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As chief content officer at Hearst, Joanna Coles has pretty much seen it all when it comes to interview faux pas. Candidates dumping purses on her desk -- seen it. Candidates talking in baby voice – seen it. Candidates taking time out to respond to a call or text -- amazingly, seen it.
Her biggest piece of advice, especially for millennials, is to “Put down the phone, put down the phone, put down the phone.”
“I think the single most important thing for a job interview is leave the phone in your bag and do not look at it for 20 minutes,” said Coles in a recent conversation with Know Your Value founder and Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski. “If you can do that, you’ll be hired.”
Of course, Coles knows that women still face enormous challenges in the hiring process even without committing the obvious mistakes. For one thing, women tend to have a harder time than men when talking about their strengths and accomplishments. A key trick she’s learned over the years, said Coles, is to come prepared with specific success stories.
“It’s good to have examples of things that you’ve done where you’ve succeeded,” she said. “If you have specific examples of things you’ve done, it’s more persuasive than saying, ‘I’m good at technology, I’m good at talking to people.’”
“It’s about taking it seriously,” she added, and “doing the prep for the interview.”
Still, Coles admits, acting as your own champion is often easier said than done. For all her success, even she’s had trouble articulating her professional value.
“Every time I’ve been offered a new job, I’ve automatically said, ‘Oh, I don’t think you want me for that job,’” said Coles. “It’s sort of a weird female, or at least it is in me, a weird female defense, when in fact what you want to do is scream, ‘Hooray, I want to do this!’”
Sometimes, Coles noted, you can do everything right and still be shot down. The important thing to remember in those situations, she said, is not to take it personally.
“You can spend five minutes in the fetal position, then unfurl, and go back and ask [again] in three months’ time,” said Coles.
At the end of the day, she stressed, “Take it professionally, take it seriously, but don’t take it personally.”