Job interviews are super intimidating – it doesn’t matter how old we are. Walking into that room for a make-or-break outcome is still one of the most challenging experiences we ever face. It’s just as daunting whether someone is 19 or 49. Uber-hip companies might have glossy websites with a full three pages on how awesome their company culture is, but the free smoothies, group skydiving, and dog-friendly days are only up for grabs if we actually get the job. What does that involve? Nailing the interview. For many of us, just thinking about that can have us biting our nails and twitching.
Millennials might have next-gen smartphones and apps to guide them through life, but there still isn’t an app that will guarantee interview success. While interviews themselves have become somewhat more relaxed than they were in the 90s, millennials actually have it harder. It’s gotten so confusing. Are smart sneakers acceptable? Do I make a joke? Is paper even necessary anymore? If someone is interviewing at a super-innovative company where everyone sits around with iMacs, headphones, and overflowing bowls of Reese’s candy, what do they do? Now that social media has our entire lives available for human consumption, is that Facebook or Instagram post a possible deal-breaker? From how to dress and when to arrive, to the behind-the-scenes cleanups, we’re breaking down interview tips – millennial style. Here are 20 tips for anyone in that age group (although a decent chunk are applicable to anyone younger or older).
25 IF YOU’RE NOT EARLY, YOU’RE LATE
FYI, this is what a bad start to an interview might look like. The biggest way you can obliterate your chances of successfully passing the interview stage is by arriving late. When the social networking platform Reddit dished out its top interview tips, the top replies came from recruiters themselves. As one of them put it: “If you’re not early, you’re late.” Arriving on time is good, but it isn’t great. To portray a put-together, organized, reliable, and prompt persona, arrive 10-15 minutes early.
24 RESEARCH THE COMPANY
The interview is all about you – to an extent. What it’s really about is how well you would fit in the company. Arriving with a top resume and glowing references is all good and well, but there’s something you can do that’s better. Show interest. You want to work there, right? So show it. Have they been in the news? What is their product or service? Find something about the company and talk about it positively.
You’re using the internet to read this. Do the same for the company you’re interviewing at.
23 AVOID SAYING “LIKE” TOO OFTEN
It’s, like, the easiest way to express yourself, right? Wrong. If the word “like” makes up 25% of everything you say, you need to water it down. There’s nothing wrong with the word per se, but it’s still associated with being slightly ditzy – it definitely doesn’t say “professional.” Super-cool tech companies might have keynote speakers who say it, but until you’re the one presenting them, stick to sentences that are solid. “Like” isn’t a solid word. Well, unless you’re interviewing at Facebook for the “like button” department.
22 WHATEVER THE APP SAYS, ADD 30 MINUTES
Calling all millennials who rely on smartphone apps to estimate journey times. It might be super-advanced and take everything from rail closures to traffic into account, but it can’t predict the future. If you’re using Google Maps or a similar app (even if you’ve made the journey plenty of times before), plan for the unexpected. Accidents happen. So do lane closures. Add 30 minutes to your journey time to avoid any unwanted surprises. If you’re traveling during peak commuter times in a huge city, adjust that time accordingly.
21 CLEAN UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
Your social media will be checked by your potential employer. All of it. Depending on how interested they are in you, they can easily trawl through years worth of posts. Those bathroom selfies? Even if you’re perfectly presentable and fully clothed, are you sure that’s the message you want to be sending out? The same goes if 90% of your pics are partying (or worse). Check up on your privacy settings. No one is going to do it for you.
20,000 self-obsessed McDonald’s selfies? Parties you wish never happened? Only show what you want to be seen.
20 DRESS TO IMPRESS
This is super tricky for millennials. So many companies now allow casual dress – everyone in San Francisco is in jeans and kicks. What you wear really depends on where you’re interviewing at, but you can use your head. Sober, understated colors are usually the way to go, especially for suits. A splash of color is fine, but don’t add eccentric flourishes (or ridiculous heels). If you never iron your clothes, do it for this. A nicely pressed shirt, reasonable shoes, and a smart appearance go a long way.
19 DITCH THE HEADPHONES
Headphones are fine for the journey. Even if they’re super-discreet, in-ear headphones, they need to be well out of sight the minute you enter the building, though. Sitting in the waiting room with soothing music might help the nerves, but the look won’t make a good impression. Wearing headphones can easily suggest that you’re lax when it comes to work – not a vibe you want to give off. Leave them at home or take a protective case with you. Whatever you do, don’t walk into the interview wearing them.
