Interviewing Tips & Tricks

StaffBuffalo, a women-owned full-service professional staffing company, was founded by Maggie Shea and Lauren Lewis in 2015. The company provides executive, direct hire, and contract solutions to their clients, and helps people find opportunities in the job market that match their credentials and interests.

In the spring of this year StaffBuffalo launched HRBuffalo, a human resources support and management consulting service led by HR professional Jillian Majka. This service provides businesses the option for HR support services, HR compliance subscriptions, and HR project consultation and management services, depending on need.

“We have worked with several high-level executives that were working out of the area and were looking to move back to WNY,” Lauren said. “It is exciting when we can relocate expats back to Buffalo and get them a great job that most people wouldn’t expect them to get in Buffalo!  No matter the level of the candidate, it is always a great feeling when you place them into a position and they are extremely happy at their new company.”

In conjunction with the team at StaffBuffalo, we now present the second in a two-part series of articles that offer tips and advice to job seekers newly entering the workforce or exploring a career change. Check out the first part, “Landing Your Next Job.” — KMM

An interview is your first opportunity to make an impression with a hiring manager.  Be sure to put your best foot forward with every interaction the moment you walk into the building, from the parking attendant to the CEO.

Always remember that an interview is a two-way street and you should interview the interviewer as much as they interview you (yes – YOU are also an interviewer).  The interview is your opportunity to show the hiring manager that you are the best person for the job, and it is your opportunity to see if the hiring manager and the organization will be a fit for you!  You want to walk out of that interview feeling like a rock star, right?  There is a lot that you need to do to ensure you are prepared to ace that interview, which begins well before the start of the interview.

Preparation is key

It amazes me how many people do not prepare for an interview.  Recently I was talking with a top executive in Buffalo about the lack of preparation they have seen in candidates during an interview.  This executive mentioned that they were interviewing MBA graduates from Ivy League colleges and that these candidates did not come prepared to the interview.  What does being unprepared mean to that executive?  The candidates did not bring copies of their resumes, they were not prepared with questions for the interviewer, they did not know anything about the company, and the candidates were not dressed in a suit, which would have been the appropriate attire for the type of position they were interviewing for.  Lack of preparation can happen at any level, whether a VP role or entry level, and will prevent great candidates from getting the job offer.

Be on time

It is so important to be on time for your interview.  You do not want to arrive too early — if you are there more than 15 minutes early, please wait in your car or a public place until it is 10-15 minutes before your interview time.  Take this additional time to get your mind ready for your interview and do some last-minute preparation.

Rule of Thumb:

  • In-Person Interview: Arriving 10-15 minutes early for your interview is the sweet spot. It will give the receptionist or HR professional time to get you situated in the interview room before the interview commences.
  • Phone Interview: Call promptly at the designated time or be prepared to receive the call, depending on the instructions from the hiring manager. Calling early will interrupt the interviewer’s timeline and be a negative note in your interview folder.

Bring extra copies of your resume

Do not assume that the interviewer knows your work history off the top of their head, so make sure that each interviewer has a copy of your resume in front of them.  It is important to bring a copy of your resume for each person that you will be interviewing with, plus a few extras.  If you impress the hiring manager, you never know who else they might want you to meet.  Have a copy of your resume in front of you, as well, so that you can reference it as needed.  You can go the extra mile by bringing a professional portfolio with you to the interview.  Stock this with extra copies of your resume, any professional documents or projects you’ve worked on, reference letters, and note paper.

Take notes during the interview

Do not be afraid to take notes during your interview.  Remember the interview is a two-way street, so it is important for you to take down all the information that you can about the job, the company, the hiring manager, and the team.  This is a fantastic way to reference things that were discussed during the interview and to ask any follow-up questions. Insider Tip — it always bodes well for you when you write things down that the hiring manager is saying, such as answers to your questions or important information about the job you that want to remember. It shows you are interested and listening!

Have questions to ask

Make sure you have questions prepared and ready for the interviewer.  Research the company, the culture, the position, and the person you are interviewing with.  Research the industry, company clients, competitors, and find any relevant recent news.  It is important to do as much research as possible so that you can formulate questions that are relevant to the position and the company.  The worst thing you can do is not have any questions prepared for the interviewer!

Be Polite

There is a proverb that says, “Politeness costs nothing.”  Use your manners, be polite, and be respectful to everyone you encounter at the company.  You could be on the elevator with the CEO or owner of the company, so remember to acknowledge and be friendly to everyone — you never know who you might be interacting with.

I’ve been at interviews where they took into consideration how you interacted with the receptionist while you were in the waiting room.  This company wanted to make sure that you treated everyone politely and with respect, no matter what level.  Customer service is extremely important to them, so that was the first (hidden) test.  It’s a smart idea to make small talk with those you encounter.  It’s a great way to shake off some nerves and begin to establish rapport.

Practice your handshake

Never underestimate the power of a handshake.  A strong, firm handshake goes a long way — just make sure not to crush the other person’s hand!  A limp, ‘dead fish handshake’ typically does not make a great first impression.  Practice your handshake with friends and family.  Make sure people say that it is strong, secure, and not uncomfortable for the other person.  Make sure to look the other person in the eyes as you shake their hand and smile!  Often the handshake is the first connection between two individuals, so make sure it is a good one.

Dress for success

I am a big fan of the phrase, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  Unlike our MBA friends referenced above, not every job requires a suit, but you should always look professional.  This is your first opportunity to make a great face-to-face impression, so you want to be sure to look your best.  If you’re applying for a professional position in a business or corporate setting, you should always wear a suit, regardless of the level of the position.  If you are applying for a position that is more creative in nature, then definitely dress to show off your flair, but still keep it professional.

Always follow up

Did you walk out of the interview and feel like an utter rock star?  Great!  There is just one more step that is an absolute can’t miss:  Follow-Up!  Make sure to send an individualized follow-up email to each person that you interviewed with within 24 hours, but following up on the same day is always your best bet.  A handwritten thank you note is always a nice touch, but only send one after you send a follow-up email to each interviewer.  Snail mail can take several days and you don’t want this delay to affect your potential for a position.

The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel going into an interview.  Don’t miss out on a terrific opportunity or your dream job because you missed something simple.

In order to make sure you don’t miss a beat when prepping for an interview and in the interview itself, check out more tips on StaffBuffalo’s Interview Preparation Guide.