We are a small team of nine women who run both Cultivate What Matters and Southern Weddings. Half of us work in our main office here in North Carolina, and the other half work remotely from their home states of Tenessee, Florida, Virginia, and Georgia.
Over the last two years, we’ve grown from five employees to nine. We’ve spent close to a hundred hours (not an exaggeration) interviewing, sifting through resumes, and meeting candidates from all over the world in these last 24 months. With such a tight knit company culture of women who wear many hats, finding new team members is something we have done with great thoroughness and care.
We spent all of 2015 interviewing for a new marketing and customer delight roles. After sifting through hundreds of applicants, we hired Amber and Jess. We then spent the first part of 2017 seeking two additional people to add to our team in brand new roles. We had over 300 applicants and hired Kaylee and another amazing woman who we will introduce you to soon. Lastly, I personally spent the months of May and June interviewing dozens of women from all over the country for a challenging role to fill. We ended up hiring the last candidate we interviewed! I see why larger companies have recruiters and entire departments for hiring because this has taken up a significant amount of time on my end. But, it has been worth it. I love these ladies and the work we have been entrusted with!
All this to say, I’ve done a lot of interviewing (not just in the last two years) and kept thinking to myself (and I mean this in the kindest way!), “How do people not know these things!?” Well, now you will! 🙂 The following tips are a compilation of my own advice, tips from my team, and I even asked Ari, who helps interview new residents and fellows for UNC, what he thought. He said these tips were spot-on and I have to give him credit for number 8!
Here are our top ten tips for interviewing well, in whatever job arena you might be considering:
1. Number one: be a great fit for the role. This sounds like a no-brainer kind of tip, but we very quickly knocked out a couple hundred applicants in both business job searches by looking to see if the basic requirements of the job roles–which we very intentionally specified–were a match to the applicant’s experience. There is something to be said for being passionate about a potential role that you are willing to learn and work extra hard to catch up to what’s needed, but you increase your chances of getting hired by being a great match in the first place. For example, before Lisa got hired as an editor for Southern Weddings, she reached out to us while she was still in college to see what classes or training she could get to be a great fit for our team, should a job opening become available. (There wasn’t one in sight at the time!) She followed through and got the training we suggested, and when an opening became available, she was equipped–and hired.
2. Always send prompt follow-up emails after interviews to express your thanks and to share key points about what you enjoyed, or how that conversation helped you to see that you are a great fit for the role. If you are able, and it’s appropriate for your situation (it always is on our team!), send a handwritten note in the mail as well. When I was in college, we were taught to bring the note with us with a pre-stamped addressed envelope, write the note the moment we left (in the parking lot!), and drop it in the nearest mailbox.
3. Express your passion for the role and clearly let the employer know many times over how much you are willing to work hard for the role.
4. Writing matters. Great written communication is essential for any role that requires communication. Even for our caregiver role, this was extremely important to me. Because we are often communicating during the day through text message, it is helpful to have someone who knows how to express themselves well and accurately in words. Written communication that is spell and grammar-checked is so important to showing professionalism. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
5. Have your social media profiles updated with current information, and keep in mind that we look at it all. If someone’s profile is public, we learn a lot about them by checking to see who they follow on social media and how they communicate with others in that space. It’s also a great tool to see what someone loves and learn about their personality!
6. Be mindful of the submission time for your application and correspondence. If you are submitting to a small business, for example, don’t send your cover letter email at 1:00 am. Also, this is a subtle tip, but being the first person to apply for a job isn’t a necessary or helpful strategy (at least on our team isn’t). Take your time within the given application window to be sure you have submitted a thorough and honest application.
7. If you get declined for a role, write a prompt note of thanks. You never know where that connection will lead in the future! For example, Jess got declined for a job with us several years ago and sent me a handwritten note of gratitude after. We ended up hiring her for something different months later. Gracious replies build relationships. And there have been times that someone wasn’t a great fit for a role with us, but I referred them to other great employers.
8. Humility is your best asset. Confidence coupled with humility–the ability to say, “I don’t know it all, but I’m willing to learn and work hard,” is vital.
9. Do your research. Know the products and mission of the company so you can express your knowledge and genuine interest in furthering the mission of the business. Know the names (and correct spelling) of all the people who are in the interview process. Get to know the interviewer(s) (if possible) through social media beforehand to help with any small talk. Do your research in terms of who you are speaking with. Know their background and what role they play in the business. This can help you point out your experiences that might resonate best with that interviewer. Thoroughness and attention to detail are skills employers want.
10. Ask great questions! Come prepared to an interview with thoughtful and prepared questions that show interest and engagement. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. The employer wants to get to know you, but it’s also important to know if they are a good fit for you and vice versa. Practice and think of potential questions that might be asked and how your responses can best reflect the values held by the company. Think of things that you could not find out anywhere else but in an interview: what team members love about the job, what challenges they think you might face in the job, and if they have any reservations about you as a candidate you may be able to address.
A bonus tip: Body language plays a role in the hiring process–make it work in your favor. Take a look at this great Ted Talk for more. Kaylee told us after we hired her that she stopped at the parking lot down the road from our office to “power pose” before her interview. I think it helped! 🙂
Photos by Ally and Bobby and Olivia from Nancy Ray Photography
You also might like: How to Build a Great Team and Set Goals Together
P.S. We’re excited to announce: WE’RE HIRING!