Interviews are a combination of super exciting and super stressful. An exciting new opportunity could be waiting for you, but first, you’ve got to make your way through a collection of unpredictable experiences. Preparation, planning, and practice ensure you are ready to thrive in any interview situation.
1. An Adaptable Outfit
More of us are interviewing in offices where business dress is the norm, and while you should always lean towards the formal side, part of the interview is showing that you can adapt to a new company culture. Pants and jacket are my go-to combination — fully buttoned you look formal, open jackets are bit more casual. And unless its particularly warm out, I’ll switch it up with a nice dress and jacket. In all but the most formal settings, steer clear of the jacket, collared shirt, and skirt combination. It can come of as “junior” if it lacks any hints of your personal style, and is harder to switch up on the fly. I also steer clear of bold jewelry (such as big chunky necklaces), as it can be distracting.
2. Your Brand Content Package
Interviewing is all abut marketing yourself and what you have to offer. Too many of us think that bringing a pile of resumes is enough personal branding. In today’s super-competitive work world, you are missing an opportunity to stand out if you stop there. Here’s what goes in your branding package:
– Resumes –
Yes, still bring the stack of resumes. You never know how many people will be sitting on the interview and need a copy. But splurge on some thicker paper, and do your best to make your resume as short and relevant as possible.
– Personal Business Cards –
These are a valuable addition to your networking toolkit. Interviews often include small panels or roundtables with potential future colleagues. Many already have your resume in hand, but a personal business card is a great way to reinforce your personal brand, professionalism, and contact info. It also prompts these folks to hand you something back — ideally their business card. Bam, networking circle widened. (Psst: Do not give your current business card. You want something company neutral with personal contact info and your work-appropriate socials to help your interviewers envision you in their role, not someone else’s.) Include your personal phone number, LinkedIn, professional email, etc.
– Portfolio –
Ideally, you’ve got an iPad in hand full of your portfolio of great work. This can be anything from graphs showing how your project drove revenue increases for the company to other written or visual pieces — be creative here! Everyone should have some version of a work portfolio. Keep it in an easily accessible file that includes your LinkedIn page and any references or relevant links that you might want to pull up quickly.
– Thank You Notes –
We suggest shooting an email to your interviewers quickly after. But to be really on top of it, you’ve got a few hard copy thank you’s in hand. These get filled out and dropped in the mail to whoever helped you get there that wasn’t in the room. It’s a sophisticated, thoughtful way to remember your network and opens the connectivity to keep them posted on future work developments.
3. Game Plan For The New Job
The girl who gets the job doesn’t just come “prepared with questions” — she comes prepared with ideas and analysis. This takes a little Sherlock-type mentality, but pays off in big ways with an interviewer. Have a couple of ideas built out — what you’d do in the first 90 days, organizations that you could contribute to, rivaling a competitor’s recent product offering — and really do some research on how you would execute that idea.
Having a few of these narratives well-prepared is important because more than likely, one of them will get asked as a direct interview question. Show your homework! Instead of outright asking a question… “How would you measure success for this role in the first 90 days?” give them your 90-day game plan. Walk them through a few minutes of ideas, benchmarks for measuring progress, and the team you’d assemble to get the job done. Then your question becomes much more detailed — “How does this plan fit with what you have in mind for the role?” This effort shows you’re already thinking ahead and investing in the possible next steps.
4. Your “Save The Day” Kit
Interview days are long and sometimes unpredictable. Of course you’ll need some essentials —flats, mints, a mirror, comb, bobby pins, a quick snack. But think slightly outside of the immediate interview to be sure have little extras to save the entire day if emergencies come up. Do you have all interviewers’ phone numbers written down somewhere in case of tech issues? The address in case it gets lost in your email? An extra battery to charge your phone? Cash in case the card reader is down? Multiple routes to get there in case of transport troubles? Thinking through a few different plans makes you much better prepared if a mini disaster strikes!