January 29, 2018

The Applicant

TopMan Suit


I have been interviewing for jobs my entire adult life (actually even earlier since I got my first job as a tutor at age 17).  I used to think that all this experience made me a great interviewee.  

I was wrong.

I am now in a position where I interview doctors fresh out of medical school for residency positions. Occasionally, there are times during these interviews when I cringe.  Not because the applicants are bad, but because I can see them making mistakes that I used to make all the time as an applicant.  Being on the other side of the desk and serving as the interviewer has opened my eyes to subtleties of the process that I never understood before.  

Here are some tips for how to leave a great impression at your next job interview. 

1.  Dress to unimpressWait, what...?  What I mean is, you don't want your clothing to be the most memorable thing about you.  In general, conservative is better.  For men, there is no need for the floofy plaid pocket square bursting out of the coat.  Also, ditching the tie and socks may be a cool move at a dinner party, but it doesn't go over as well at the interview so remember to keep your ankles and neck fully adorned. 

For women, it's the same idea.  You want to err on the side of being more conservative with your clothing.  Neutral colors and business suits are best. Also, be careful with brands.  As much as I love designers, a little goes a long way.  A bag with a massive Louis Vuitton logo, Chanel earrings, Louboutin shoes...   after a while, these can just be distracting.  In summary, let your character and life/work experiences take center stage during the interview, not your clothing.  

2.  Be on time.  "Oh but because of LA traffic, it took me 2 hours to get here..."   I can't tell you how many times I've heard traffic as an excuse for showing up late.  The job interview is the one time it really pays to be early so I recommend allowing an additional 30 minutes beyond what Google Maps says your estimated travel time will be.

3.  Avoid negativity at all costs.  I used to fall into this trap by saying things like, "I know the job involves lots of paperwork and sometimes may not be super exciting, but overall I love the company's mission..."   Okay, see that first part about paperwork?  No one wants to hear that at an interview!  I used to say it because I thought it made me sound realistic.  It doesn't.  It just made me sound negative, or like someone who is not excited about the position.  I see applicants make this mistake all the time. 

4.  Let your enthusiasm show.  Don't be afraid to convey how much you really want the position. This is done by mentioning specifics about the position that really attract you to it.  For example, "I'm excited to apply for a position at this institution because of it's focus on the underserved community in Los Angeles"  sounds a lot better than,  "I just want to work in LA and your location is convenient for me."  There have been many times when an applicant gets hired over someone else (even someone with more impressive credentials) because he/she showed more enthusiasm and interest in the position.       
5.  Be careful with humor.  Okay, interviews can be awkward and it can be very tempting to break that awkwardness with humor.  I'm not even close to the funniest guy out there, but I get this urge to turn into a B-list Jerry Seinfeld impersonator every time I interview.  In my experience, humor is usually only met in one of two ways: It can be cheesy leading to a forced chuckle or worse, it can be outright offensive.  In conclusion, I suggest limiting or omitting humor from the job interview altogether. 

6.  The QuestionYou know the one, "What would you say is your worst attribute?"  To answer this, give an attribute that is really in some way a positive.  For example,  "I find that I can be a little too detail-oriented."  As an applicant I thought that it was too cliche to answer in this way so I would actually give a legitimate negative attribute.  I'm not joking.  I would say... "well, I'm kind of shy and I don't like being in front of people."   No No No!   Always answer this question honestly, but with an attribute that can also be viewed as positive, even if you feel like a walking cliche doing so.  

7.  The Thank You Card. As an applicant, I never wrote a thank you card because I thought it would be viewed as redundant and unnecessary.   However, now as an interviewer, getting a thank you card in the mail makes me think again about that applicant.  Also, it demonstrates true interest in the position.  For these reasons, I think taking the time to write an old-fashioned thank you card can definitely be worthwhile.  Although, this certainly won't make or break you during the application process.        
8.  Be yourself.  You may not be the smartest applicant in the world, or the most experienced, or the most confident, but you are the best at one thing.  You are the best in the world at being YOU.  No one else on this planet has the same unique set of personal experiences and qualifications that you have.  During the interview, draw special attention to the attributes or experiences that really set you apart from the other applicants.  You will do fine!  

Best of luck,


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