This article is part of our 52 week journey through Bill’s latest book, The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Each week, a full excerpt from his book will be presented from beginning to end. To get your copy of his book, visit www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.
Last week we looked at what to do so you are prepared for your interview, whether it is in person or on the phone. This week we will look at how to begin your interview and ensure you arrive on time.
Be on time. That is the best advice I can give you about an interview. I will never forget when I was in Student Government and we were interviewing for a position, one of the applicants was 10 minutes late. During the whole selection process, one of my fellow interviewers (it was a panel of five) kept saying, “but he was late.” In the end, he did not get selected.
Even better than just being on time, you should be early. Don’t be “I have no life and camped outside your office all night,” early, just be between 10 and 20 minutes early. If you are unfamiliar with the building or the city, you need to add extra time, in case you make a wrong turn. Believe me, in some of the large downtown buildings, you can easily get lost. You should arrive at the office where the interview is to take place about 10 minutes early and no later.
Before the interview (perhaps the day before), make a dry run. Simply drive or get a ride to the location of the interview. You may also want to go inside the building (if it’s open) so you can see if there is a directory listing the name of the person whom you’ll be meeting for the interview. Of course, be careful with the dry run. A friend of mine did her dry run on a Sunday and went to her interview on Monday when the traffic pattern was much different due to rush hour. The street she used on Sunday was used as a one-way street during rush hour (going the wrong way, of course). This is a common problem in large cities.
You must also allow for the possibility of a detour because of construction or an accident. If some unforeseen circumstance causes you to be late (despite the fact you left in plenty of time), call the interviewer and let them know of your situation. You should apologize profusely, but not sound whiney. Just explain that there is an accident (or whatever the case may be) and you are sincerely sorry, but you do not believe you’ll make it to the interview on time. Ask if there is any possible way they could still hold the interview when you arrive. You could even ask if there are alternative directions to their location so you can get around the obstruction.
Once you arrive for the interview, introduce yourself to the receptionist if there is one. Tell him or her you are there because you are scheduled for an interview and with whom. Be sure to sound confident but not arrogant. Also, if you shake anyone’s hand, especially the interviewer, use a nice firm handshake. Don’t crush any bones but your hand shouldn’t feel like a dead fish. Try to be as calm and professional as possible.
If you are asked to wait, be prepared to wait for a long time, in case the “boss” is in a meeting. You can look through your notes or browse an industry-related magazine. One should fit inside of your notebook. If you have a briefcase, you could have a book inside. Be sure the book is appropriate. A popular novel would be a good choice; a racy romance novel or the technical manual from a sci-fi convention would not.
Here comes the hard part. Your name has just been called. What do you do? You could run. Don’t forget your briefcase. Or, you could stand up, smile, and follow them back to the interview room. On your way back to the room, take a few deep breaths, and remember you are there to sell yourself, and to make yourself a valuable commodity.
Next week we will look at some sample interview questions, including illegal ones. Also, the four types of questions to NEVER ask during your interview.
Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership, and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.com or www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.