Tips for Interviewing for a Job
Standing out in a job interview can be crucial to securing your desired job. Our Founder, Dwight Zahringer, shares his fair share of experience and tips for interviewing for a job for you to make a very strong first impression:
- Personalize your resume and cover letter: Outside of a quick Google search, your resume and cover letter are the first impressions we receive of you before the interview. It’s important to immediately make an impression, including stats and skills you use daily. Additionally, attach these files as PDF as they are the easiest to read, and formatting stays in tact.
- Research the company: Before the interview, take the time to research the company you are interviewing with. Learn about their products, services, culture, and mission. This will demonstrate your interest and show that you have done your homework.
- Prepare for common questions: You should expect to be asked common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Prepare thoughtful and concise responses that highlight your skills and experience.
- Be flexible and presentable when interviewing: Be very clear and be prompt. Make yourself stand out with professionalism and thoroughness in your responses.
- Show enthusiasm, demonstrate your skills, and ask thoughtful questions: Show that you are excited about the job opportunity and the company. Smile, maintain eye contact, and engage with the interviewer. During the interview, highlight your relevant skills and experience that make you a strong fit for the position. Use specific examples to illustrate your points. At the end of the interview, ask thoughtful questions showing genuine interest in the job and the company. This will also allow you to learn more about the company culture and expectations.
- Follow up: Send the interviewer a thank-you note or email after the interview. This will show your appreciation for the opportunity and demonstrate your continued interest in the position.
- Be a good human: While right skills and experience to complete the job is valuable, so is the personality and moral of the hire. Maintaining positive, healthy relationships with coworkers, employers, managers, and C levels could yield many things.
Read the full transcript from Episode 38: Best Job Interview Tips below.
Thanks for joining us and today I’m going to talk a little bit about recruitment and applying and putting your best foot forward. Over two decades, we’ve definitely done a lot of interviews, we’ve did a lot of job postings and we’ve done a lot of hiring and firing. It’s just part of the gig and it’s part of evolution of really everybody in our environment in a creative agency. And it’s been widely different since COVID and now where I can admit myself that I was never very keen on having remote workers and people completely working from home all the time. We’ve always touted that we were an all-inclusive agency, nothing was outsourced, everything was made in America and I don’t know that that matters as much really anymore. So it opens up a lot of opportunities for applicants and also for employers out there. But today I want to focus a little bit more about the interviewing process and what applicants should be doing to stand out above the rest and how to make your inquiry or application look genuine and rise to the top to someone that is looking for things.
There’s a lot of automation tools that are out there, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, a lot of these different places you can upload information to and resumes and have those auto submit. There’s so much automation, it’s unreal and that plagues us a bit on the employer side. And the reason is, is because everything is based on a budget nowadays. We’re actually paying to review resumes or to get specific with keywords and to have those sent to us. Even when we do receive them, there’s still a lot of sorting to go through and do and then it gets to peeling back layers of an onion, so to speak, of how we vet and how we look for the right person or the right people for the right seat. And so I want to talk about some different things to take in consideration as an applicant. One of the first ones being is professionalism.
That’s got to radiate 100%. If you’re looking to potentially land a gig at an agency or at an employer and you want to put your best foot forward, and I think it really calls for humbling yourself and asking a handful of people, whether that be parents, friends, professors, trusted cohorts to look over your resume and your cover letter and make sure that it says everything correctly and that there’s punctuation, that there’s continuity in presentation with indents and bullets and use of fonts. And I would encourage you to also include a picture. That personalization does make it special.
When you save that resume off, I also encourage you to use a file name with your first and last name and then resume and then possibly a date or an appending month. That way when we’ve downloaded a bunch of these resumes from all these different sources, some of them do become pre-formatted and become a prefix or suffix of that job site, but it’s hard to find. And when we’re trying to fill for multiple positions, you’re going to stand out really quickly when we do a quick find and search for a name. And so that’s important to have things that way.
Number two, make sure that your resume, I would go with PDF 100% because that’s a multi viewer that pretty much anybody in the world is going to be able to view and access. When you put it in a Microsoft Word document, there’s chances that’s going to be hitting some malware software. And then people like myself, I’m on Mac, we do everything with Google Suite. I do nothing anymore with licensed Microsoft documents, so I can’t view that and it’s going to actually prohibit me from looking at your resume again. So you can be mad, you can say that I’m being political in regards to that or biased because of the software, but I know there’s a lot of other people in the same set of shoes. PDFs are pretty universal and when you do that PDF, use a free tool that are available out there and plenty that would download and compress so that it’s nice and light under a megabyte.
That would be beneficial. Last thing I hate is to download a four or five page PDF resume that happens to be 17 megabytes. Probably just not going to do it because that also speaks to professionalism. Again, when we’re hiring, we’re not only looking for someone with the skills, but we’re looking at a lot of other aspects. For us, it’s really important for culture, it’s important for clarity, professionalism, and then also attention to detail. That’s going to be a big deal.
