How To Ace Your Next Interview

Guys... I get it.  You’re burnt out.  You need to make a change.  Maybe you know exactly where you want to work and what you want to do.  Maybe you just NEED to get out of your current work situation, but you’re unsure of what you should be doing next. 

I was there.  I was burnt out at a job that I felt like I didn’t belong in anymore.  I felt that I had given it all I had, and there was nothing left.  I didn’t know what I wanted, I just knew what I didn’t want, and I knew what I could do, which for me was the first step in moving on.  That was motivation enough for me to brush up my resume, and start searching. 

I spent years interviewing around, looking for my perfect fit.  I’ve been elated and then let down so many times.  I would always get my hopes up when I saw a beautiful office building, or envisioned myself at a beautiful desk that I walked by on the way to the conference room. 

On top of the emotional roller coaster that is job searching, I’ve also made many silly mistakes that I'm sure were a contributing factor to not getting the job 9/10 times.  But I've learned a lot from those mistakes, and luckily learned them just in time to find the dreamiest job and to actually get that job! 

So now I’m here to help YOU get that job, and put your best foot forward as you begin your job hunt journey.  I’ve complied a massive list of everything I’ve learned in my years of job hunting.  These are all things I've learned the hard way.  Some of these things are common sense, but other things often times didn't hit me until after the interview like a ton of bricks, and then send me into a downward spiral of despair and self loathing. 

I am a person who is just naturally bad at interviewing.  I am awkward.  I am self conscious.  And for a while, it showed!  And to be honest, a lot of my experience in nailing interviews just came with time and practice.  However, I wish that someone had told me all these things BEFORE I went into the interview room.  It probably would have saved me a lot of time and heartache.  But fear not, I'm here to tell you all of the job-landing things.

Please keep in mind that these are merely suggestions, and one size doesn’t fit all.  Not all of these rules apply for every position that you may come across, but all of these suggestions can be tweaked and tailored to suit you, your personality, and be applicable to the career field of your choice.  Keep on reading, there's a free resume template download in here to help you get started!

DO

1.  Do make a bundle for your interviewer to hold on to containing:

          A Resume - keep to one page!  Duh, right?  We've all heard that one before, but I can't tell you how many 2, 3, even 5 page resumes I've come across in my short little working life!  Your resume should be clean, easy to read, no crazy fonts or bright colors, and as professionally unique as it can be.  I've included a link to download a FREE resume template here, just to help you get started!  You can change it up, customize it, and make it your own by changing around the fonts and colors.  

          References - You should have at least 5, solid. professional references that your prospective employer can contact.  Include name, relationship, their position, company they work for, email, and phone number.  Remember, ALWAYS ask someone's permission to list them as a reference before giving out their contact info.  There is a references page template in the free download here.

          Cover letter - Your cover letter should be no more than one page.  Better yet, make it half a page.  People are busy, and you need to get to the point with an eye catching, easy to read cover letter that briefly describes yourself, your qualifications, and why you are an ideal candidate for this job.  I've included an example cover letter in the free download, here.

          Business card - You should always have a business card handy, and especially at an interview.  Even though you already have your resume with your contact info on it, it can never hurt to throw in a beautiful, striking business card.  

2.  Do follow up by sending a ‘Thank you’ email THAT DAY. 

It doesn’t have to be the moment you get home, but make sure you send it before the end of the day.  It could give you a bit of an edge over other applicants that may wait a day or two before saying thank you.  A few ‘Thank you’ email subject lines I like…

  • Inspired. Thank you!

  • I enjoyed our conversation today, thank you!

  • Thank you, [name]!

3.  Do Make an ‘Art Card’ to send in the mail

Now this isn’t applicable to everyone, but if you’re a designer, illustrator, or any kind of creative, it’s a good idea to make an ‘Art Card’, AKA a post card with some of your work on the front of it to mail to your interviewer after your interview.  Never underestimate the power of a handwritten note.  They will definitely appreciate the effort, and they may hang on to it to pin on their mood board or desk if they like the design on the front!  I guarantee you will most likely be the only person they interview that will send an original, beautiful hand written card as a thank you for their time.  Win win.

4. Do be ready with a solid answer for the awful “So tell me a little bit about yourself” icebreaker that they always start with

And don't just talk about your career and education.  Show a little more of yourself!  Let them see how cool you are, and why they should bring you into their company culture!  Here's example...

"I'm Margaret, I grew up in Titusville New Jersey, and currently live in Northern LIberties in Philly.  My passion for lived space and architecture came from my dad, who is an architect and designed the house that I grew up in.  My interest for interior design and lived space was recognized at an early early age, but I also loved art, fashion, photography, and so many different avenues.  I decided to study textile design in college, as it seemed to merge all of my interests into one field.  After college, I grew into a graphic design/marketing/ecommerce position for a fashion company, and realized it wasn’t for me.  It's taken a lot of personal growth to make the decision to change my path and try something new, but I am taking it head on and am so excited to be here today!  In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, ballet, and I have a thing where I only can use white post it notes.  I also have a fat, black cat named Liam who is salty and perfect.

