Job interviews: Essential for growing your career, but also some of the most dreaded and frustrating moments of adulthood. The thing is, it isn't easy for either side—whether you’re the one on the job hunt or the person conducting the interview, chances are you’d probably rather be at the dentist’s office than sitting there at that table. It’s a high-stress situation for everyone involved, especially when money, company success, and personal fulfillment are on the line.
I’ve definitely made some mistakes in job interviews (plenty, actually). And during my early career as a recruiter and now as the owner of a company, I’ve messed up while interviewing, too. We all do it. Still, I see people make mistakes all the time that could so easily be avoided. That’s why I’m rounding up my top do's and don'ts for both interviewees and interviewers. Because the easier the interview, the faster we can all get to work.
Specifically an email. Yes, a mailed thank-you note is a perfect flourish, but by the time it arrives in your interviewer’s mailbox days later, they may have already written you off for not following up. So even if you plan on mailing a note, make sure to email your contact to say thank you within a few hours of leaving their office.
They’re going to ask, and winging it is not an option. We typically recommend giving a $5k range (so $50,000-$55,000) to allow for some negotiation later. If you’re not sure what to ask for, take a look at our Salary Project where we’ve gathered hundreds of real women’s salaries in one place. Researching average salaries means you’ll have a better idea of what’s a reasonable ask.
You need to know if this job is the right fit for you as much as they need to know that you’re a good fit for the company. You should come prepared to ask questions (this is a must at the end of every interview), but also use in-person interviews as a way to look for signs of a good (or bad) company culture. If it’s not right, it’s not right.
This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people actually practice common interview questions before the big day. I’ve known several employers who Googled “common interview questions” for inspiration before meeting with candidates, meaning studying up can really work to your advantage. Download our job interview flashcards for the most common ones.
It’s OK to want to make more money than you are currently, especially if you know you’re being underpaid in your industry. But don’t fudge numbers. Especially if you’re working with a recruiter, they may (read: almost always will) call your current employer to ask. The worst case scenario is if this happens after you get an offer. If they find out you’re lying, they may rescind it. Also, the first interview is not the time to talk salary and benefits. No one wants to hire someone who’s more focused on money than the job itself. Instead says recruiter Jill Jacinto, “Ask thoughtful questions about the role...and show what you can bring to the table." This helps the interviewer see whether you’re actually worth the extra $5,000-$10,000 you may negotiate during the offer phase.
Again, obvious, right? Except for many people it’s not. Even if you hate your current boss and job, there are ways to explain why you’re looking for a new job without throwing others under the bus. We recommend focusing on the role you’re applying for instead: What’s so exciting about it to you?
Like I mentioned earlier, we can all Google “most common interview questions” but what exactly is your goal with this new employee? Maybe you’re looking for someone who has past experience doing the exact thing you’re looking for. Maybe you’re looking for a hard worker who’s eager to learn from you. Think about what is the best fit for the role and make sure you’re asking questions that really help you answer them.
They’re interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them, so keep it professional. Dress and act like the hiring manager you’d want to work with. Make sure to be on time and be direct about what is expected in this role.
I know this is everyone’s least favorite question to ask, but you need to make sure what they’re looking for is within your budget. If it’s not, then cut them loose or be honest about what the budget is. One of the biggest complaints of people interviewing is that the job is “sold” as something it’s not— and that includes salary.
After multiple rounds of interviews, let everyone know if you decide to go with someone else. After someone’s taken two or three (or four) days off work to meet with you, it’s just mean to leave them hanging.
More and more hiring managers are asking candidates to complete assignments before an offer. Depending on why you’re asking, this is either acceptable or absolutely not. If you’re testing the person’s grammar skills, that’s great. You want to make sure this “all-star editor” knows the difference between affect and effect. But if you’re asking them to solve a business problem for you via an assignment, then you need to consider hiring a consultant because there are people out there who get paid to do that.
Switching jobs is no small feat. Be reasonable with your decision timelines and your start dates. I like to give candidates at least a week to make a decision and a start date usually three weeks out so they can leave their old job on good terms and have a week to get their life organized before a new role. Basically, treat candidates the way you’d want to be treated during a big life change!
Ready for next steps? Read more of Lauren's (a.k.a, Career Contessa's!) career advice here!