Most job interviews are for positions that will pay at least several thousand more than you are currently earning. Successful job interviews can vault your career forward. Yet, most applicants leave the process to chance. That also explains why they lose out most of the time. Don’t let that happen to you! Prepare by studying these simple steps toward success: Before the Interview, During the Interview , and After the Interview.
Before the Interview:
Research the company and the job. Libraries, the Internet (including Hospitality Online), industry magazines, the local Visitor and Convention Bureau, and competing hotels and restaurants are all good sources.
Always visit the location you will be working at (and/or other properties the company has) before the interview to see how well they are managed, how clean they are, are they well maintained, are capital dollars being re-invested. Greet some employees to see how they respond (they don’t have to know who you are or that you are there for a job interview). If you are flying in for an interview always arrive a few hours before the interview so you can walk the property before your interview to at least see the public space. Your “walk through” will give you a flavor of the property and company and provide you a reference point during your interview. It will indicate whether cleanliness is really stressed, how well the physical facility is maintained, whether employees are in uniform, what the dress code appears to be, etc.
Practice your interview at least three times in front of a mirror at home with a critical audience. It is always best if you can find someone you know and can trust, who is currently in the position you are applying for. Pick their brains!
If you can, find someone who is in the same position as the person who will be interviewing you. Ask them to do a mock interview with you. Make up a list of all the questions you think you will be asked. (Sample interview questions occur in another section of “Getting Hired.”) Then have someone grill you on the questions with a third party sitting in to critique your answers and your body language. Dress for these mock interviews. You may or may not guess the questions you will be asked but you will be prepared. Odds are, most of the questions potential employers will ask, will be similar to the ones you have practiced.
You know you will be asked to give an overview of your background. Can you easily summarize it, within 2-5 minutes, showing your career progression and how each position helped prepare you for the position you are applying for? You will probably be asked to identify your strengths and weaknesses. What are they and what steps are you taking to solidify your strengths and minimize/overcome your weaknesses? Your most significant accomplishments and why they are significant: Why should you be considered for the position you are applying for? How have you made your current property or company better? What are the three most important things you do in your current job? What would make you more effective in your current job? What don’t you like about your current job? There are hundreds of questions you can prepare. Just stick with the basics. Your objective is to think about your coming interview in relation to your current career progression. If you accomplish that you will be way ahead of most of your peers. Questions to watch out for? Questions that start with HOW or WHY. Smart employers will often be more interested in how and why you did something than in what you did. Spend some time thinking about your current job. Why do you do what you do? How do you do it? How you could do it better? Review your accomplishments and be prepared to support your answers with facts and figures.
3. Dress and Manner
Determine your dress and manner. Figure out what you are going to wear to the interview and how you will act. Sounds corny? Of course you are going to dress conservatively professional. Naturally, you will have your hair neatly groomed. Women will know to avoid excessive make-up, gaudy jewelry, or a bunch of bracelets (or a charm bracelet) that makes noise every time you move, and to minimize the number of earrings they wear. Men know to have clean finger nails, neatly trimmed beards or mustaches, and to leave earrings at home. Men and women know to make sure their shoes are shined. A job interview is not the time to express your individuality.
Why are we mentioning how to dress for an interview? Lots of materials don’t stand up to airline flights and car rides. Your choice of clothing may be very tasteful, but if you arrive looking like you slept in your clothes odds are you will not get the job offer, even if your clothes have designer names. Will your interview be in an area of high humidity? Will the clothes you are going to wear to the interview stand up if your prospective employer asks you to take a tour of the property parking lot or kitchen?
Applicants make the above mistakes every day. The purpose of the job interview is to present yourself in your best light. Usually you will not know the employers culture before the interview. Play it safe! The job interview is not the place to make a fashion or lifestyle statement. The objective of the job interview, from your perspective, is to get a job offer. Once you have the job offer you can decide whether your style fits in with their culture. Even if you decide five minutes into the interview that you don’t want the job you still want to get the job offer. You never know what doors this prospective employer might be able to open for you. Remember the old adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
How about meals? Eat conservatively. Avoid spaghetti and other foods that can spatter and spoil a shirt, blouse, or tie. Don’t smoke or drink alcoholic beverages while you are interviewing. You are still interviewing if you are staying overnight at a hotel. The prospective employer may be paying for your stay but they will monitor your bill after you check out. Other employees will notice if you had drinks, even if you pay for them yourself. Some employers don’t mind a drink or two. It is just safer to avoid them during the interview process even if they tell you it is OK. Again, you are not likely to know the culture of the company you are interviewing with and potential employer tolerance of alcoholic beverages is not the same as acceptance. How do you feel about drug tests and submitting to a background investigation? Figure out your response before it comes up. Had a DWI? Several speeding tickets and a suspended license? If these things happened to you, even if it was years ago, be prepared to answer them.
Make a list of questions you would like to ask the prospective employer. Smart employers will ask HOW and WHY questions. Have some of your own. Avoid asking about salary and benefits the first interview unless they make you a job offer on the spot. Employers rarely discuss salary and benefits during the first interview.
Good questions to ask? What are the three most important parts of this job? How do you measure success for each of them? How will your performance be measured and monitored the first three months? Why is this position vacant? How many people have held this job the last five years? What difficulties did they experience? How could they have been more successful? Why isn’t someone being promoted? How much capital is re-invested each year?
During the Interview:
Arrive at least 10 minutes early.
Stick with last names unless you are told to use first names.
Let the prospective employer dictate the pace of the interview. Many people in management do a lot of interviewing and they are used to being “in control” of the process. They have trouble letting go of the control when they are on the opposite side of the desk. If you are one of those people be careful. Good interviewers expect people to know which side of the desk they are sitting on.
What do you do if the person interviewing you is totally unprepared or totally inept? Carefully take control of the interview but be alert to give control back to the interviewer if they come to life. How do you “carefully take control”? This is where your interview preparation and mock interviews come into play. Explain how you made a difference at your most recent employers. Why you did things and how you feel you can contribute to this property or company. Tell them how your earlier training and background have prepared you for this position. Sometimes the interviewer will come to life and want to re-take control. Let them. If they don’t you will have given them the critical information they need to make a decision on your candidacy. (Whether you want to go to work for them may be another matter.)
What do you do if the interview comes to an end before you have a chance to ask your questions, or they do ask assuming they can answer your questions in five minutes or less? Simply indicate that before you could make a decision on the position you would need a few questions answered such as, and then just give them a couple of the questions you have prepared. They probably will not have time to answer them right then, but they will see that you have come prepared and that you have some solid, intelligent questions that indicate that you have really thought about the position. That will leave them with a favorable impression. Always thank them for taking the time to interview you and express your interest in their company. (Even if you wouldn’t go to work for them for all the money in the world.)
After the Interview:
Send a brief thank you note within 24 hours of the interview. (This is the perfect time to submit any interview expenses you incurred.) Then complete any follow-up steps they asked you to take. Or submit additional information they asked for.