You’re sweating, totally nervous. And realize that you should have gotten at least one hour’s more sleep the night before your BIG INTERVIEW...
But here you are, sitting in a chair across from someone who will either offer you a job or send you back down the mean streets of Between Gigsville.
Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating (a bit) but interviewing is something that weakens the knees of even the most lionhearted of creatives.
In fact, a recent study showed that a full 92% of those surveyed said there was at least one thing that stressed them out about job interviews.
If you’re not lucky enough to be in that (apparently very cool and collected) 8%, we’ve got your back.
We went “behind the scenes” to ask three of our expert interviewers, Quinn Sidon, Mark Peznowski, and Ashley Plaetzer to answer the question:
“What do you wish you could tell every candidate before an interview?”
Their answers below could very well surprise you. But all in all, we think they’ll help you know what that person on the other side of the desk is thinking.
1. Just be yourself.
I want to like you. I saw something in your resume/portfolio that said to me, “I want to meet this person!”
So go ahead and show the real you, not the Interview Routine You that you’ve practiced for hours on end. The best part? Now you really can relax, because I already liked what I saw in your work.
2. Know, intimately, what your strengths and professional successes are.
You’re here to sell me on yourself. Though you may not be a salesperson, you should be able to articulate your value with a few solid examples. Did the timeline on a project fall apart and you had to stage an emergency meeting to get everyone back on board? Perfect! Did you end up meeting the deadline because of it? Bravo!
Humans are hardwired for tell, hear, and enjoy stories (think about what YOU enjoy when it comes to learning new things), so use your power of creativity to put together a narrative and examples of projects that give me something to remember you by.
If you’re having trouble coming up with something compelling, reach out to your network to help you. Everyone else you’ve interacted with already has a great story about you (that’s why they like you!)
3. Stand out, but in a good way.
I may remember you as the “person who used a Hackintosh to show me their portfolio” or “the one who complained about every single boss they ever had.” That may not be your strongest trait, but I will remember you for something that sets you apart from the rest of the people I meet for the job. Try to be selective about the information you share: standing out is important, but HOW you stand out is key.
Better to be remembered as the “person who was prepared, had a well organized portfolio of work and asked great questions,” right?
4. Be prepared to specify your role on a project.
It’s human nature to say things like, “Our team did this” or “our company produced this,” when reviewing a website or product, but what I want to know (in fact NEED to know) is what YOU did on a project. Art direction? Coding? Project management? Even simple descriptors will help, but if you have a great story of HOW you used that skill, share it! How about that time you had to learn Node.js during your lunch hours to figure out a problem no one else could solve? Perfect!
5. Please do not stay out late the night before.
I really shouldn’t have to tell you, but this interview was important to me, and I hope it’s important to you, too. Partying or staying up late to play Grand Theft Auto V could really slow you down the next day. And if you’re tired, no matter how much you try to cover it up, you might still look and seem tired to me.
What your choice not to be well rested says to me is that on your BEST day (because remember, I expect your best behavior during an interview), this is how you make decisions: carelessly. And certainly without your career and future (or my client and business!) in mind.
6. Pretend it’s our first date (but in a non-creepy way).
That means cleaning yourself up in the morning and presenting your best face to the world. If you have to press your clothes, do it (even if you don’t enjoy it). Do you know what floor I’m on? Do you know the bus that’s going to get you in front of my building 15 minutes or so before you have to be at our reception desk?
Your mother was right, there’s no second chance to make a first impression. And in the world of freelance, there’s often only a first impression.
7. Don't forget to make eye contact with me.
The importance of eye contact can’t be overstated. It’s important to look at me during our interview. Why? Because people who make more eye contact are always perceived as more likable and trustworthy. If you struggle with this, don’t worry, you can learn! Practice talking in the mirror (or in Google Hangout), then do it in a mock interview with a friend. Finally make a point to tell remind yourself throughout the interview to look me in the eye (and remember, I already want to like you, so it’s ok).
8. Don’t lie, exaggerate, fib, fudge, or misrepresent yourself.
Once again, probably a no brainer, but don’t embellish on projects you haven’t worked on or achievements you haven’t actually achieved. No matter how big the city is, there’s always fewer than six degrees of separation in the freelance world. Once you’re found out, people will pass that information around, believe me. Just tell the truth, and you’ll never have to cover your tracks.
9. Do your homework.
I’m interested in you. Return the favor by finding out a bit about my company and my business before you come in. Have you visited our website? Do you know what kind of clients/customers we work with? This isn’t an open invitation for you to tell me how you could have done that campaign better or how much you dislike our logo. It’s a first date, remember? But showing you have interest in what I do is going to score you big points with me and will have an impact on how interested I am in what you do.
This one just bears repeating! Keep in mind that I already like your work (that’s why you’re here!) and really do want you to be the perfect candidate for my role.
Now that you know what’s on an interviewer’s mind, go out there and get ‘em!