Thanks to my recent post, your CV is as fine-tuned as a good-looking fish. By this time, no doubt, you’ll be practically wading through interview offers; employers, seeing your paperless/pictorial/well-fonted resume will have been falling over themselves to get hold of you and invite you for a coffee and a chat.
Incidentally, conceptualising interviews as nothing more than a chill cup of tea and conversation with your mates is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. See below for details.
I don’t care who you are or how great your interpersonal skills are: interviews are emotionally draining for everyone. And since it’s because of me and my great advice that you’re faced with the prospect of so many interviews, I thought it’d be wrong of me to let you go into that situation without a few handy tips.
Originally, I wrote, “Dress for the job you want,” but that advice is so open to abuse (e.g. turning up to an interview for an HR position dressed as a fireman) that I decided to simplify it.
Friends, you absolutely must wear clothes when you go to interview. Very, very few employers look kindly upon naked candidates. (Classic exceptions include when applying to work as a topless model, lifeguard at a nude beach, or accountant in a large multi-national.)
What kind of clothes you should wear does, of course, depend on the position in question. Hope this helps.
Just calm down!! Like, seriously, if you can’t keep your nerves under control, there’s no way you’ll get this job. You’ll have to move out of your flat and live under a pile of newspapers on the corner of the street. You’ll have to sell your plasma. So, you must relax. I can’t stress that enough. Hope this helps.
One thing that always chills me out is the thought that, even if I don’t get the job, at least I’ll have a free cup of instant coffee and excuse to talk about myself for a couple of hours. Free substandard coffee and Rosie-centric chat are amongst my favourite things. “I guess it all started when I was eight…”
I think it’s a good idea, to sedate the butterflies in your stomach, to imagine that you’re heading to a mediocre, somewhat sterile business-themed caf to have a chat with a friend of yours. Don’t think about it as a job interview: think about it as a conversation with a mate who always insists you wear suits whenever you meet.
Sure, this falls down because very few friends are quite that interested in your employment history, and you probably shouldn’t swear quite that much at a potential boss, but it will give you a certain joviality and cheeriness. Those are qualities, as we all know, which are valued extremely highly by businesses.
Prepare answers for predictable questions
No two interviews are exactly alike, but most employers are bound to ask similar sort of things – why do you want this job, what experience do you have, why have you brought a wasp nest to a business park. That kind of thing. It’s worth scripting answers for some of the more common questions so you can reel them off fluently. Here are a couple of examples; feel free to use them, although I fear they’re not as universal as I’d like so you may have to adapt them.
Tell me about yourself.
Here’s something I really should’ve been prepared for. In the heat of the moment, I think I described myself as “rather reliable and quite hardworking,” but I wish I’d had this to say:
Switch out “Louella” for “Rodge” and “thirty-seven years of age” for “a legal adult, I can show you ID”. Apart from that, this is spot on.
The important bit runs from 00:08 to 00:37; I included the whole clip partly because it’s a banger and partly because I dunno how to crop videos.
What makes you want to work as a breakfast waitress?
This question genuinely did stump me for a couple of seconds because the honest answer was that I really didn’t. I managed to cobble together the following, though:
We have a phrase in English: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I completely agree with that. I think there’s something really special about how that first coffee of the morning can change your mood: it’s almost magical seeing how a person changes after drinking a coffee.
Of course, my Czech isn’t that good. Here’s what I actually said. (Imagine it with lots of pauses and flamboyant hand gestures.)
In English at home we have a certain expression: breakfast – it’s the most important food in the daytime. I agree, yes. To me I’d say there’s something very unusual about when you drink coffee for the first time. You feel better. It’s nearly bewitched when you watch a man drink his coffee.
What are your biggest flaws?
It’s a classic. I started off bullshitting, talking about how I’m too much of a perfectionist and other lies, but I’ve changed my perspective. I reckon honesty is the best policy.
For a start, I’m pretty underqualified for this position and I really don’t have any relevant experience. I’d always much rather be writing my blog than stocktaking and I’ll never value efficiency over having a nice sit down. My sense of humour is pretty childish – I’ll struggle not to laugh if a customer falls over in front of me. I don’t know how to iron shirts so my blouses are always creased, and, anyway, I think spending a long time ironing clothes you’re gonna put on is pointless. My time management skills are appalling; I’m often late for things because I get distracted on the metro and miss my spot. I don’t proofread very well and stuff I write often has anagrams of the words I meant to say. I’ll definitely steal toilet paper from the office; you might as well factor it into my pay.
Workplace flaws aside, I’d rather listen to the same album a million times than branch out and try something new. I’m uncomfortable at sea. I dislike my own first name. I take wasps wherever I go; I don’t know why. Sometimes even I don’t know if I’m joking.
Do you have any questions for us?
This might seem like a simple concession to your lack of knowledge about the workplace, but don’t be fooled. It’s actually a key part of the interview process, and you will be graded on your response.
What’s your policy on pets at the office?
How’s things? Really, though. How are you?
What’s your policy on employees crying in the stationery cabinet?
This is a piece of advice quite often left out, but I do find it crucial. Absolutely do not take wasps into the office with you – it really is frowned on.
I know what you’re saying, “No wasps at all?”
None. No wasps.
Hope this helps.
Leave the interviewer wanting more
As in, literally take some of their stuff.