Us four ladies appreciate the finer things in life. We like to wine and dine, and we like to goof around once in a while. But at work, we do not mess around. As managers and directors of large retail corporations, we have conducted many interviews, and definitely know what makes most interviewers go “WOW”, and what makes them go “WTF”.
We like to see people succeed. It really pains us how disastrous some interviews turn out when the candidates are not prepared at all. So with our “motherly” instinct, we have come up with pointers on what to do and what not to do at interviews. Some are pretty basic, and some are based on our experiences and observations from years of interviewing candidates.
It is a long read, but we hope all you interviewees out there will find this useful and take this to heart. Everyone deserves a chance and you do not want to mess yours up!
Yes, this sounds so elementary. You applied for the job, you got an interview, the least you could do is know what the job is. However you will be surprised by the number of people who have NO CLUE what the position is about! This is a huge red flag and pretty much an automatic fail in the book. Granted this mostly happen in entry-level position interviews, but being a fresh grad is by no means an excuse.
Expectation is getting higher and higher. RESEARCH, please, before you head into any sorts of interview. Even if you think you know what the position is about, research again just to make sure.
Michelle: The two questions I like to ask job seekers are “Why are you interested in this position and why do you want to work for this company?”. When I ask the first question, I am looking for the candidate to sell me exactly why he or she is right for the role. The candidate should try to pinpoint specific qualifications that directly relates to desired skills in the job description. I follow that up with the second question because I am looking for the candidate that has done the research and actually knows a thing or two about the company. For me, this shows enthusiasm and a real desire to join the company.
Renée: My favorite question to ask when I interview a candidate for an entry-level position is, “What do you know about [position applied for] and why did you apply?” This helps me gage how much the candidate understands the position, and whether this really is something they are interested in. It is not a trick question, but is a very important one. After having conducted so many interviews, you can pretty much tell who are the good ones, and who are the bullshitters. And since I usually ask this question in the very beginning, if you don’t get it right, the rest of the interview pretty much goes downhill from there.
Susan: You’ve made it to the interview so this means that your skills and experience meets the employer’s expectations. Not only is understanding the position important, but also understanding the company and why you applied. Knowing key facts about the company such as size, customers, competitors will show that you’re already part of the team; and elaborating on how you can contribute is a definite plus!
Everyone talks about company culture these days, it has become a very important factor for both interviewers and interviewees in the decision making process. Most people spend more hours at work than at home, so if you cannot get in tune with the company culture, it will be a miserable experience.
Some companies are more about individual expression and managing your own time, while some are more about corporate structure and processes. Some are very laid back, and some are extremely fast paced with fire drills everyday. Understand what you prefer and what the company culture is will make your life so much easier. It is also important for the interviewers when choosing the right candidate to make sure he/she is the right fit.
Michelle: The retail industry is very fast paced with lots of interesting personalities who are very passionate about what they do. It is very important to find the right mix of people who are both qualified and can get along. I’ve worked in several major retail companies and each one has its own kind of crazy. In order to survive in this industry, you must be able to pick the kind of crazy you can live and work with.
Renée: I have rejected candidates who aced all aspects of the interview but just did not seem to be the right fit for both the company and the team. The last thing I want is someone who disrupts the synergy of the team, which is almost worse than hiring someone who is under qualified.
Susan: If you know someone at the company either directly or as an acquaintance, reach out and talk to them to get a sense of the culture so you know if you will fit in. If you feel you won’t, don’t waste your time and theirs to interview. Move on to the next.
What is his or her management style? How does he or she communicate? We have heard so many horror stories of crazy bosses, and no one wants a manager who they do not get along with and worse, resent. That pretty much makes you dread going to work and eventually quit your job. We are not saying you need to be best friends with your manager, but it is important to be able to establish a relationship.
You can tell the personality of your hiring manager by observing his or her mannerism during the interview. Keep in mind, it is a two way street, you are also picking your potential employer, not just the other way round.
