There are many people getting ready to graduate from college or simply just trying to get somewhere new in the professional world today, and I’m often surprised by how little they realize their actions and presentation of themselves reflect on whether or not they become successful. I am in no way a successful millionaire (yet), but I’ve learned quite a bit from my professional experience on getting where you want, what you want and how to do it. Here are 10 simple tips to go by when entering the professional world or interviewing for a new position.
1. Remember, first impressions last, whether they’re a correct portrayal of you or not, so make them good. You have to know that when you first see someone or talk to them, your first impression of them always sticks. Whether it’s my best friend, my husband or someone I never saw again, I can’t say I’ve ever really forgotten a first impression or how it made me feel. Simply conduct yourself in a professional manner, dress-up and be polite. Also, be knowledgable and prepared, which I will cover in the next tip. Use correct grammar. I understand people use slang and incorrect grammar in their personal lives, but when you do it in a professional setting, no matter how smart you are, it leaves the impression that you’re unintelligent. Finally, your physical appearance is the start of your first impression. People see you before you have a chance to speak. So maintain good posture, shoulders back, make eye contact and make sure your attire is appropriate. As a general rule, no sleeveless tops or cleavage showing, no open-toed shoes, no jeans and if you wear a skirt, it should go no higher than the knee region.
2. Always, always come into an interview prepared, which means a number of things: First and foremost, have a copy of your resume (covered in #5), a copy of the job description and qualifications, a filled out copy of any possible employment application or background check waiver you can find for the company online and a pen/something to write on. You should always do some research on the company and position beforehand, so you’re able to talk about the company and statistics or interesting facts for your position. If it’s a position and company you really want to work for, this should be something you want to be knowledgeable on anyway. Bring any past item you can to show off your experience–portfolio, charts, pictures, etc. and always do whatever you can for the company beforehand. If you can promote them in some small way or incorporate a clever design into your presentation or resume, do it. It only shows that you care that much more.
3. Never answer an interview question negatively. When my husband is asked a question, he tries to answer as neutral and business-like as possible. So, this is something he taught me. When you’re at an interview, or in a business situation in general, and asked a question that’s meant to bring out something negative, always answer as positive and neutral as possible. For example, if you’re asked, “What was something an employer did that you didn’t agree with and how did you handle it?” Don’t start bashing an employer or talking about how awful a company was. Don’t even state the company you’re talking about. Simply come up with the most positive and neutral spin to your answer for that question. No company wants to hire someone they think might portray them in a negative light in the future. No matter how awful a past boss might have been, this isn’t an opportunity for you to bash on them.
4. Wear something that fits or portrays the place you’re interviewing for. This one seems pretty self explanatory, but if you’re interviewing at a company whose company color is dark blue, wear a dark blue shirt or dark blue accessories. If you appeal to the company, even in a subtle way like that, in turn you can appeal to the person interviewing you and seem like an asset or part of the company already. If there’s not a specific color, there’s a chart on the right that explains what certain colors can portray when you wear them. Normally, subconsciously, and even sometimes consciously, strategically wearing a certain color will stick with people in a positive way. For example, political and presidential candidates are always told to wear a certain color tie or shirt to subtly and subconsciously appeal to the general public. The same idea works here.
5. Bring more than one copy of your resume and put it in a nice folder or binder. Always, always, always bring a copy (or two or three) of your resume and as a side note, always bring something to write with and on. You always want to look prepared and like you actually spent some time getting ready for an interview. Even though some employers will print out your resume beforehand, to reference #7 below, better safe than sorry. Always prepare for the worst possible outcome and expect the best. So, in this case, bring three extra copies of your resume and expect to not hand any of them out. Also, put them in something nice like a folder with the company’s logo on it or a clear holder or whatever you think is cool and would make you look business-awesome. It never hurts when you go the extra mile.
6. Brand yourself and find subtle ways to stick out that will keep you on an employer’s mind. Always find a creative way to stick out (positively) and stay on someone’s mind. Personally, I boldly put my name at the beginning of every resume in color (normally a color that appeals to the business or position I’m applying for). I highlight key aspects of my resume that coincide both with my background AND the job/company description. Don’t be afraid to put every little awesome thing in your resume … that’s what it’s for and that’s your chance to show off. Best of all, if you don’t get too tongue-tied, come up with an awesome speech to end your interview with that will make the potential employer remember you. Be confident and tell them why you’re the right person for the position.
7. Better safe than sorry. If you’re not sure about what to bring, what to wear, what to say or even what you’ll need, it’s always best to cover all your bases. Even if it takes extra time, do the extra research, print one more copy, go with the safe outfit and bring EVERYTHING you could potentially need. Even if it doesn’t necessarily end up benefiting you at the time, at least you knew and at least you were prepared, and that’s all that an employer wants. From my experience and personal opinion, it always shows when you’ve gone the extra mile versus when you’re just hoping you’ve done enough. What type of person would you want in your life–someone who goes the extra mile or someone who only does the bare minimum?
8. Don’t be an idiot with your social media sites, even if you think they’re “private”, there are ways. I have friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. who post very scandalous and even illegal things, and every single time, I think “WHY?!” Whatever you do privately is your business–it’s not my job to judge you. However, an employer’s job IS to judge you and how you’ll benefit their business. Chances are they’re not going to want to hire someone who is doing something that could reflect badly on them, especially when they’re very publicly open about it. I’m not saying change who you are. I’m simply saying if you’re doing something that the government or your grandma wouldn’t consider appropriate, don’t post it for the world (or a potential employer) to see!
9. In an interview especially, keep your personal life to yourself as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying be a wet rag and have no personality. Be yourself and express your unique personality *strengths*, but sometimes being too open with your personal life can hurt your chances at getting hired. For example, when I was pregnant (something I definitely could NOT hide) and finally got a temporary position, the manager who hired me shared some interesting information with me when she eventually took a position at a different company. She told me that when the owner of the company found out I was pregnant he privately asked her to find a way to fire me. However, she couldn’t and wouldn’t because I was a good employee, she had no reason to let me go and obviously couldn’t fire me for being pregnant because that’s illegal. I was lucky she’d already hired me, because otherwise, something personal that had absolutely nothing to do with my professionalism would’ve prevented that.
Case and point: Keep your private life private (as much as possible), even if it’s not negative and wouldn’t change your professional life, some people are quick to make judgments–sometimes for an understandable reason, sometimes just simply because they have no clue.
10. Be confident. I know all of these tips seem like a lot to fulfill, but they’re really not. Chances are if you care enough to be reading this and trying to prepare for an interview, you’re already ahead of the game. Overall, just remember to dress well, act professional and be prepared by bringing the right things and doing the correct research. It’s really not hard–it just takes effort. Effort that, in my opinion, any hire-worthy employee should want to do. Be yourself (not TOO overboard though) and most importantly, be confident. Everyone gets nervous, but the trick is to channel that nervousness into being prepared and confident. If you’ve done your research and brought the things you need, there’s no reason to be nervous. If it’s something you really want and you’re fit for, it will show.
This is a helpful TED TALK I watched on basically preparing yourself for success. It talks about being nervous and how to push yourself past it and into success, and it also talks about how you represent yourself (body language, actions) can come across to someone else. Really, it’s the perfect thing to watch when going into a professional situation or interview.
Also remember, those who are successful don’t normally get there on the first try. No matter how qualified you are or how right you are for a position, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to get it. At some point, you’ll probably get rejected or a position will go to someone else, you shouldn’t take it personally. Chances are it wasn’t anything you did wrong, an employer just chose to go a different direction for whatever reason. You should never let that stop you or hold you back.