*This post was originally published on Fashion Journal. In light of COVID-19, we’re republishing career-related content we’ve previously written for Fashion Journal to help those whose jobs and businesses have been affected.
Ah, January. Every year you gift us a clean slate, a fresh start. You fill us with hope about health kicks and travel plans and savings accounts and dream jobs. Especially dream jobs.
This month, more people will be job-hunting than any other month in the year. Recent graduates are planning their foray into the real world and employees are getting re-enthused about finally making that long-awaited career change. Some of us just can’t bear the thought of going back to our job after the Christmas break. That was 2019 us, and we’re different now.
If you’re hoping to land a new job in 2020, you might need these genius interview tips to help you stand out from the crowd.
Outsmart scanning software
There’s a fine line between I’m-the-employee-of-your-dreams and I-once-read-that-companies-scan-resumes-for-keywords. Found an advertised job that sharpens your pencil? Great. Print it out, then physically highlight the skills and requirements that are frequently used or seem very important. Once you have 5-10 keywords, weave these into your CV — but don’t be too obvious. There’s a precise balance between finessing your CV so it is exactly what the company is looking for and blatant plagiarism.
Schedule your interview on the luckiest day and time
Got an opening in your diary for Wednesday at 11:45am? Your interviewer is probably hungry AF, and isn’t listening to a word you say because they’re deciding whether to order the chicken schnitzel sandwich they always get for lunch, or maybe they’ll try the new sushi place everyone is talking about. The point is, they’re preoccupied. Same goes for after lunch (food coma), Mondays in general (long to-do list) and Friday afternoons (drink o’clock). Experts agree the ‘luckiest’ day and time to interview is a Tuesday mid-morning because that’s when employees are most productive.
Set up a voicemail
When an unknown number calls, our human instinct is to scream and throw our phone over the closest fence. But we also don’t like having a voicemail — we don’t like our own voice and we also don’t like calling people back — so it makes it near impossible for people to reach us. In fact, there’s probably no point in having a phone at all. If you’re job-hunting, suck it up and set up a voicemail that is clear (no public transport background noise) and professional (i.e. not your DJ name). If you haven’t changed phone providers since high school, maybe look into changing your message recording. Since you never call yourself, who knows what your 2009 message bank says.
Game face on, earphones out
Let’s make one thing clear: the interview starts when you leave your house — not when you enter the boardroom. Give your outfit one final check, say a few positive affirmations to your reflection and put your game face on. Please don’t approach reception with earphones in your ears and an iced coffee in your hand. It’ll appear you aren’t taking the interview seriously and you’re not great at time management.
Being too early is just as bad as being late
Controversial? Maybe. True? 100 per cent. Ask any interviewer and they will say this is one of their biggest pet peeves. While it’s very important to be punctual, being more than a few minutes early can be considered rude. If you arrive 30 minutes before the meeting, your interviewer probably isn’t prepared. This will annoy them and makes it very hard to claw your way back. If you’re too early, sit outside and rehearse your answers.
Don’t be a jerk to the receptionist
It’s a common scenario: the interviewee is rude or dismissive to the receptionist, then a pure joy to the manager. The problem is the manager will often ask the receptionist what they thought of you, and it’s not going to be pretty. In fact, it’s highly likely there’ll be some swear words involved. The moral of the story? Be nice to everyone you come in contact with, from the courier in the lift to the intern bringing you your coffee.
Create a personal elevator pitch
There’s an ice-breaker coming and it’ll look something like this: “So, tell us a little about yourself”. If you’ve spent all of your time researching the company’s values, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and thinking of impressive things you’ve done, chances are you have nothing prepared for this little gem. Think of it as your personal elevator pitch and practise it until you can say it in your sleep.
Phone interview? Get dressed, stand up and smile
A phone interview doesn’t mean you can stay in bed, and a Skype interview is not a licence to wear a blazer with pyjama pants. Regardless of whether it’s a face-to-face, phone or video catch-up, get dressed in your favourite outfit (with shoes) — this will make you feel more confident. Stand or sit up straight. Smile as you speak. The phone interviewer will be able to tell if you’re lying on the couch covered in Doritos dust.
Come prepared with a list of ideas
It goes without saying that most people being interviewed are going to research the company, prepare their answers and turn up on time. But will most people go above and beyond by bringing a list of curated ideas relevant to the role they’re applying for? Doubt it. If it’s a sales position, this could be a handful of sales leads. If it’s a writing job, it might be a list of pitches.
Nail the ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ question
Don’t think you’re being cute by choosing a weakness that’s not really a weakness. Interviewers can see right through it, and you’ll come off as sneaky and not at all self-aware. Instead of claiming to be a perfectionist or someone that just works too hard, opt for a real trait that doesn’t negatively impact the role too much. Be honest in explaining the trait, and follow up with how you’re actively working on it.
Think in reverse for every question
Whether it’s a cover letter, CV or interview, we all have a really bad habit of explaining why the role would be really great for our career progression. It’ll give us a chance to spread our wings, allow us to explore other industries or help to boost our experience. But does the company really care about our wings? Avoid answering questions with how the job will help your career, instead focus on how your skills and experience will better the company.
Answer with the STAR method
Experts say the ideal length of time to wait before answering a job interview question is three seconds. If you answer too quickly, you probably haven’t thought about it hard enough and might miss something vital. If you wait too long, they will think you’re weird and ask if you’re okay. This three seconds is really key to crafting the perfect answer, which should always follow the STAR method: first you explain the Situation you faced, then you detail the Tasks that were involved, followed by the Actions you took and finally reveal the Results you achieved.
Have a damn good question to ask at the end
You know that part at the end of the interview when they’re packing up their notes and thanking you for your time and you think you’re off the hook? They ask, “So, do you have any questions for us?” It sounds like they’re just being polite but they’re actually tossing one last grenade in your direction. Don’t blow up in their faces. This your chance to leave a lasting impression, so have something prepared. Be genuine and ask something you’re actually interested in learning, such as what the culture of the business is like, what they personally like about working there, or what an average day looks like for a person in the role you’re going for.