So what to include on a resume? With COVID, obviously a lot of people were laid off or lost jobs, did contract work, moved around in a lot of different things. I wouldn’t be afraid to post those things inside of your resume. Be descriptive on what it is you had responsibilities to do and then also highlight some things that you were in charge of or that you achieved while you were there. Keep it simple and brief and make sure you list any specific details that would be relevant to position. So if you were working specifically in SEO, you were team lead, you were a junior, you worked in a specific software, you were in charge of taking care of a bunch of reporting or setting up accounts, get to the nitty-gritty of the type of work that you were doing, but do it in brevity. Don’t be too crazy on all the information there.
Cover letter, those are always a good thing and we get a lot of cover letters and they’re all plastic. I would say 95% of them are plastic. So you can keep a very plastic templated cover letter but nothing goes beyond and says something louder and better than I looked at your website. I am adding a paragraph to this cover letter that is specific to the job that you’re offering and something about our company that is going to catch my eye. I’m going to scan those things, I’m going to catch it. You’re definitely going to go in a better pile because you’re trying a little bit harder and that’s important. That means you’re going to probably do the same thing when you’re here for us and our clients and that’s someone we want on our team. So again, make sure formatting, spelling, everything has continuity with it. That’s pretty important.
Going back to the resume and cover letters, if you’re going to get artsy fartsy on things, don’t go too overboard, don’t go too crazy unless it’s specific for like a art or junior art director or a graphic designer. You could still be specific but don’t go too overboard and too crazy because that would get things too junked up and it’s going to make you stand out, but it may not be calling the right attention that you specifically are going after. We can’t get inside of your head. What we see coming across a resume is really our first introduction to you and that is going to be the hook that we’re going to throw with some bait if we choose to.
Info that you’re going to include personally. Again, I made mention of a personal picture is always a good thing to have and an email address and a phone number that will be answered or has a voicemail that is set up. And a voicemail box that can actually accept voicemails. Those are important things. If I’m trying to email somebody and it gets bounced back or I don’t get any response and I try to call somebody and they never answer, it’s get clipped to voicemail and then I’m pushed to a inbox that it’s never been set up and that has too many voicemails so I cannot leave one. What are you expecting to have happen? It doesn’t show like you really run things in a very professional matter.
It sounds like your personal life, you’re kind of sloppy. You don’t have a lot of structure and cleanliness to it. So I would assume that that’s possibly how you’re going to bring some of your traits into the organization to be with other coworkers and more importantly clients. And that’s something that’s just not going to be attractive. So you get skipped over for those types of things too.
Follow-ups. When you are being solicited for an interview sites like Indeed, I would specifically get after make it way too easy for people just to list their resumes up there and to use their automation tools to put together resumes for you and keyword alerts. If you are going to be applying for jobs, make sure they’re relevant to what you’re looking for. Don’t waste an employer’s time because what you don’t realize is that you might be applying for a position, say for a front-end web developer and we may be looking for another front-end web developer in a couple months or maybe one that’s a little bit higher level. Maybe you were better than just a junior position. It wasn’t the right pay scale for you right now, but in a couple months or weeks we might have something that’s available. And if the candor and the response you employed with us at that time, it’s probably going to be remembered and we’re probably going to take that in consideration as well with the position offering.
Again, it’s a cultural aspect, it’s a professional aspect and there has to be healthy boundaries to both of those. It’s transactional. We want to bring you into a family and make you a part of that no matter if you’re in Columbia, if you are in Mexico, if you’re over in Nigeria or Egypt or Europe or in Illinois, that cultural and that family fit and basic office adequate still needs to be maintained.
We talked about naming files and that’s going to be anything as far as your presentation. If you have an exterior Google Drive or you have a website, go through that. Make sure other people go through that and look that up and down. We build a lot of websites and have for two decades. We’ve seen a lot of things. We know a lot of workarounds, we know the free tools, we know the cheats. We know stuff that was done as a portfolio for class credit. We can see through those things. Make yourself stand out and be a little different. Be personable. We’re not only hiring just a robot or a thing so to speak, to do work for our clients. We actually care a hell of a lot about the personality and the human and the heart and the brain behind the fingers and all the creativity.
So we want to know about you and again, we’re looking at integration with other staff members and people that have been here for a long tenure. How are they going to be working with them and are they going to want to mentor and coach and work alongside and make some really cool things happen. That’s going to be super important. Lastly, your profiles for social. Everything that’s out there, likely any employer is going to be searching by your name and possibly other aspects of companies you have listed on your resumes. We’re going to find stuff about you and you probably should be aware of the types of things we are going to see and that what we might come across. It’s important to know the PeekYou, and Home Advisors and Instagram and all these, Foursquare and old accounts and MySpace even, those things all get crawled and indexed and those are found.