5.  Do prep yourself by practicing answering some interview questions that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. 

I always do this exercise before an interview.  It's a good way to stretch the muscles on questions you may think you know the answer to, but when you're face-to-face with another human you may stutter or stumble over them.  Here are some examples of questions employers may ask during an interview:

  • What are your strengths?

    • What are your weaknesses?

    • Why are you interested in working for [company] ?

    • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

    • Why do you want to leave your current job?

    • What can you offer us that someone else can not?

    • What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?

    • Tell me about some accomplishments you are most proud of, personally and professionally.

    • Tell me about a time you made a mistake, and what you did to make it right.

    • What is your dream job?

    • What would you look to accomplish in the first 30 days/60 days/90 days on the job?

    • Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.

    • Why should we hire you?

    • Why are you looking for a new job?

    • Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

    • Give an example of a luxury experience?

    • What is your favorite [said company] core value?

    • What are some of your personal core values?

    • How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?

    • Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.

    • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.

    • How do you handle pressure?

    • What are your career goals?

    • What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?

    • If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he/she say?

    • Are you a leader or a follower?

    • What is your favorite website/brand/influencer/designer?

    • What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?

6.  Do get a manicure (if you’re a lady OR a gentleman too!)

Clean hands and clean feet are a necessity for life.  Un kept fingernails say a lot.  It’s a subtle detail that goes a long way.  No matter what you do, DO NOT show up with chipped nail polish.  Bare nails are better than chipped nails.  And if you're a lady, and you plan on wearing open toe shoes, GET A PEDICURE.  Gentlemen, do not wear sandals to an interview - ever.  It is probably just best not to show feet at all, some people are weird about feet.  

7.  Do plan your outfit the night before

Steam it.  Give your shoes a good shine, make sure there’s no mud caked on the heel of your pumps, or stains on your clothes.  Un kept clothing also says a lot about a person.  If your dress or pants are wrinkled, or your sweater is pilled, or even if you’re outfit is just ill-fitting, it’ll make an impression that you definitely don’t want.  Especially if you’re interviewing for a job which puts you in front of people, or meeting with clients.  Don’t pooh pooh this – clothes and tidiness can make or break a first impression.  Also make sure you're comfortable in whatever you're wearing.  When I'm not 100% confident in what I'm wearing, it affects my entire mood 

8.  Do show up early

If you’re more than 10 minutes early, hang out at Starbucks.  Finish up a podcast in your car.  Just don’t be late!

9.  Do look them in the eye

I know I have a hard time doing this especially when I’m super nervous, but practice on a friend or your husband/wife the night before.  Strong eye contact shows confidence and gumption.  Dodgy eye contact is also a tip off to an interviewer that you may not be entirely honest about something, and you certainly don't want to give that impression! 

10.  Do be honest – tastefully honest

“My biggest weakness is that I work TOO hard”.  Pssshh… you’re not fooling anyone.  If someone said that to me during an interview, I would 100% not hire them.  BE HONEST!  If someone asks you what your biggest weakness is, tell them, but follow up with what you have done / what you’re currently doing to better yourself in that department.  Example: “My biggest weakness is that I take things too personally.  It’s something I’m still working on, however I’ve really done a lot of work on myself internally to recognize that I’m not perfect, and that the constructive criticism is coming from a good place, to help me not to hurt me.  I want to better myself, and be a strong link for the company I work for and represent, and I know now that I won’t achieve my goals unless I receive help from my superiors.  I also realized that quite often, the time I spent obsessing over how a situation made me feel, when I could have been spent rectifying the situation and moving on from it.”

11.  Do Come prepared with questions

NOTHING looks worse to a prospective employer when you have zero questions for them after the interview.  Here are some basic, but solid questions you can ask when they hit you with that dreaded, “So, do you have any questions for me?”

  • First, have I answered all of your questions?

  • Who is your ideal candidate, and how do I compare?

  • Who would I report to? What is the pecking order?

  • How has this position evolved and how to the people who hold this position evolve?

  • How would you describe the company's culture?

  • What do you like most about working for this company?

  • What are the challenges of this position?

  • If you were to hire me, what might I expect in a typical day?

  • What have past employees done to succeed in this position?

  • What's one of the most interesting projects or opportunities that you've worked on?

  • Is there anything else I can provide to help you make your decision?

  • Can you tell me one fun fact about how this company got started?

12.  Do research them, and the industry to death

There have been times when I've been asked to name some companies related to my field that I liked for their aesthetics, but I didn't research them well enough before hand to know that they had bad ethos/business practices etc.  Do your research, especially if you're applying to be in any kind of creative field or position.  Also, keep in mind that creative industries are extremely close knit, and that everyone knows practically everyone.  Refrain from badmouthing another company or CEO.    

