You have made it this far in your pursuit of your dream career. You did the research and earned the education that will let you land the position you desire and you have decided on certification and registration concerns. Now you are at the point in which you need to focus on doing well on your interview so you can land the job you really want. Interviews are stressful and there is no guide that will make it so that you are able to ace an interview every time. Instead, you need to do your research, understand what is expected, and follow some tips and tricks that were learned the hard way over the course of years of interviews. It all starts with preparation.
Before the Interview Day
Before you even get to the day of your scheduled interview, there are plenty of things to consider. While this list will not be exhaustive to the point of boredom, it will make sure that you have a check list for the most important aspects of performing well prior to, and during, the interview.
- Professional appearance is more important than you think. Do you have large unwieldy sideburns, or unnatural highlights or hair color? As much as you may detest having to revert back to a business professional look, it is time to make the change. You don’t need to go with your natural hair color, just make sure it is one that falls within the human spectrum. You don’t need to shave off all facial hair, but trim it to the point that it is professional, clean and sharp. You’ve heard it before most likely, but if it has been a while – Get a haircut!
- More than just grooming, clothes can make or break a first impression. With your personal appearance in order, you should also start planning out the clothes you plan to wear to the interview. For men, a professional, long sleeved, button up shirt is key. Polo shirts and other pull over short sleeved shirts are too casual for this type of interview. Also make sure that your slacks are pressed and wrinkle free. Shine up your shoes, or at least clean them, and ensure that you are dressed to impress. Women should follow the same guidelines. If you wish to wear a dress type business suit, that will be fine, but slacks and a business professional blouse are also acceptable. Dodge business casual clothing at all costs during the interview, even though you will be in scrubs for the length of your employment.
- Take a short drive. A great deal of stress can build up as you drive to your interview on the actual day. As long as the trip is within reason, try to make the drive at the same time you plan to leave for your interview. This will give you a real idea of how long the drive will take at the given time in regards to traffic and it will also ensure that you don’t get lost.
- Research the company. Most interviewees skip over this step. Learning about the potential employer will ensure that you are aware of what you are getting yourself into. In addition, most interviewers will ask if you have questions, and you can easily come up with a few during your research. Learn the key facts about the company and put those into play during the interview to show that this is more than just another potential job, but a company you really wish to work for.
The Big Day
Once you have gone over the admittedly basic steps listed above, you should be prepared for the big day. An interview can be stressful, but remember, you are just going to have a talk with someone. Don’t think about anything else, and do whatever your normal ritual is to reduce your stress levels. Follow these steps to ensure you put on a great first impression and do well during the interview.
- Leave earlier than early. If you normally plan on leaving 15 minutes before the time you need to be at the interview, double that time, or at least add another 10 minutes to how early you leave. The reasons are two-fold. First, if traffic is an issue, you won’t run late, or at least you can call well ahead of the scheduled interview and let them know you are going to be slightly late. If you call 15 minutes before an interview, when you are stuck in traffic 5 minutes away from your destination, you show your potential employer that you are taking extra steps to be successful. You also have the ability to show up extra early and find where you need to be, fill out any paperwork, and even allow the interviewer to start early if they so desire.
- Greet the person behind the desk in a friendly manner. The first person you meet will likely be a secretary of some sort. Don’t view them as a secretary, but as another person for the company you wish to work for. Introduce yourself and be friendly. If they want to chit chat with some small talk, feel free to engage with them and build a report. If you have some initial questions, ask in a calm and friendly manner. This will ensure that your first interaction with a representative of your potential employer is a lasting one.
- A firm handshake goes a long way. There is actual science behind how you give a handshake. You will find plenty of information all around the internet about giving the perfect handshake, such as this article, but the key is to make sure it is firm, friendly, and welcoming. Male or female interviewers should receive the same type of handshake, firm, but not a strength contest. You aren’t out to show dominance, just confidence.
- Remember their name! This is one of the biggest pitfalls in an interview. When the interviewer tells you their name, commit it to lifelong memory. If they introduce themselves by a title, refer to them in the same way, or ask how they wish to be addressed. You may do the same. Introduce yourself as Christopher Smith, but let them know that they can call you Chris, or Mr. Smith. Your preference is fine, but try to match that of your interviewer so that the comfort level stays even.
