Friday, July 31, 2009

Interviewing in a crappy economy

If you're coming out of school or have been laid off for awhile and you're able to get an interview in this economy, go for it, even if you're not terribly interested in the job. First of all, if you haven't interviewed for a lot of jobs, it's good practice. If you need a job and you get it, it's something to get some cash in your pocket until you can get a better gig.

If you're trying to get a job, especially out of college, remember that you have a lot more company out there right now. You'll need to bring your A-game for sure. First off, do as much research on the firm as you can. Thanks heavens for Google--it's easy to look up a firm's website and see their work or find out if they've been in the news lately or mentioned on any client's website or press releases. Take notes on this, as it will help you ask questions and show that you're not coming into the interview completely cold.

I've mentioned attire before on this site, and I'm going to harp on it again--dress sharply. Again, you're up against a lot more people for a job right now, and the less experience you have as an intern means you have less room for error in going after a job. Wear a good suit, press your shirt/blouse and pants or skirt, clean (and shine up, if applicable) your shoes, get a haircut the week before (not the day before--if the cut turns out bad, you have no time to fix it). We do indeed work in a fairly creative field, but that doesn't mean you show up in cargo pants, jeans (no, not even the really dark ones that make your butt look awesome and you paid $110 for), a hippie skirt, or Birkenstocks or any footwear that looks even remotely sneaker-like. Save your creativity for an interesting pattern on your dress shirt or a neat piece of jewelry. And ladies, no one wants to see you boobs. Ever. Not even a hint of cleavage. Please. If you are large busted, trust me--people will see them no matter what you wear, but let's not be obvious. Wearing clothes that fit is rule number one for both men and women--go for fit, then color. Also, if you walk into an office and see that the dress code is really, really casual, then feel free to take off your jacket and maybe unbutton and roll or push your sleeves up a bit when you get into the interviewing room.

Be early for the interview. I once heard a contractor say that he'd rather be thirty minutes early than one minute late. Have the same attitude. If you get there more than ten minutes early, then sit in your car a bit, go to a quickie mart and get some mints, but then be there in the lobby by ten minutes before your interview time. Breathe.

During the interview, breathe some more, and it's okay to pause before answering a question. The interviewer will likely ask a lot of questions about what you're looking for in a job, what you've learned from previous jobs or experiences, or how you've solved a problem at a previous job (or volunteer activity, etc). Even if you sent the firm your resume and cover letter and portfolio, bring another three copies. Sometimes, you'll be interviewed by more than one person, and it'll be nice to have another copy for each of them to look at. Even if they forgot to bring copies of your stuff, you did--and guess who looks professional and prepared now?

Every interviewer gives you a chance to ask questions, so come up with a few before you step through the firm's door. Mention that you noticed the work of theirs that you found through your research, and ask about their design philosophy or how they staff and arrange their design teams. Ask how the firm might help you reach your goals--you enjoy and are good at 3D rendering, you're about a year away from completing IDP, etc.

And finally, thank the interviewers for their time, and send a thank you note immediately. Drop it by in person the next day or later that day, or mail it as soon as you leave the interview. Mention something that came up in the interview: "Your approach to mixing and matching project teams so that everyone gets exposure to different kinds of work is very appealing to me, and I'd love to be a part of one of those teams." And yes, I said mail, not email. Anyone can pop off an email, but a handwritten note is a nice, special touch.

If you've got a topic you'd like to see discussed or have a question you'd like answered, drop me a line inthe comments or send me an email (see sidebar). Thanks!

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