13.  Do remember that people want to work with people they like.  

This is a big one.  At the end of the day, people want a person who is a team player, easy to get along with, generally pleasant, and probably with a good sense of humor too.  With that in mind, it's time to slap on a smile, leave the attitude at the door, along with any arrogant or entitled feelings you may have, and just be yourself.  I know this is hard to do when you're nervous.  But if you can let them see the real you, on top of all your qualifications, it's a slam dunk.  However, if they just don't like you, that's fine, and it is probably for the best anyway.  

DON’T

1.  Don’t Say ‘like’, ‘um’, or any other filler words

I was called out on this by someone that interviewed me and it stung when I heard that.  However, it’s the best advice I ever received.  It scared me sober, so to say.  I used to say ‘like’ wayyyy too much.  It was such an embedded habit that I didn’t even know I was doing it.  It’s something I’m hyper conscious of now, and it’s also something I notice in other people too.  To put it bluntly, it sounds uneducated, it sounds immature, and it just sounds unprofessional.  Here’s a few videos I watched to help me kick that bad habit.  I hope this helps you rid filler words from your vocabulary once and for all! 

2.  Don’t give any indication that you may be unsure whether or not you want this job

One of the worst mistakes I ever made was telling an interviewer that I wasn't sure if I'd take the job if I got it.  It sounds so obvious when you say it out loud, but hear me out.  Sometimes we give subtle clues to prospective employers that we may not be digging the position, the office space, the pay, the whatever.  Be careful of your body language and facial expressions when they say something you may not want to hear/like.  Do your best to remain enthusiastic and positive throughout the interview.  If they give you the job, you can always politely decline.  However, you may have blown an amazing opportunity by giving the impression that you're above the position, or that it's too low paying, or whatever ruffles your feathers.  

3.  Don’t look at your phone

Even while you’re waiting.  Don’t even touch it.  And pleaseeee make sure you turn your phone OFF before going in to the interview.

4.  Don’t say, “No, I don’t have any questions!” When they ask that at the end

Trust me, they will ask.  And trust me, you do NOT want to tell them you don’t have any questions to close the interview with.  If you end the interview without asking them any questions, this always tells the future employer that you didn’t research them.  Or that you don’t care.  Or it will really make it blatantly obvious that you’re nervous and can’t wait to get the hell out of that conference room.  (I posted some example questions earlier in the blog post!  Scroll on up.)

5.  Don’t lie

Of course we want to make ourselves look good to a perspective employer, and we may stretch the truth justttt a tiny bit on some of our experience.  Like Excel (I still watch YouTube videos on how to do formulas).  But don’t lie about circumstances, don’t make up stories, don’t say you know how to use InDesign if you don’t.  Our body language when we lie is blatantly obvious, and a really intuitive person will be able to pick up on that and know that you’re not being 100% truthful.  It will also just give the interviewer weird vibes about you, and you don’t want that.  So just be honest, and resist the urge to stretch the truth on certain topics.  You also have no idea who knows who.  So just be careful.     

6.  Don’t bash your previous or current employer

It’s in bad taste.  Even if the person interviewing you is totally cool and would probably understand, just resist the urge to be transparent in that regard.  Talking sh*& on your previous employer just puts a bad taste in people’s mouths and could give the impression that you could be untrustworthy by giving this kind of info during a first meeting.  

7.  Don’t shy away from telling them what you want in terms of salary and benefits -  If they ask! 

IF THEY ASK YOU, don’t say, “I’m negotiable”, or “I’m not sure, what do you normally pay someone in this position?”  I KNOW that talking dollah billz is uncomfortable, and trust me we all hate it.  But going in confidently knowing what you want, and not being shy to let them know what you need is going to serve you well in the end.  

If they do not ask what your salary requirements are, don't panic.  It's not a bad sign, it's just usually more of a 2nd or 3rd interview question.  The first interview is a hand shake, the second or third interview is getting serious.  I asked about salary during a first interview once and the guy looked so taken aback I thought I had just insulted his mother.  It didn't occur to me that I was out of line, or asking anything unreasonable, but it just wasn't the right time.  So resist the urge to ask about it until a later interview.  If they bring you back for another interview, you know that they like you, and are serious enough to talk money and benefits.

Whew!  That was a lot of info.  But I hope that some of this information can be useful.  Most of these things are blatantly obvious, but sometimes we all need a good reminder from time to time.  Interviewing has never come naturally for me, and I envy people who can just breeze on in and confidently talk about themselves!  In my case, I had to practice that in order to land my dream job - the one I currently have!  And I wasn't perfect in that interview at all - but I was definitely well prepared. 

I probably wouldn't have gotten it if I came in trying to wing it.  So I encourage you to practice answering questions, brush up your documents, find that perfect outfit that you'll be comfortable and confident in, and just speak your truth and be your best, authentic self.  Because you're pretty cool!  In case you missed it, don't forget to download my FREE resume, cover letter, and reference template package to help you get started!

Good luck, you got this!

*Disclaimer: this information is not professional advice, and I also cannot guarantee any kind of success or gain from this information.*

Margaret Perkins