Michelle: We are in a digital era where most people have everything up online. LinkedIn is a perfect example where you can research your potential manager and understand the trajectory of his or her career path and previous places they have worked at. You never know, you might know someone they used to work with and can get first hand information about their personality and management style.
Renée: A tip is to ask the recruiter the culture of the team you will be working with, and the management style of your potential boss. They will not say negative things of course, but sometimes you can read between the lines, like I did when mine said, “she is VERY direct.”
Susan: Utilize LinkedIn to research prior to your interview; your potential manager during the interview may appreciate the fact that you read their bio, should a conversation come up regarding any personal connection. Ask questions as well so you can also understand why there is an open position, whether someone resigned or the division is growing. The interaction will give you an overall sense of your potential manager’s personality.
It probably matters more to us as we are all in the fashion industry, but it is still one of the top rules of interviewing. You are presenting a whole package, both inside and out. In a sea of candidates, having a sharp outfit helps you stand out in the interviewers’ minds.
Make sure your hair is clean, not with hair covering your face. Make sure your shirts and jackets and pants and skirts are pressed – you don’t HAVE to iron but at least make sure they are not all wrinkled up. Make sure your shoes are appropriate – no hooker heels, sneakers, flip flops – you get the point.
Like we mentioned earlier, this is even more important when applying for jobs in “vain” industries such as Fashion and Marketing/PR. And please, do not show up in brand logo galore, that is just tacky. If you are applying for a job with a fashion brand, wear a piece of their clothing to show the interviewer you are a supporter of the brand.
Michelle: Most retail companies have a casual dress code where you can wear jeans at work; however, this does not mean wearing jeans is always acceptable for an interview. I am very traditional when it comes to interviewing for a job. I still prefer wearing a business casual attire. I don’t necessarily expect a full on business suit, but I don’t like to see jeans either. A nice classic black jacket, white top, and black pants is always a safe bet. When in doubt, go traditional.
Renée: I once had an interviewee showed up with multiple eyebrow piercings on. I am all for freedom of expression, but it is an interview for a managerial position at a global contemporary fashion company. To me it almost seemed like she could care less about the brand and did not take the position and the interview seriously. We did not hire her due to experience level, but that eyebrow piercing did leave a negative impression.
Susan: Look clean and polished for the interview. Pull your hair back and keep your makeup and nails at a minimal so that the interviewer can clearly engage in a conversation with you, instead of getting too distracted. When in doubt of an outfit, a simple black suit and close-toe heels will always work best and screams professional.
Yes, you are presenting a package, but your qualification still matters more than your appearance. Do not show up in a fur coat and thigh high leather boots. You want the focus to be on your experience and the resume, not on your outfit. Same with the makeup – do not pile it on!
Michelle: First impressions lasts people. Please do not pile on the make up and the accessories, and tone down any crazy nails. Before you walk into an interview, check yourself in the mirror to make sure your eyeliner is not running or you don’t have lipstick on your teeth. I once interviewed a lady who had her mascara and eyeliner on so thick they were running and made her have racoon eyes. I couldn’t take her seriously and all I kept thinking was how messy she looked, which for me translated to how I would expect her job performance to be.
Renée: We had girls showed up with fake eyelashes so long that we could barely see the eyes. My co-interviewer actually once commented after an interview that she wasn’t even listening to the candidate’s answers as she was too busy staring at her eyelashes. Jewelry is also an easy to overdo thing. A candidate showed up wearing a TON of bracelets, and everytime she expressed with her hands, all I could hear was the clinging of her bracelets which was very distracting.
Susan: Leave the over-dressing to the clubs – after you get the job – to celebrate!!
This deserves its own point as we cannot stress how important it is to not suffocate your interviewers! Keep in mind most interviews are held in a closed door room, which makes the scent even more apparent. And when it starts getting stuffy in the room, it is just not a good combination. Plus some people are allergic to perfume scent, and the last thing you want is to have your interviewer sneezing non-stop due to your perfume.