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18 USE THIS WHEN ASKED ABOUT YOUR WEAKNESSES
“What’s your greatest weakness?” This has become the question that all potential candidates dread – and anyway, how do you answer that? For the record, a joke reply is skating on thin ice. A good rule of thumb for answering this is to turn a negative into a positive. For instance: “Sometimes when I’m new to something, I ask a lot of questions. But I find that it really helps me understand things better.” Another good one is to discuss a skill you were once weak at, but have gained strength in.
17 PICK A SUBJECT FROM EARLY ON AND ASK ABOUT IT
This one is super useful. One of the biggest things that recruiters (or just any boss) look for, is someone who listens. Hold onto one thing that is mentioned at the beginning of the interview, remember it, then ask about it at the end. For instance: “It was just three of us in 2009, but moving to Dallas changed everything.” Ask about the challenges of that move.
Early on in the interview, pick a subject and remember it. Asking about it towards the end will show you were listening.
16 FOR TREMBLING HANDS, PLACE PAPER FLAT ON THE TABLE
This clever tip has been helping nervous interview candidates since the dawn of time. Much like public speaking, shaking hands and pieces of paper don’t mix. The last thing you want to do is advertise your nerves, so if you’re prone to shaky hands, place any paper flat on the table. That completely eliminates the whole trembling paper thing – not something that projects confidence. If you’re particularly prone to nerves, remember to take deep breaths. Also, if they offer you a drink, ask for that glass of water.
15 DON’T ARRIVE WITH TAKEOUT COFFEE
Seriously, skip the coffee run for the way there. At the very least, finish your coffee before arriving. Nothing says “casual” like strolling in with a venti soy latte (that you may well spill from nerves). This isn’t to say that you have to appear completely straight-laced, but most interview situations just don’t have “my morning usual” as an appropriate arrival look. Arriving with your Starbucks can also suggest that you prioritized your coffee above the interview. Save it for the way home.
14 DON’T SAY NEGATIVE THINGS ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS EMPLOYERS
Chances are, whoever is interviewing you will bring up your work history. If it isn’t your previous jobs, it’ll be a question or comment about your current position. Whatever you do, do not bash the people from your past. Not only will you seem like a liability, you’ll appear to be anything from childish to resentful. Also, remember that people are connected in the most random ways. For all you know, the boss you’re bashing is an ex-colleague of the person sitting opposite you. If your last job ended badly, be diplomatic about the people involved.
13 BE NICE TO THE RECEPTIONIST
Your interview begins the minute you enter the building. Rude to the receptionist? It’ll trickle through. Incapable of holding the door open for the janitor? He shares his coffee breaks with people higher up. Remember that the persona you want to project (which hopefully, you are) is one that is polite, considerate, and thoughtful. That goes for the way out, too. It also doesn’t hurt to show that you noticed these people. Did the receptionist offer you a drink? Mention how you found that really welcoming.
12 DON’T OVERDRESS
When The Guardian wrote an article on how to dress for interviews, they summed it up perfectly: “There’s no room for experimentation in your interview wardrobe.” Whether it’s full-on smart or smart-casual, you do not want to be taking risks. The newspaper recommends avoiding garish colors or loud patterns. Their pro tip? Shine your shoes.
First impressions take just a second, but they last a lifetime. They’re interviewing you, not your outfit.
11 IF YOU’RE SUPER EARLY, HANG BACK
Interviews aren’t meant to turn us into a neurotic mess, but let’s face it, we agonize over every detail. Yes, you need to turn up early. But how early? Business Insider‘s head of talent said that 10-15 minutes early is the ideal time. Arriving too early can actually hurt your chances at landing the job. “There is a fine line between showing interest and looking desperate, and you don’t want to send the wrong message.” If you’re super early, don’t hang around in the building.
10 CHECK OUT THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ON GLASSDOOR
Glassdoor is one of the most helpful websites out there. Consider it the Trip Advisor of jobs. Employees leave honest reviews of what it was like to work at a certain company, including salaries, pros, cons, and interview processes. It’s free to sign up and you can access the full interface if you contribute. Provided the company you’re applying to is listed, you can see interview questions, response times, and how candidates found the ease of the hiring process. Other websites also offer a similar deal.
