How Not to Interview Tips

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Do I have to send a thank you note after an interview?

Interview Blunder: Forgetting A Thank You

If you've just applied for a hundred copy editor freelance jobs--do you have to write a thank you note to each and every one of them? While it may seem incredibly time-consuming, the answer is a simple one--yes.

Writing a thank you note is considered the professional thing to do when it comes to job interviews. In some cases a simple e-mail thank you may suffice, but it is always nice to drop a hand-written note in the mail as well. You don't have to write endlessly, but be sure to personalize the note and include your full name and contact information. Keep the card or stationary simple and professional, and avoid any outlandish stamps or loud envelopes.

Make sure that you get the thank you out as soon as possible after the interview. Sending a belated thank you is nearly as bad as forgetting completely. If you are not sure what to write just keep it simple and short. It is also a good idea to express your interest in the position you interviewed for before closing. If you think of the thank you note as part of the interview process, you will be more likely to remember to send one--and more likely to get the job.

You may also want to consider sending thank you notes to anyone who has helped you set up an interview or given you information that leads to a job. It's a nice touch and people like to feel appreciated.

What are some things to consider avoiding in terms of interview attire?

Interview Blunder: Inappropriate Attire

Although not every job interview requires a suit or other formal attire, there are some pretty safe bets when it comes to things that are outside the scope of what you should wear on that important day. Here are some things you may want to keep in mind when choosing your outfit:

  • Creative jobs may give more leeway in terms of interview/work attire, but you should still try to be appropriate. If you are interviewing for a job as a creative director, let your portfolio show your vision; not your outfit.
  • Go easy on the jewelry. Less is more for an interview, and if you have any unusual piercings, you may want to consider leaving them out for the day.
  • Crazy nail colors, briefcases or purses shouldn't be what is making your first impression.
  • Short skirts, poorly fitted suits or outdated clothing are all liable to make a very poor statement about you if worn to an interview.
  • Loud colors may be distracting and overbearing in an interview setting.
It can be difficult to gauge what attire is and is not appropriate for a particular job interview, as some jobs are far more casual than others. For example, a web copy editor may have a more casual dress code than a banker; but that doesn't mean you should show up for an interview in jeans and a t-shirt. It's always better to err on the more formal side for your first meeting with someone from the company. It shows respect for the person and the position.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can always call the human resources department and ask about the dress code. The answer can help guide you in choosing an outfit that is appropriate.

How personal should I get in a job interview?

Interview: Getting Too Personal

In an interview situation being friendly is great--but being too personal is inappropriate. At times this may feel like a fine line to walk, but there are some simple guidelines you can follow that will help keep you from crossing the line. Some things are fairly obvious; for example if you are asked how you got started as a graphic production artist you won't want to point out that your first boyfriend took classes with you which made the training fun. Instead, stick to the subject and don't embellish with personal information.

If you can think of friendly as more of an attitude, it might be helpful. Getting into the particulars about your home life, hobbies and opinions really isn't appropriate for a job interview. Friendly means that you are providing information to the interviewer that will help them decide if you are qualified for the job and a good fit for the company. If a response doesn't fit into those categories, you may want to think twice before saying it.

If you tend to have difficulty with this type of thing, it may help to practice interviewing with someone you know. Have them point out when you are getting too personal, and work on sticking to the facts in a friendly manner. In time you'll be better able to see when you are getting off-track and learn to relay your information more appropriately.

Should I ask about pay and benefits at a first interview?

Interview Blunder: Asking The Wrong Questions

Although you do want to ask some questions at a job interview to show you are interested, there are certain ones that are better left until later in the hiring process. Asking the wrong questions at the wrong time can make you look pushy or even unprofessional.

For example, a first interview may not the best time to bring up salary. Standard interview etiquette dictates that you should either wait until the interviewer brings this subject up, or at the very least wait until toward the end of an interview. Many people pass on this topic altogether until a second meeting or later discussion. Benefits are another subject that is better left alone at a first interview. Although you may well be concerned about this topic, be patient and focus on getting the job before you worry about what you will be getting from the company.

One thing you can do is get an idea of what jobs in your career field are paying these days. Whether you are interviewing for freelance copy editor jobs or something part time, there is value in knowing a bit about what the going pay rate is. The same is true if you are looking at signing on to a more permanent position. If you do some advanced research you'll be current and ready to talk intelligently about pay and benefits when the time comes.

Should I ask questions during an interview?

Interview Blunder: Not Asking Questions

While you may wind up answering many questions during the course of an interview, you should also ask a few. People who don't can come across as uninterested and apathetic to an interviewer. It can be tough to strike the perfect balance between inquiring about a few things and talking too much, but well-timed questions can help show you are both sharp and enthusiastic.

Timing is everything when it comes to asking questions. You won't want to blurt them out whenever they come to mind. Instead, wait for a good opportunity when it seems appropriate to switch gears or delve a little deeper into a particular topic.

Factual clarifications are simple, but should be done sparingly. For example, if you aren't sure of the exact job responsibilities, you might say something like, "How exactly does the creative director job fit into the structure of your company?" Questions that are probing in nature might be better asked toward the end of your time together, when you have established more of a rapport with the person who is interviewing you.

Try to strike a good balance of questions without going overboard. If the answer can wait, you may want to save it for the second interview if there is one. Some questions can be postponed until you are hired and going through training or an introductory period.