Susan: My eyes started watering from perfume one time and I had to step out of the room to get some air. Also if you are a smoker, try not to smoke prior to your interview and if you do, brush your teeth or use mouthwash so the scent is not too overwhelming!
Most people don’t realize the things they do when they are nervous. Some like to pick their fingers, others like to twirl their hair. No matter what it is, keep it under control during an interview. These distracting habits can be easily detected by the interviewers, and may leave a bad impression. Plus it makes us wonder if this is how you act at an interview, will you be able to handle presenting in front of executives or a room full of audience when the time comes?
Molly: I had interviewed someone who kept pulling on the heels of her shoes the entire interview, which was very bizarre. She definitely left an impression, unfortunately the wrong kind.
Susan: If you feel yourself getting nervous, try to sit up or smile or lean in to listen, then lean back and nod. But don’t over do it that you look crazy.
An interview is also a conversation, to show your interviewer how well you speak and connect with others. The most awkward thing for an interviewer is to get one line answers. There are only so many questions we can ask before we run out! More often than not we tag onto points from your answers in order to drill deeper. When you just tell us yes or no, that doesn’t allow much room for further conversation. It also makes it seem like you are not interested.
On the other hand, please do not just keep blabbing on for minutes. We all had candidates who would take over the whole interview and we could barely get a word in. Know when to stop talking is very important. It is easy to get passionate (or sometimes nervous) and over express your thoughts. If you are one of those, just keep this in mind.
Renée: I tune out very easily when I have an interviewee who just keeps blabbing. All I hear is words, and in my mind I just want them to shut up. It is also very exhausting and makes me want to cut the interview short as I no longer have the patience.
This is usually the last part of the interview, when the interviewer is done asking questions. You think you are done, but no you are not. In fact it is probably one of the most important sections of the interview. It shows how interested you are, and how your mind thinks. This is also your opportunity to learn more about the position, the company, and your hiring manager.
The generic ones are always, “what are your favorite things about the company”, “how would you describe the company culture”, “where do you see the company going”. And guess what? People LOVE talking about themselves, plus it is a way to gage how interested your hiring manager is in you. If it starts sounding like they are trying to sell you the company, they probably are.
Michelle: Candidates don’t realize that asking questions is a benefit to them rather than the interviewer. Yes, having questions shows the interviewer you are interested and have done your research, but this is also the chance for the candidate to find out if the company/job/culture is right for them. I have a couple of favorite questions to ask. The first is “Can you tell me more about the company culture?” Even if you’ve already researched it, there’s nothing like hearing it straight from someone that actually works there. I usually follow that up with “How long have you worked for the company?” My second question I like to ask is “Why is the position open?” This allows me to gauge if there are growth opportunities (for example if the position is open because the person got promoted) or red flags (the person quit).
Renée: This is actually my favorite part of the interview. The interviewee gets more relaxed and you start seeing their true personalities. That is when the jokes start coming out and you see genuine smiles on their faces. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says no they don’t have any questions. All I can think is, really? Maybe you aren’t that interested after all.
Interviewers dread interviews just as must as you do! We are saving this for last as it isn’t something you hear often. Yes, we dread interviews too! Interviewers are carving out time from their schedules for 30-minute to hour long interviews, sometimes even hours. That means we have to reshuffle meetings and spend extra hours catching up on work. This is why it is very annoying when a candidate comes unprepared, as it is a waste of precious time for us. Moreover, it is a very time consuming and exhausting process. Imagine interviewing 5-6 different candidates, sometimes on the same day, for the same position, asking pretty much the same questions. It gets a bit dull after a while. All we are trying to say is, interviewers like to be impressed and be able to make a connection with the interviewee. Keep it professional, but at the same time make it light and throw in a joke when the timing is right, they will appreciate your sense of humor.