9 SILENCE IS BETTER THAN “UM” AND “AH”
There’s nothing wrong with a brief silence. The whole point of interview questions is to see how creative or thoughtful your responses are. No one is expecting you to fire back with immediate answers. Don’t feel that you have to fill the silence with “um” and “ah.” If anything, the more you use these “filler” words, the less certain you’ll seem. If you need time, it’s perfectly fine to take it, or even ask for it: “Can I take a minute to think about this?”
8 BE MINDFUL OF GENERATION GAPS
Just because you’re a millennial, doesn’t mean you’ll be interviewed by one. In fact, if someone more superior is conducting the interview, it’s quite likely that they’ll be older. Interviews are a lot more relaxed than they used to be, so it’s often okay to show some personality. If you’re referencing pop culture or hobbies, though, don’t pick something so 2018, your interviewer won’t know what you’re talking about.
If you’re going to reference TV to a 51-year-old, pick a show they know. Regardless of age, do not greet them with, “Sup?”
7 LOSE THE GUM
Of all the things you can have in your mouth when that interview starts, chewing gum is probably the worst offender. The stereotype of gum being “annoying” hasn’t gone away, and it doesn’t matter how avant-garde the company is. Most people get annoyed by the sight and sound of the person opposite them chewing gum. If it’s our friends or family, we put up with it. Do not expect a callback if you sat through the interview chewing away and popping bubbles.
6 READ THE COMPANY BLOG (AND QUOTE IT)
This applies whether you’re interviewing at McDonald’s or at Microsoft. There is nothing more impressive to recruiters than a candidate who shows their interest with proof. If the company you’re interviewing at has a blog or news section, read the most recent entries. Find something interesting and quote it. For example: “I read in your October entry that you donate all your unsold food to the homeless. I really like that.” Or, “Your #tbt tweets are brilliant. That’s pretty much why I started following you on Twitter.”
5 SAY “YES” – NOT “YEAH” OR “YUP”
You’ve cleaned up your social media – now it’s time to clean up your vocabulary. Alongside not cursing, pay attention to how casually you speak. Even if you’re being interviewed by a 29-year-old techie who couldn’t be more chill, prove that you’re a professional. “Yes” is way better than “yeah” or “mmhmm.” Whether you want a job waiting tables in a diner or programming for an international conglomerate, show that you’re a good face for the company.
If anyone is going to be saying “yup,” let it be them. “Yes” is more professional than “yup” or “mmhmm.”
4 GO EASY ON THE FRAGRANCE
This applies generally in life, but it isn’t something you want to be losing an interview over. A great company will see your potential for what it is, but the unfortunate truth is that these people are all human. They get put off by small things just like you do. By all means, feel free to apply a little spritz of cologne, aftershave, or perfume, but don’t lather it on. If anything is going to be overwhelming, it should be your resume, not the smell you bring into the room.
3 DON’T LET THEM FIND YOU LIKE THIS
The waiting room minutes can be the hardest. That’s when the nerves build up and you’ll be most tempted to distract yourself. Research suggests that playing on your phone doesn’t send out the best first impression – even for phone-hooked millennials. Much like the takeout coffee or headphones, it can come off as you being distracted. Put your phone away in the waiting room and read a book, or magazine – preferably an educational one as opposed to celebrity gossip. Do not pull your phone out in the interview unless you’re asked to.
2 ALWAYS BRING YOUR RESUME IN HARD COPY
This is the biggest mistake a millennial can make in the interview process. You’ll likely be in that interview room because your resume has already been read by email or via the company portal. Just because you uploaded it online, doesn’t mean that the person will have access to it at that moment. They will also be interviewing a ton of other people. Do not get caught out with, “I don’t have it with me.” Come prepared with hard copies of your resume and hand them to your interviewer at the start.
1 LIGHTEN UP
It’s 2018. Humor is allowed. This always depends on the situation, but by and large, a little humor goes down well. Don’t be Chandler from Friends – they’re interviewing for a position, not a comedian. Still, you can be memorable by being funny, as long as it’s appropriate. If you happen to be a funny person, let it shine. Don’t go for canned humor, but if there’s the odd chance to crack a joke, it should be fine.
Jobs come and go. It’s when they go that you need to turn to this list. For any of your Facebook friends looking at a new career, hit share. Bonus points if they have a big interview coming up soon…
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