Some of you may not know this, but I originally started blogging with the intent to share career advice to those getting ready to graduate or nearing the end of their college careers. I've sort of veered away from my original intent, but the yearn for sharing advice still resonates.
It has been almost three years since I first interviewed for my current job (yikes!! time flies, doesn't it??). Since then, I've sifted through hundreds of resumes and sat in on interviews through my current job and various positions I hold outside of work. So I've now been on both sides of the interview process.
While times are changing, there are a few key factors that go into being interview ready and for which haven't changed. One being the dress code and another the preparation beforehand.
In this post I hope to share a little "interview ready" insight with you. May is the perfect month to do so, because a lot of you will be starting the interview process for your first job or possibly searching for the next step in your career. First up, let's talk about what you should wear to an interview.
Dress (What not to Do): Before I get into the "interview appropriate attire," I wanted to touch on a few... well, don'ts.
- DON'T wear overpowering perfume. One spritz goes a long way. Sometimes, none is better.
- DON'T wear a lot of jewelry. One bracelet or watch, per arm. One ring per hand. Stay away from bright or colorful necklaces. Keep earrings understated.
- DON'T show too much skin. Refrain from sleeveless unless it's middle of summer and there's zero AC in the building. Make sure your skirt or dress is appropriate length. And don't wear a top that's too low cut.
- DON'T wear flats, unless absolutely necessary. Even a slight heel is all you need. In the same regard, don't wear heels that you'd wear out to the club on a Saturday night.
- DON'T bring ten thousand bags with you. Leave the lunchbox and workout bag at home.
Dress (What to Do): Throughout this post I've featured the perfect interview ready outfit. A classic dress, appropriate length, minimal jewelry and the simple black pump (side note -- please ignore the purple nail polish... not really interview appropriate. Go with a nude or lighter shade). The necklace could be a bit bold for some interview environments, so a classic pearl necklace or simple gold chain would work as well. Use your best judgement based on where you're interviewing. For me personally, I like to make sure that I don't lose my personal style, even for an interview. As someone who has interviewed others, I appreciate the effort of looking business professional, but still seeing someone's personality shine through in their outfit of choice.
So I chose a simple, business appropriate dress from J.Crew Factory. The pattern is subtle enough that it isn't overwhelming. You could even add a black blazer over the dress for a more professional look.
When it comes to jewelry, I again used a bold necklace to tie the outfit together, but it's still understated enough that it doesn't overpower an interview ready outfit.
I kept to the golden rule of one bracelet or watch. And then wore classic black pumps. A good work tote and a put-together hair and makeup combo, makes for the perfect interview ready outfit.
**Note: always use your best judgement when preparing an interview ready outfit. Some business environments expect a classic pants or skirt suit for ladies.
Now that you're dressed and ready to go, let's talk about some things to do before your interview. A little preparation goes a long way.
- Make copies of your resume and cover letter. Make copies of your list of references as well. Make more copies then you think you'll need. You never know who else might pop in the interview. The worst thing in the world is to arrive empty handed.
- Do your background research. Learn anything and everything there is to know about the company and who you're interviewing with. Employers like someone who is knowledgeable and seems interested.
- Eat. Nobody wants to hear your rumbling tummy in the middle of the interview. Eat a balanced meal beforehand.
- Try to schedule your interview in the morning. You'll be fresher and your mind will be stronger. End of day interviews tend to be bad for both the interviewer and interviewee. You're tired and you've worked your brain all day.
- Plan out the route you're going to take to get to the interview place. Time out metro or bus schedules, print off a map, or setup the address in an app. My favorite app is HopStop. I used this when I lived in New York and I still can't live without it. HopStop allows you to input your start and finish addresses, plus the mode of transportation, and what time you want to "arrive by." That way you know exactly which train to get on, or what time the bus leaves. This app has helped make sure I'm always on time.
- Set five alarms. If your interview is first thing in the morning, set several alarms.
- Arrive 10 minutes early. If your interview is at 9:00 a.m., walk in the door at 8:50 a.m. Any earlier is overeager and any later is well, late.
- Prepare three go-to questions for you to ask at the end of your interview. Employers love to be asked questions too! And an interview is just as much about you finding the right fit, as the employer finding the right candidate. My go-to questions are:
- "What is your favorite part about working for X Organization?"
- "What is the most important characteristic you look for in a candidate?"
- "What is your timeline for hiring?"
- Refrain from asking about salary during the first interview.
- Come up with a good response to "what is your weakness?" Always, always turn a negative into a positive.
After your interview, be sure to send thank you emails, as well as handwritten thank you notes... immediately. My trick is to prepare the envelope and card before the interview, write it as soon as I leave and slip in the mail that day.
Did I miss anything? Have any questions about preparing for your interview? I'm happy to help! Just shoot me an email or comment below. **Photos by Lisa Chiu