How to Survive Job Interviews

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been known to take the initiative, especially with things that I’m passionate about (which is why I developed Stylishly Made). But realistically, I’m aware that taking the leap as a freelancer doesn’t guarantee success, which is why I also work “full time” as a contracted Marketing Assistant at a commercial real estate firm in Bellevue. I was quite lucky to land the position back in April after a long seven months of job hunting. I had two full time jobs prior to my “hiatus”, but I never felt like I really fit in with those companies. And while it may look a little sketchy on my resume to have positions that I only stuck with for less than three months each, I’m a firm believer in not settling.

So again, I was pretty lucky to land my current job since I have experience working in the commercial real estate industry. And while I’ve enjoyed the job (and the people), I always knew that my contract would come to an end. Luckily, after being scheduled to end in July, my contract was extended to April of next year, which is great, but I’m not an official employee of the company, which is why I started job hunting again in August. Since then, I’ve applied for about fifty jobs and had countless phone and in-person interviews.

One position has stood out from all the rest, however, It’s a Graphic Designer position for a commercial real estate firm in downtown Seattle and I’ve had seven total interviews (both phone and in-person) since August. I really want this position and I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I’m one of the top two candidates. I had my final interview on Wednesday and as of November 4th at 2 p.m., I’ve been waiting to hear their final decision. I have to be honest, all of this waiting and uncertainty has been making me sick. I actually turned down another job offer back in September because I believed that I’d be perfect for this position. Now I’m not so sure.

There’s an overwhelming wave of doubt that can engulf anyone braving the job hunting process. You start to lose faith in your skills and question if all of this stress is even worth it. Then you remember that bills don’t pay themselves and since your goals don’t include being homeless in a tent under I-5, you put your big girl heels on and keep moving forward. So since I need to keep my brain occupied until I finally hear back about this great opportunity that could brighten the future of my career, I’d like to share a few job hunting tips I’ve learned over the last few months.

Cover Letters & Resumes

  • Write a generic cover letter that introduces yourself, covers your education and previous employment, your skills and why you would be a great fit. With that foundation, you can edit the letter to fit the positions you’re applying for.
  • Unless you’ve been in the workforce for more than ten years, your resume should only be one page long. I would also stick to the following categories: Education, Work Experience, Internships, Affiliations (organizations you a member of) and Skills (computer programs, languages, customer service, etc.). Listing references on your resume isn’t really necessary.
  • If you’d like to style up your resume and cover letter a bit with a clean, professional design, check out these templates.
  • Save your cover letter and resume to either Google Drive or Dropbox and download their respective apps. That way, if you hear about a new position opening up, but you’re away from your desk, you can still send your information in a timely manner.
  • Keep track of every position you apply for so when employers reach out to you, you’ll remember them and make notes on their hiring process.

Job Boards

  • My go-to job board has been Indeed. It seems to be the most informative site for credible jobs. The site allows you to create a profile, upload your resume, save searches such as “Graphic Designer – Seattle, WA” and even set up notifications when new positions are available. I would also recommend downloading the app.
  • While I’m not a fan of Craigslist, it can be beneficial for certain types of available positions. (I wouldn’t totally recommend it for “admin/office” positions, however, since I’ve had past experiences with people contacting me about being their “personal” assistants). I would suggest doing your research on the companies though and if the company doesn’t have a website, don’t bother. If you do happen to find any good positions, save the links by emailing the info to yourself or printing the webpage as a PDF for your records.
  • Unless you’re a premium member of LinkedIn, I wouldn’t recommend it as a top source for finding jobs. Although, it could be a good reference for connecting with coworkers, alumni and even following companies you’re interested in working for.

Phone Interviews

In my recent experience, the interview process usually starts out with a 15-20 minute phone interview with a member of the human resources or administrative department to gauge whether you fit the qualifications for the open position. I’m not really a fan of phone interviews since I can’t really see the reactions of the person I’m speaking with, but since it’s part of the process, I’ve learned to handle it pretty well.

  • Find a quiet place. If you’re at home, make sure you’re in an area with few distractions (including pets who can bark without warning causing you to ask the interviewer to repeat their questions). If you’re at work, find a quiet corner or office. I would also suggest sitting in your car to block out all of the outside noise.
  • Have your printed resume and the job description in front of you in case they ask about a previous position you held. It’s easier to recount experiences if you have a reference you can look at.
  • Use a notebook to write down questions to ask the interviewer (before the interview starts) and to make notes on the position, next steps of the interview process and contact information.
  • Use headphones to keep your hands free to make your notes.

In-Person Interviews

Making a good first impression is key to not only show the employer that you’re a professional, but also to show that you’re confident that you can handle the position. The main way that I show my confidence is through my interview outfit, which I usually spend about two days putting together.

  • Plan your interview outfit from head to toe. Make sure every piece of clothing is clean and ironed. Set your clothes out the night before. (Checking the weather might also help in selecting the perfect look.) Don’t overdo it with the jewelry. One statement piece to pull the look together will do wonders.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start. Plan ahead for the best route to their office (since traffic in the Seattle area can be a nightmare). Make sure you know where to park so you’re not spending extra time finding a spot. It might also be best to ask the interviewer for parking suggestions.
  • Come prepared with questions. This is so important. If you go through an entire interview just listening about the company and the position and you have absolutely no question to ask, you’ll most likely be viewed as not really interested in the company you’ll be working for. Be sure to do your research on the company and ask 3-5 questions that can further the conversation which will ultimately allow the employer to get a better feel for your personality.

Post Interview

Depending on the company’s timeline for filling the position, you may hear back within a few days, a few weeks or a few months (currently raising my hand). I would, however, suggest sending a thank you note or email just to remind the interviewer of who you are. After that, it’s just a waiting game. But hopefully, you’re on a roll with other interviews and don’t have time to lay in a ball on the floor staring at your phone wishing for it to ring…

In my instance, since I haven’t heard back yet, I could still be chosen, but they could have just picked the other candidate and decided not to tell me at all, which I’m hoping is not the case. I’d like to know either way so I’m not stuck in limbo. But until then, I’ll continue to work my current job, and crush it with my Stylishly Made clients. Stay tuned for new work coming really soon! And keep your fingers crossed for me!!