January 21, 2019

The Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Interviews, Part Two

Last week I talked about everything you need to do to prepare yourself for an interview. The night before and the day of an interview can easily trip you up if you’re not ready. Hopefully this guide will help you along the way. As always, share your comments below. 
 
THE NIGHT BEFORE
Carving some time out of your schedule the night before an interview is imperative. I don’t care how much of a morning person you may be; running around the day of your interview is can and should be avoided. You might need 10 minutes or an hour depending on any number of factors; this is your first interview in a while (much to do) or it’s your third interview this week (breeze).  Here’s a few things you’ll want to do the night before.
 
Put your clothes in order
Judging by how many of you dress in the office, I'm guessing you probably wear suits for one of three occasions: weddings, funerals, and interviews. Be sure to take some time and lay everything out. That means ties, socks, shoes, belts…everything. I’ve gone over fashion do’s and don’ts in the past, but feel free to ask any questions in the comments for the peanut gallery to answer. 
 
Here is my take — unless you are specifically told otherwise by the hiring manager or your recruiter, I suggest business professional for the first interview. Perhaps this is the east coaster in me talking, but it is better to be overdressed than on the same level with your interviewer. Even if you are told that the dress policy at a company is casual, do not roll into the meeting in your Levis. It is best to be a notch or two more conservative than your potential employer. 
 
A friend of mine recently interviewed with a budding startup, where he knew the dress culture was t-shirt and jeans. He still wore dress pants and an ironed button-down, but he “dressed down” by wearing a pair of fashionable/colorful socks. It’s a thing, apparently.  
 
And yes, it needs to be said: iron your clothes. Ironing is a task much like the ones you give your interns — brainless but necessary. That said, get it over with the night before. Pair it with an episode of your favorite show on Netflix or podcast and you’ll be done in no time.
 
Print your résumé 
I always suggest bringing five copies of your résumé  to an interview. Why? Maybe HR forgot to print it off for themselves. Maybe you’re introduced to someone that HR wasn’t planning on you meeting until Round Two and so they were not provided with a copy. Maybe you nervously spilled coffee on your interview in the first 10 seconds of meeting them, thus needing a clean copy. My point is, you’ll probably never need five extra copies, but better to be over prepared than being left looking like a forgetful idiot. Two more tidbits:
  • Bring the correct résumé — Having extra copies of your résumé is pointless if you mistakenly bring a version of your résumé that you tailored for another employer. Nothing makes me write off a candidate faster than someone who brings a résumé meant for another company. 
  • Forget the fancy paper — Yes, you can buy thicker, more colorful paper at your local Staples or Fedex Kinkos. But why would you? A candidate’s fate never hinged on their résumé ’s 24 pound cotton fiber ivory-toned paper stock. A quality print job at home will suffice.
 
Review your questions and answers
Like I discussed last week, it is important to be ready to answer some questions. When reviewing the night before, it is helpful to speak out loud. Thinking about the answers and articulating them are two entirely different things. Sound things out. 
 
Go to bed
Lights out at a reasonable time. Common sense, folks.
 
