of water to buy yourself a few extra seconds to think, focus on your breathing, and respond after you’ve calmed yourself down a little bit. Don’t rush, and don’t just talk for the same of talking.
Rule #7: Be prepared. Make sure you do your homework about the organization, its accomplishments, the position and department for which you’re applying, and any other salient information you can glean from your research. Part of this diligent preparation is having your own questions ready. Interviews are a two-way street, so definitely have some questions of your own on tap.
Rule #8: Practice. Preparation for an interview also means practicing your responses to certain types of interview questions. You can download typical questions from the internet or buy a book of common questions. You can practice with a career coach, a colleague, a friend, or a family member. Practice will definitely help you feel better prepared, especially for the more difficult questions.
Rule #9: Bring the essentials. When you go on an interview, bring extra copies of your resume and references, a pen, and a professional-looking folder or portfolio.
Rule #10: Follow up. After an interview, it’s essential to send a professional and well-written thank you note to your interviewer(s). Rather than an email, make sure to write a follow-up thank you letter on the same high-quality paper that you used for your cover letter and resume. This letter should also have the same letterhead as your resume and cover letter. Your thank you letter is not a cover letter. Rather, it can be used to highlight how much you enjoyed the conversation, how you feel that your specific skills can fulfill the needs of the organization (be as specific as you can), highlight some positive things that you learned about the position or the organization, and to express your gratitude for the opportunity. Very few people follow up appropriately, so stand out from the crowd and follow up in a timely manner!
There is much more to be said about job interviews, and we’ll discuss these aspects in subsequent podcasts. Interviews are an important aspect of the job search process, so getting comfortable with them is essential. You don’t have to enjoy them like I do, but you can at least learn how to interview well through preparation, good interview skills, and excellent follow up.
The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by James Larson, and social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.
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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews New Service, LPNtoBSNOnline.com, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.