Who would have guessed that my daughter’s first professional employment interview, would be ranked among nostalgic, tear-inducing times. Alongside many memorable firsts: her first words, her first day of Kindergarten, her First Communion, now resides the day she left our home to go to her first interview for an architecture internship. Only seconds into her three-hour drive , she got my call.
“I just realized that there’s so much I haven’t told you. Do you mind if I take a few moments of your time? I’m not calling as Mom. Instead I’m calling to share twenty years of management and supervisory experience. Is that okay?”
She agreed to listen. My daughter is very patient and had been through this before. She knows that when I put Mom away I’m going to be objective and give her the truth. There was the time I was her track coach in eighth grade and I could see her confidence flagging. I pulled her aside the night before a big meet and said, “I need to talk to you as your coach.” I spoke to her about her strengths and why she should believe she could win. She listened and won. More important, she listened and learned.
This post is for all of the young women (and men) who are interviewing for their first time. Perhaps you don’t have a mom or dad to give you these last few tips. If that is the case, adopt me for a moment and let my words ring true for you.
Dear [Insert Your Name Here],
It is so exciting to watch you prepare for your first interview. I know you need no advice or help to get a job that is a great match for you. You are intelligent, beautiful, creative, and hard-working. I know that you will arrive on-time, looking your best, with paper and pen, your work neatly organized and near at hand. If you don’t get the job, you will know that it wasn’t the right match and you will try again. I know these things about you!
But I also know what it is like to just start out, and I know that while you might talk big, under it all you are humble, and perhaps a bit unsure of your own value. So I’m going to give you a tiny bit more of my motherly advice, but this advice is based on years of supervisory and management experience, and of course a bit of research and data. So here it goes:
Treat this like a first date. Not only do you have to bring your best to the table, but the employer should too.
Meet your immediate supervisor. Do you respect the person? Can you work for him/her? Is she happy in his job? Does he appear stressed out or relaxed? Is she willing to spend time answering your questions. How often will you be able to interact with and get feedback from this person. I’ve had great supervisors and some that were cruel to their staff. Your future might be impacted by this person’s professionalism. Find a good match.
Don’t undervalue yourself. Find out what the going rate is for the job and your level of experience, and be ready to answer the salary question.
Sad to say, but women are still paid less than men. According to Forbes.com, on average women get paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar. So if you are a woman, consider dividing what you are offered by four and multiplying it by five and putting that wage out there as your counter-offer. Nothing is more irritating than to find out you are working just as hard as your peer and he’s getting paid more.
Even if you are sure you want the job, ask if you can have time to think over the offer and to see if you have any other questions. A good employer will grant you this. But respect their needs and get back to them quickly.
If the business hard-sells you, walk away. If they need you that bad, the job will be there tomorrow. A hard-sell (sign this now, we need an answer before you leave) is a sign that the company might be in trouble, might overload you with work, might have small print that they don’t want you to read.
When you give an answer try to connect it with why your answer is in their best interest. If you are taking care of them before you are hired, it’s a good bet you’ll take care of them after you are hired. For example, if an offer is made and they want an immediate answer, you can say that you need to confirm a few items on your schedule because once you make the commitment to them, you want them to know they can count on you.
Always be honest and yourself. If that is not right for them, then chances are, the job is not right for you either.
Hand-write a thank you note! An emailed thank you note is nice, but the timely hand-written note, especially when added to an immediately emailed thank you, moves a good candidate to the top of my list.
I know, I’m being such a Mom; but thanks for including me as you embark on this exciting adventure.
P. S. Here are a few more links to help you on your way. Thanks for listening!
- For affordable interview attire, find a Dress for Success location near you.
- To find out what you are worth, start at Monster.com.
- Still nervous? Humor can help. Here are some funny resume mistakes.
Footnote: This is not an endorsement of any of the non-profit, or profit-making organizations and web-sites.