Up next: Show up.
GAME DAY, PEOPLE
 
Stick to your habits
Drink coffee in the morning? Work out before hitting the road? Take part in “Winesday Wednesday” with Kathie Lee and Hoda? Whatever your morning habits are, try to stick with them. Your mind and body cling to routine. However, one thing you need to do that might be off-schedule for you is…
  • Eat your Wheaties Do not leave the house and head to an interview without eating breakfast. You will be working harder mentally than you normally do at the office, and your body will need some nutritional back-up. In a rush? Grab an apple for the car ride. Apples provide a natural sugar rush (no crashing) and act as a great palate cleanser. 
  • Easy on the cigarettes If you are a smoker, you do NOT want to be walking into your interview smelling like one. Everyone is human, and yes, you will be judged if you stink up the office like it is your personal ashtray. 
  • And…easy on the pine trees The only thing worse than smelling smoke on a candidate is suffocating on someone’s cologne or perfume. Leave the Axe Body Spray at home. 
  • Check the weather Raining outside? Grab an umbrella and raincoat. You don’t want to be walking into an office dripping wet and playing the, “Sweet baby Jesus, have you been outside today? It’s like a hurricane out there!” If you can’t prepare for weather, how do you plan to demonstrate that you can handle a new job? 
  • Show up early (but not too early) The magic number for me is 10 minutes. It is enough time to make it through security if there is any, find the correct elevator and floor, and be in their waiting area a few minutes before your scheduled interview. Did you plan for traffic but find yourself in their parking lot 30 minutes early? Great, now chill out. Read the paper, call your mother, or go over your notes. Do not waltz in early — you set a time for your interview and you need to stick to it. 
What if you’re running late?
DO. NOT. RUN. LATE. Barring extreme weather or an accident on the freeway, I can’t think of a reasonable excuse. Even weather and traffic problems are avoidable. Plan ahead. “My manager is making me work through lunch” is not an excuse — you’re an adult and you should have communicated your necessity to step out for a personal reason well before 11:45 am. But, if you find yourself running late, call the HR manager or your recruiter and communicate the delay to them as soon as possible. Apologize succinctly when you arrive, and move on. 
 
What about phone interviews?
There’s a chance that the first interview will be a phone screen. Here are a few tips to help:
  • CHEAT — No one can see you, after all. Have your answers to potential questions prepared in bullet form, your résumé right in front of you, etc. Whatever you do be sure not to be rustling papers or flipping through pages while on the call. 
  • It’s all about the connection — Always use a landline rather than a cell phone whenever possible. Plan on taking a call on your cell in the quiet room down the hall? Make a call from the room prior to your interview to test the cellphone service. Whatever you do, do not use speakerphone. You’re far away enough as it is; no reason to make it sound like you’re in a cave underwater. 
  • Stand up — Too often when I conduct phone interviews it sounds like the person is mumbling, bored, or distracted. In reality, it’s probably because they are sitting too comfortably. When we sit, our body naturally deflates (shoulders shrug, voice softens). The best way to come across clear and confident on the phone is to stand up during the call. Walking around the room is fine, too. Just remember to keep things quiet on your end.
  • Silence is okay — Oftentimes you will get to the end of your answer and there will be silence on the other end. DO NOT FREAK OUT and fill the void by over-answering the question. Let them finish what they’re doing (probably texting their friends) and move on to the next question.
 
What about panel interviews?
Ugh. These can either feel like casual conversations or like you’re walking the plank. Here’s a few tricks:
  • Eye contact — When answering a question, make most of your eye contact with the person who asked the question. Make occasional eye contact with the additional person or people. If someone is there simply as a notetaker, it is still important to look in their direction; the person asking the questions will see that you’re engaging everyone in the room. 
  • Open-ended questions — These can be your best weapon in a panel interview. Asking the group to weigh in on “how this role will interact with each of you” or “what do you like best about working here” can engage the group and turn the interview into more of a conversation. 
What about after the interview?
Provided that you know the email address of your interviewer(s), it is polite to send a brief thank you email. Emphasis is on brief. This is not an opportunity to reiterate the 10 Reasons You Deserve The Job; you already accomplished this in the interview. You want to simply reach out and extend your appreciation for the meeting. An example:
 

Grab Bag
  • Ask questions — Want to kill your chances for a job? Tell your interviewer that you don’t have any questions. 
  • Interview running long? — That’s a good thing. If you end up being introduced around the office, your charm is working. 
  • Dry mouth — You’ll be doing a lot of talking, especially if things go well. I always find it handy to keep a few Tic Tacs in my pocket (not the entire box) for when I’m getting dry mouth. You can pop one in between interviewers to freshen your breath and keep your mouth moist. If you’re carrying a purse or suitcase, throw in a bottle of water. 
Have a specific question that I didn’t cover? Ask it below or send us an email and I’ll get back to you.

 

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