March 1, 2000
This is the easy part -- just be yourself. It never seems so easy, though.
~ One candidate sat down and immediately started grilling me with questions: What's the office like? What do you do? Do you like it? Why are you on a Mac? How long is the work day? Do you always dress nice? Before 10 minutes were up, he was out of things to say, and when I tried to interview him, he had nothing to say for himself.
~ A quirky art-director type -- quite talented -- didn't bother to shower before his interview. For several days, perhaps. I could tell by looking at him. Somehow he made it to the second round, and looked grungier upon his return -- and my boss could sort of smell the same fact. Presentability is a secondary issue, but no one wanted to have this guy around the office on a daily basis.
~ My favorite interview was with the candidate who was facing a layoff from sidewalk.com. Completely frazzled by the idea of looking for a job, she declares to me how nervous she is as she sits down, and keeps sighing and shaking her head throughout. Toward the end of the interview, when I asked her if she had any questions for me, she paused, took a deep breath, and asked, "--Is there a chance in hell I'm gonna get this job?"
I don't have horror stories yet, like the folks who discard business cards and put their feet up on the interviewer's desk, but I've seen a wide range of people. A few important keys to interviewing well:
~ Do some homework. Visit the web site of the company before you go, so you get a sense of who they are and formulate a few questions to ask when the interviewer inevitably asks, "So what can I tell you about the job and our office?"
~ Be excited. Make sure you want to work for the company in some fashion so that you have an easier time smiling and listening.
~ Look nice. I no longer worry about candidates going the interview-suit route, although for entry-level jobs it helps. But like it or not, the first impression matters, no matter how qualified someone is. Comb that hair and wear a nice outfit. Once you get the job you can whip out the cargo pants.
~ Ask questions. I never mind when someone doesn't have much to ask, but by the same token I'm more impressed with someone who comes in with ideas (see three paragraphs up). Ask about the office hierarchy, specific job tasks, the company outlook, and the career path of the position being filled.
And for me, when all else fails, you should bring imported chocolate. It may not get you the job, but you'll make a friend in no time.
The Cover Letter
Two Things You Can't Do Wrong, No Matter How Poorly You Do Them