When you're looking for a job, sometimes it seems that everyone wants to tell you the same basic things – write a great cover letter, tailor your résumé to the job, reach out to your network, all repeated over and over.
Instead of the same old advice, here are eight tips that you might not have heard before. (Unless you have wise friends or know a lot of hiring managers, in which case we can't make any promises.)
1. Read what your interviewers read. You've probably seen plenty of articles offering interviewing tips to job-seekers – but have you ever read the advice for the interviewers on the other side of the table? By reading instructions and advice to interviewers, you can get a lot of insight into what they're trained to look for in you, and why they might ask certain questions. Related to this …
2. Role-play with a friend, but you play the interviewer. Experienced hiring managers who have interviewed many candidates will often say they don't get nervous at their own job interviews anymore, because they've done so many interviews from the other side and understand how an interviewer's mind works. You can get a bit of this benefit by playing the interviewer yourself. If you have a job-searching friend, suggest that you practice together – taking turns playing the part of the interviewer. You might be surprised by how much more comfortable it makes you both feel.
3. Figure out what questions you're most nervous about. If there's a specific area of questioning that you're especially nervous about – like salary or why you left your last job – don't just hope that you won't be asked or that you'll figure out a good answer in the moment. Instead, assume you'll be asked and practice your answer over and over again – even rehearsing it out loud. That way you won't have the anxiety of hoping the topic doesn't come up, and you'll have a polished answer if it does.
4. Try to get your interview scheduled in the morning if you can. Otherwise, if you're like most people, the appointment will be hanging over you all day, with your nerves increasing as each hour passes. Schedule it for the morning and get it out of the way before your nerves eat away at your calmness and your confidence.
5. Ask in advance whom you'll be meeting with. It's absolutely fine to ask when scheduling the interview, "Could you please let me know whom I'll be meeting with?" By finding out ahead of time, you won't be blindsided if you walk in to the interview expecting to meet with one person and discover that it's actually going to be a panel interview in front of five people. Plus, you can research your interviewers ahead of time to get a feel for whom you'll be talking with.
6. Don't walk in early. Most interviewers are annoyed if candidates show up more than five or 10 minutes early, since they may then feel obligated to interrupt what they're doing and go out to greet you. You should absolutely get to the interview location early, because you want to leave yourself a buffer in case you hit traffic or other delays – but don't walk into the company where you're interviewing until it's five minutes before your scheduled time.
7. Skip the letters of recommendation. You might think you're strengthening your application by gathering recommendation letters from past managers, but at best you're wasting their time and yours. When hiring managers get to the point that they want to talk to your references, they want to speak with them — on the phone, where they can ask their own questions and probe for what might otherwise get unsaid. Plus, employers know that no one puts critical information in these letters, so they're of virtually no value to a conscientious reference-checker. Skip the letters, and wait to be asked for reference contact information.
8. After the interview, put the job out of your mind. Too many job-seekers drive themselves crazy by agonizing after interviews – wondering how it went, second-guessing their answers and trying to predict when they'll hear back from the employer. A better bet is to put it out of your mind and move on mentally. You can make a note on your calendar to follow up if you haven't heard back in two weeks, but until then? You're far better off not dwelling on it.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.