How can I avoid being late for a job interview?

Interview Blunder: Tardiness

Most people are aware of the fact that showing up on time for an interview is important. Still, people mess up from time to time, which begs the question--how can you avoid being late for an interview? Here are some top tips for getting there on time:

  • Scope out the site before the day of the interview. If you'll be driving, find out what the parking situation is. If you are taking the train, look for a nearby coffee shop that you can hit if you arrive early. Make a note of how long it took you to get there.
  • Leave ample time to get to the building. Try and account for everything from traffic to weather--and build in plenty of buffer time. Add ten or fifteen minutes to whatever you come up with.
  • Don't go in too early. Arriving an hour early can look as bad as coming late. Find something to do if you get there with time to spare. Go to the library and research creative director careers (or whatever your field is), take a walk in the park to calm your nerves or read the paper and grab a cup of coffee.
  • Ask for directions. If you don't want to ask the person who will be interviewing you, call the human resources department or operator and ask for directions. You can also look them up on the Internet.
  • Double check the directions. If you know someone who lives in the area where you'll be interviewing, ask them if they know the building you will be going to. If you don't know anyone nearby, check out the information you've been given on a map.
  • If you simply can't avoid being late, call as soon as you know you aren't going to make it on time. Sometimes it is just unavoidable.
Being on time for an interview is crucial to your success in the job hunt. Try using some of these tips to make sure you arrive on time!

What are some things to watch out for during a job interview?

Interview Blunder: Appearing Distracted

Appearing distracted during an interview can be a big mistake. The person who is interviewing you will be looking for signs that you are engaged in the conversation, such as eye contact and quick responses. Attending to them shows the professionalism that is expected in this type of situation, and if they don't think you are listening, you probably won't be considered for the position.

So what are some ways you may appear uninterested? The number one thing to watch out for is your cell phone. It is vital that you turn it off prior to an interview, so check this--and double-check it when you get to the building. It doesn't matter if you are hoping to get a creative director job or one as an editorial assistant; a ringing phone will leave you off the hire list pretty darn quick.

Your watch is another potential issue. If it chimes on the hour, turn the feature off--or ask someone to do it for you if you aren't sure how. Also, don't check the time at all while you are speaking with the person who is interviewing you; they may find it rude. Fidgeting is another thing to keep an eye out for as it can make you look either bored or nervous.

Should I comment on past work experiences that have been negative when interviewing?

Interview Blunder: Complaining

When you were a freelance copy editor, your boss repeatedly called you at home to ask you questions late at night. Should you comment on or complain about things like this if asked in an interview? The answer is simple--no. Stick to the positive, otherwise the person that it may reflect badly on is you.

While it can be tempting to tell people about the crazy co-worker you had, or the demanding, irrational boss that walked around barefoot in his office, the truth is, in an interview situation people will not see this in a good light. Even minor negativity can make you look like an ungrateful gossip. After all, people haven't met the people you are talking about, so the person who comes across poorly is you.

A great strategy to combat this is to re-frame negative things in a different light. For example, rather than just talking about your crazy co-worker's behavior, emphasize your ability to get along with all types of people. Instead of revealing all the flaws that your demanding boss had, talk about how you are able to meet and exceed expectations. This way, you can refrain from looking ungrateful or petty, and make yourself look good as well.

Should I exaggerate a little bit at an interview to get a job?

Interview Blunder: Exaggerating

When interviewing for a job, there may be some questions that you really can't answer off the top of your head. For example, if you are asked how many years total you have been a copy editor and you aren't absolutely sure, you may want to say so--or at least allude to the fact that you aren't certain. Boldly stating facts without knowing for sure could actually lose you the job, depending on the interviewer. In other words, don't tell someone you have been working in the field for ten years if you haven't--they can check.

In certain cases giving an approximation can help you out of this type of bind. When it comes to employment facts such as years with a particular company, dates of training or other key pieces of information, you'll naturally want to appear confident when someone asks you about them. If you aren't sure, however, you can always use words such as "about," "around," and "approximately" to give you a little room.

Another area where you shouldn't exaggerate is experience. Inflating responsibilities or trying to impress an interviewer by lying about your actual knowledge base is a mistake that can cost you. Although it may be tempting to try and win someone over, being forthright and straightforward assures that you don't have anything to worry about in the long run.

Why do I talk to much during interviews?

Interview Blunder: Talking Too Much

It doesn't matter if you are interviewing for a position as a writer, production artist or art director; the one thing you don't want to do is talk too much. In an interview it is expected that you will answer questions, elaborate a bit on answers and ask about various details. This is all considered within the bounds of reasonable behavior, but going on and on disturbs the natural flow of information that should be going back and forth during the interview.

You may find that the urge to chatter on endlessly hits you at times like this--after all--you are probably a bit nervous. If you find you are a real talker during interviews, you may want to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization before you go in to help yourself stay calm. If you suddenly realize you have been talking for a long time, just bring your current thought to an end and wait for the other person to speak. It really is that simple!

Another great way to curb your desire to talk a lot during interviews is to practice. Try having a friend interview you. Schedule several interviews and practice; even if you may not ultimately wind up taking the position. Once you have some strategies under your belt, it will be a lot easier to feel comfortable when you are talking with someone about a job.

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Lynne Christen