It’s not very hard. We don’t go very deep to look for things, but we’re looking to find out how you conduct yourself or other little tidbits of information that may be out there about you online. Is that going to sway a decision? Is that bias? I don’t know. I think you’d have to lead that up to yourself. Rule of thumb that I had and was told a long time ago is if that you weren’t going to say it or show it to your grandmother, then you probably shouldn’t do it to an employer or put it out there online. You don’t know how that’s going to come back and maybe possibly bite you in the butt. However, not everything is erasable, so it’s better to know what you’re up against, know what kind of cards you have in your hand and be ready for a conversation in store in regards to it.
And then the last thing is when you’re called or your email to schedule for interviewing, be flexible. Be very clear and be prompt. Chances are you’re one of many that are being solicited and being considered for a position, so again, you can make yourself stand out, but professionalism, being very quick and also being thorough in your responses and showing up is going to be very important. When it’s time to do an interview as many have done since COVID, a lot of screening happens via a Zoom link or a Google Meet link or some type of third party, Indeed has their own. It’s going to be important to show up looking like you were going to be shown up with a client. Is that a suit and tie? Is that a nice casual outfit? I don’t know. You’re going to have to determine what that’s going to be.
Likely you have equipment which is going to be your computer, your phone with a camera and whatnot. You’re going to want have something that’s stationary, you’re going to want to remain still. You’re going to want to show up and look exactly as if you were doing the interview, what would you want to see? That includes balls of clothing and empty food containers in the background or scattered across your desk. Could be other people that’s you’re inhibiting with or in a public space that are walking behind you. It’s best to get a nice simple professional background. There’s a lot of free backgrounds that are out there for your camera to use. I suggest to show up with one of those. Make sure that you have equipment, if it’s a headset or it’s your computer, you’re in the appropriate area to conduct an interview and speak and listen and be above the moment, above. Be with the moment so to speak so that you can do the interview because that is going to be your first impression with your potential new employer.
Remember, it’s a two-way street. You are not just applying because they need you, but you probably are applying because you need some money, or you want to continue your career, or you want to make a switch, or you want to get into something better with better people. So you need to go ahead and come to the party with all of those aspects there. That’s going to be super important. I think that’s about it. Good follow up after the fact can go a long way. A lot of people don’t do that anymore and those really do rise to the top. It’s also appropriate if you do ask, if you could do follow up yourself in a meeting. I think that will actually be surprising to a lot of interviewees if you ask for a specific email addresses and do a follow-up.
Make it personal and simple and don’t be overbearing and don’t be demanding, but let them know what you thought about things. If maybe you’re going to say, you know what, I don’t have any more interest or I’m going to be taking another position, but I’d love to keep you guys in mind in the future. Don’t forget about me. Things like that are very professional and nice and human. Be genuine. That’s probably the best thing you can do.
And finally, I think one of the most important things is to be a good human. We are always looking to integrate ourselves with a good staff and a good group of people. Every business runs budgets and that’s all based off of their profits and their revenues and operating expenses. Not everybody’s a fit forever and that’s okay. That’s part of the gig as I like to say. But if you maintain positive, healthy relationships with your coworkers and your employers, your managers, C level, whoever they may be, that could yield you a lot of things down the road.
We’ve had lots of clients over two decades that have left and went to other companies and liked their experience and brought us back in to work with their new company. And I think with one they’ve done this three times. Those impressions, those friendships can last a lifetime. Those are referrals that come back into you for a lot of reasons and those are important to remember and cherish. So I hope that this helped everybody out. And if not, there’s also on our website, there is a section about going through the interviewing process where I outlined a big article during the COVID period about how it is to be working with a company like us Trademark and things that we look for and what’s important to us that’s going to set you up to win and to ace and interview in a big way. And the very last thing, which is actually probably the biggest tip ever, show up to the interview knowing about the company you potentially might be getting a paycheck from.
Let me rephrase that. The company that you want to get a paycheck from. You applied for the job, you went to the interview, you are saying, please hire me. I’d like you to pay me to do these services and for me to express all my talents. You should probably know a thing or two about us. You should probably be able to comment about the organization, clients that we worked with, individuals, specific news, other things you’ve heard about us or listen to about us and have a good idea of who you want to work with.
You may find out we’re not a match for a number of reasons that may not align with things that you want. It’s laughable how many people have come to interviews and those have been canceled in within 45 seconds where we basically, if you haven’t looked us up and you don’t know about us point-blank will ask and then why would you want to take a paycheck from us? How do you know that we’re not involved in some far left, far right, Neo-Nazi, this and this and that type of an organization, or we make really bad decisions.
It’s comical, it’s laughable, and the industry has changed. Things are just different, but it’s not necessarily different. It’s evolution. So remember that you’re going to need to evolve too. And you’re going to need to think about moving beyond the group that you’re with and getting out of your comfort zone and really shining to get associated with a company that you want to work and grow with.
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