- Sit comfortably and loose. This is something most interviewees don’t think about until it starts to bother them. Sitting in a rigid “professional” manner can make the interview physical taxing. Now, this is not advice to put your feet up on the table and lean back, but you can cross your legs, keep your feet on the floor, lean forward, put your hands in your lap or on the table, whatever is comfortable, but not to the point of “hanging with friends” level. Interviews can last an hour or more, so make sure you are situated to move around as little as possible during the course of the interview.
- Stay calm. Before getting into a few questions and best courses of action to answer them, remember this step. Staying calm will keep you from seeming fidgety or uncomfortable during the interview. If you are moving a great deal while giving answers, no matter how true they may be, you may come off as insincere, or worse, dishonest. Keep your cool and remember that the interviewer is just trying to get to know you.
Dangerous Questions and Pitfalls
There are some questions that used to be extremely common that are asked less frequently these days. There are others that are designed to get specific information about who you are as a person and these can act as pitfalls if you are not aware and prepared. The following list will give you a few pointers on some of the more difficult questions and how to be ready for them when and if they arrive.
- Tell me about your biggest weakness. This is one of the worst questions to be asked. Fortunately, the answers are rarely useful so the question is asked less. If you are faced with this question, be prepared. Think of an answer right now before you read on. Depending on what you came up with, you may have just lost the job. The key to answering this question is to use a weakness from long ago, with examples of how you overcame it. Make sure that you are clear with a time frame. For example, telling the interviewer that five years ago paperwork was a major part of your job and the part you struggled with the most. Then explain how you overcame this weakness and constantly work towards improving. Be clear that while this is a “weakness” it is one that you have more or less eradicated over the course of time that you have worked on it.
- What would a previous employer tell me about you? This is a common question and one that you need to be honest during. Throughout the entire interview, honesty is key, but this answer is already known, or will be soon enough, as most interviewers will have already talked to a previous employer or will call them after the interview. Be honest with what your previous employer would say. In most cases, they are limited to only confirming work dates, but don’t count on that. Tell them if there were difficulties between you and your previous employer, but also explain how you overcame those issues. If you were are star at the previous employer, let the interviewer know in a humble way, and explain the reasons you are seeking new employment.
- Tell me about how you handled a difficult patient. Depending on how your externship went, you may not have a great deal of experience to call upon for this answer. If you don’t, explain that to the interviewer, but offer to answer in regards to a difficult customer from a previous job, or a difficult instructor in school. Simply answer with the difficult situation, why it was difficult and how you overcame it. This will show how adept you are at dealing with difficult situations and how wiling you are to change.
- What questions do you have for me? Most interviewees will answer, “Nothing right now, I’m just excited to get started” and this is far from what you want to answer. Instead, ask the interviewer about how you move up in the company, who you would report to and how often things change in the company. Ask how change is handled and what type of training is provided to help a team deal with changes. Ask about the company’s future plans and use this as a discussion point as to where you could fit in to those plans.
- Where do you see yourself in five years? This is a very common question and one that should be used as a way to explain what your goals are for your future. Don’t say you see yourself at the company in five years, instead say that you plan to continue your education, recertify, or earn a certification and hope to continue to learn more about your career in a major way. This will ensure that you show the interviewer that you plan to grow in your profession, regardless of where that may be.
There are plenty of questions that will be asked over the course of the interview that could be listed here, but the key is that you act professional but as yourself. Let the interviewer learn who you are, not who you think they want you to be. Diversity is a key driver behind a company’s success and that diversity is just as important in personality types and ways of thinking as race, religion and other aspects. Make sure that you show your employer that you are confident, but not cocky, and that you will add a great deal to their team. Consider yourself already employed when speaking, but don’t be too heavy handed with how you put yourself into a position. Ask questions at the end about upwards mobility and the goals of the company. You won’t do perfect every time, but keeping all of this information together and understanding it will help you have many more successes than you imagined possible.