Interview with Ashlee Christian, Director of Employee Engagement at Group SJR
First, know this: HR Director Ashlee Christian really wants you to ace your job interview. In fact, if she reaches out to you, you have a strong chance of getting the job.
“The first thing that I like to point out to people is that, if you’ve received an email from someone, nobody is wasting their time on you,” Christian says. She is, essentially, a department of one, which is not uncommon among agencies looking to remain lean and flexible. But that also means she’s crunched for time, and only a handful of carefully culled candidates get to the interview stage.
“If I’m reaching out to schedule something, congratulations,” she says with a laugh. “You’re 75% of the way there.”
But, there’s still the matter of the job interview, a source of stress and confusion for so many jobseekers. While you can’t predict your interview questions, you can avoid some common interview mistakes that may get in the way of an offer.
We asked Christian to share some of the things candidates do that drive her nuts. Here are eight interview faux pas to avoid at all costs.
Playing hard to get.
If you get a call or email about an interview, respond as soon as possible. “I know that a lot of people like to play it cool,” says Christian. But not wanting to look too eager just drags out an already tedious process. “I just want to get it scheduled, on the calendar and off my plate so that I can move on to the next task.”
You may think your “Just confirming our appointment this afternoon” email makes you seem organized, but it can actually be an annoyance. Christian explains that she doesn’t always have time to respond to applicant emails within the same workday, so a confirmation email may go unanswered and lead to confusion. Unless you hear otherwise, assume that your interview is happening.
The “Who will I be meeting with?” question.
This question is often more trouble than its worth, as peoples’ schedules change constantly. “Also, it sometimes causes anxiety,” says Christian, especially when it comes to meeting senior management. She recommends coming in prepared to talk to anyone, from the intern to the company president.
Being one minute late. (Or more than five minutes early.)
This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but punctuality is super important. Being even one minute late is unacceptable, and arriving more than five minutes early is almost just as bad. If you overestimate your travel time, Christian recommends taking a walk around the block, grabbing a coffee or calling a friend for a pep talk.
“It’s a ‘know your audience’ kind of a thing,” explains Christian. While a black suit is appropriate for certain industries, dressing too formally for an interview in a casual or creative space can make you look out of touch. Do your best to understand the office’s vibe, and put together a polished look that matches it.
Forgetting your resume.
Forgetting a copy of your resume isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s such an easy way to demonstrate that you’re prepared. “Also, show off your fancy paper!” says Christian.
Christian appreciates the enthusiasm and “scrappy” attitude that so many millennials possess. But avoid behavior that’s borderline desperate. Saying you’ll do “whatever it takes” to get the job or calling and emailing after you’ve been told to wait for a response can send the message that you you’ll take any job.
Always send a follow-up email thanking your interviewer, but avoid blasting the same generic message to everyone you met. Craft a creative and thoughtful note that somehow ties back to your conversation. Regarding timing, Christian says, “Following up that day is probably good. Even if it’s the next day, that’s fine, but no later.”
When it comes to checking in, Christian recommends following the rules. If it’s a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” situation, sit tight. If you’re told that you should hear something within a week, allow at least a full week to pass before reaching out.
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.