Walk into an interview empty-handed, and you’ve likely already made a questionable first impression. For one, you simply don’t look prepared, says Tony Beshara, a placement and recruitment specialist and author of “Acing the Interview,” among other job-search books. Plus, while your competition backs up their claims with hard evidence, you’ll be pitching yourself without any proof. As Beshara puts it: “You’re going to sit there and say, ‘I’m going to be a good employee, because, by God, I’m just a good employee.'”
You can do better than that. Look prepared, support your claims and show your interviewers why you’re the best candidate for the position by bringing these six items:
1. Several copies of your résumé. Of course, make sure the résumé you bring is the version you’ve customized for this company and position. (Because you’ve been a good job seeker by tailoring your application materials to each opportunity, right?) As for how many copies, bring enough so that each of your interviewers can have his or her own copy, suggests U.S. News On Careers blogger Chrissy Scivicque, in a post about why you should never go to an interview empty-handed.
And don’t forget to bring a copy for yourself, too. “It is perfectly acceptable to have your résumé in front of you at the interview,” writes career expert and author Martin Yate in “Knock ’em Dead 2016: The Ultimate Job Search Guide.” He adds: “It shows you are organized, and it makes a great cheat sheet.”
2. Company research. Before interviewing (and even applying), experts recommend researching the heck out of your prospective employer. What can you learn from the company’s website and employees on LinkedIn? Has the company been in the news lately? What do people say about the company on Glassdoor?
With this knowledge, you’ll be able to have a more intelligent conversation with the interviewers, and they’ll more easily picture you in the job, writes U.S. News On Careers blogger Alison Green, in a post aboutinterview preparation. And it doesn’t hurt to have your research notes in front of you during the interview, Beshara says.
3. Questions you plan to ask. Because, yes, you should absolutely ask questions. Doing so not only gives you insight into the position, but, Yate writes: “It also helps advance your candidacy because our judgments about people are based, in part, on the questions they ask, since those questions speak to the depth of their interest and understanding.” He adds, however, that the first interview is not the time to ask about salary and benefits. Instead, jot down a few of the smartest interview questions you could ever ask.
4. List of references. Bring a list of your top (professional) admirers, along with their contact information – “just in case,” Scivicque writes. If you advance past the interview stage, you’ll save the employer a step by providing this information in advance.
5. A folder to store all this, and a pen and paper to take notes. “These demonstrate your preparedness, and they give you something constructive to do with your hands during the interview,” Yates writes, qualifying that these materials should be “decent.” That means you should skip the ragged folder and the notebook that still has your old American History notes in it from a decade ago – its wire spiraling a hazard to anyone within a foot radius. Consider the materials a reflection of you. No need for leather binding or embossed monograms, but make sure your materials are clean, tidy and not distracting.
6. Bragging rights. Also bring “collateral materials” to leave behind with interviewers, Beshara says. “Things that show you are better than any other candidate.” Think: glowing performance reviews, test scores and certifications, accolades you’ve received in writing, letters of recommendation and successful plans you’ve developed for other companies. As Beshara puts it: “You’re communicating that ‘I’m really good at what I do, and everybody I ever worked for really knows me, loves me and they’d hire me again.'”
Don’t have much to brag about? “Then you’d better find something,” Beshara says. If you’re fresh out of school and without much professional experience, for example, cite good grades, awards and kudos you’ve received from professors and mentors. “All you’re trying to do is show folks that ‘I’m a damn winner,'” Beshara says.
Once you’ve put together these materials, practice presenting them, just as you would rehearse answers to potential interview questions with friends and family. This step is particularly important if you’re not one to boast. “If you’re not a salesperson, you’ve got to get a sales enough personality to be able to do that,” Beshara says. In fact, he adds, you should prepare so thoroughly that “if somebody woke you up at 3 in the morning and said, ‘give me your pitch on why we ought to hire you,’ you ought to be able to do it.”
This training will pay off come interview time, when you can readily cite your materials as opportunities arise in the conversation. (“Oh, you’re looking for someone who can write proposals? Let me show you the most recent one I’ve written and the results it achieved.”)
Or you could take control of the interview at the start by walking interviewers through your book of achievements – think five to seven minutes, not 45 – and how they prove you’re the best fit for the job, Beshara says.
Is the tactic a little forward? Yep, Beshara says, which is exactly what you need to be in order to stand out among the other candidates. “What’s more painful: Looking for a job or having to learn how to be aggressive?” he asks. “You have to be aggressive about it, and that’s all there is to it.”
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