Annie Sklar is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. She finished her studies at Berklee College of Music, where she studied Jazz Composition and Tenor Saxophone. Annie has worked and played with jazz greats such as Maria Schneider, Rufus Reid, and Herb Pomeroy. You can hear some of her music on the Berklee Music Network.
Last week, we covered prepping for an interview. You should have all your ducks in a row, now its time to make it count!
THE BIG DAY
What should I wear? Tricky. I like to look at the organization’s website for telling pictures, but that’s not fool-proof. Much depends on your field-if you’re looking to work in high finance, you’ll likely want to wear a suit. But creative fields, colleges, small businesses-it’s hard to know what their office culture is like. As a girl, a simple, solid color, tailored dress with minimal jewelry works for me. That’s pretty fail safe. For the guys, in most cases you don’t have to wear a suit, but you may want to bring a sport coat just in case. You can always feel out the scene once you get to the interview, and if everyone else is dressed up, toss it on. A nice shirt (iron it, please, and no pit stains) with a reasonable tie, nice pants and decent shoes will generally work. The key is to look neat, clean, and pulled together. This extends to hair, nails, and any bags or cases you might have with you. This should be common sense, but avoid logos, statement jewelry, cleavage, short skirts, and all variety of rips and tears, even if they came built into the garment.
Get your materials organized ahead of time. You should bring a resume for each person who will be talking with you (if you’re not sure how many people there will be, bring some extras-I usually bring six). You may want to include your card, and possibly letters of reference. If there are multiple pages, collate them so that you hand each interview participant a packet without first rifling through a million sheets of paper. If you’re interviewing for a position that requires a portfolio, make sure it’s clean, complete, and relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Be nice to people. Receptionists are often the most connected people in any office. Don’t get off on the wrong foot by being rude (even if you’re just nervous). I once worked at the front desk of a busy office, and was regularly astounded by how obnoxious some people were to me. You better believe I’m going to say something if you were condescending or rude (or firing profanities at me. True story!). I don’t want someone like that working in my office. If you are neck in neck with another candidate, the decision could come down to who appears more desirable to work with. If you’re nice and polite, you’re on the right track. Also, if you’re funny, don’t be afraid to use it to your advantage! The interview is not the time to try out your new stand up routine, but a little appropriate humor never hurts.
Take a deep breath, and show them your stuff. This interview is a performance and a sale, all in one. You are the product, and you are selling yourself. Be confident, be professional, SMILE. Make eye contact, and maintain it as much as you can without being creepy. Don’t repeat yourself too much. Reiterating your strengths is great, but if you start to say the same things verbatim (which can happen easily if you’re nervous), people will notice, and their impression could be that you are limited or one-dimensional. Try to avoid “ummm” and “uhhhh” as much as possible. It’s ok to pause for a moment to think, or even buy yourself some time with a little intelligent filler (“Hmm. That’s a great question! Let me think about that for a moment.”). And lastly, don’t ramble on. If you’ve said what you need to say, stop talking. Just close your mouth and smile. Ever heard what Miles Davis said to Coltrane when he didn’t know how to end his solos? “Take the horn out of your mouth.”
If they want to talk, let ‘em talk. Listen, and don’t interrupt. A talkative interviewer can be a great advantage, as they’ll gives you lots of ammunition for asking pointed, intelligent questions. However, a real talker can pose some challenges. Timing could get dicey, as many interviews are broken into several meetings with different individuals or teams. You could also feel like you didn’t get the chance to fully present yourself, and you may end up interrupting them to get your two cents in. If you find yourself interviewed by a turbo talker, keep your answers clear and concise, and don’t stop talking until you’ve said all you need to say. Keep any questions brief and relevant.
Write a thank-you email. Keep it short, keep it simple. Thank them for their time, and let them know you’re looking forward to hearing from them. DO NOT include the twenty-five things that you forgot to mention and remembered on the train home (and you will have those moments, at least the first few times you interview). Make sure your note is sincere and well-written; no abbreviations (OMG, thx so much 4 everything!), and for the love of god, no emoticons.
Get ready for more. No matter what the outcome, it’s important to remember that there is no magic bullet. The job market is competitive, and any job worth having is going to generate a lot of interest. Most people don’t get the job, even when you nail the interview. The disappointment can get pretty real, especially when you’re fresh out of college and your student loan grace period is barreling to a close. But interviewing is great experience, and the more you do it, the better at it you’ll get. So go forth, apply, and interview!
Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.
Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:
1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | firstname.lastname@example.org