A resume will get you an interview but it is the interview that gets you the job. The following tips will give you an overview of what you should do while preparing for an interview, during the interview, and after an interview is over.
Research the Company
Make a determined effort to secure information about the company before your interview. Simply stated, be knowledgeable about the company when interviewing for a job. This could mean going to the company’s website, researching the company in the Career Services Library in Hagerty Library, or even doing a Google search to find recent articles or press releases about your potential employer. Many employers will ask you specific questions about their company or generally ask you to share what you know about the organization. Your ability to answer these questions will demonstrate your level of interest in the company and the effort that you put into preparing for the interview. Also, be sure to review some of the current industry resources available and be familiar enough with the material to be able to discuss the latest industry issues or trends with your interviewer.
Prepare Your Responses
Prepare responses to frequently asked interview questions and participate in a mock interview to practice answering those questions. Steinbright offers interview workshops on a regular basis, and you can also schedule a mock interview with your coordinator. The more you practice, the more articulate and convincing your responses will be during the interview. Being well prepared will also alleviate some of the uneasiness you may feel going into an interview. You must also familiarize yourself with the job description so that you know what specific skills the employer is looking for in a candidate. Be sure to prepare responses which clearly illustrate that you possess these required skills. In other words, match your skills to the employer's needs, thus convincing him or her that you are the perfect fit for the job.
Dress for Success
Put thought into selecting your interview wardrobe. If you want to convince the employer that you are a mature and responsible professional, then you must look the part. Your clothing should be neat, clean and conservative. A dark-colored suit is preferred for both men and women. If you do not own a suit, there are other acceptable alternatives. Men can wear a sport jacket, tie, and neatly pressed slacks. Women can wear a skirt with a blazer, sweater or blouse, but should avoid choosing anything clingy or revealing. Both men and women should stay away from excessive jewelry, cologne/perfume, or make-up. Some students resist this conservative style of dress because they prefer to express their individual style in order to set themselves apart from other candidates. These students should be reminded, however, that it is their skills and qualifications that will most effectively enable them to stand out, not their attire. If an interviewer is distracted by a candidate's unconventional hairstyle, wild tie, or short skirt, it is likely to draw attention away from what counts - the student's qualifications. If you are unsure whether the above guidelines apply to your specific major/industry, talk to a Steinbright staff member. He or she will be able to counsel you regarding appropriate interview attire in your field.
What to Bring
Bring along 5-7 copies of your resume and your reference page printed on good quality paper, a notepad and pen to take notes, and a portfolio of your work (if necessary in your industry). Remember that everything you are wearing makes an impression— carrying these items in a briefcase or a portfolio is much more professional than a backpack. For women, bringing a purse is generally acceptable, provided that it is conservative and plain. A briefcase can be a good choice to carry your resume and other documents, and most can fit personal items as well, negating the need to carry a separate purse. If you choose to bring a cell phone, iPod or any other electronic devices with you, be sure that they are turned off and stored in your briefcase or purse for the duration of the interview.
If you have any questions about where the interview site is located, request a map or written set of directions from the company. Leave for your interview earlier than you think you need to, and be sure to have the company’s telephone number on hand in case you get lost. It is recommended that you arrive 15 minutes before your interview; if you arrive too early the employer may feel pressured to begin the interview before he or she is ready. On the other hand, arriving late (even by a few minutes) will make you appear unreliable and irresponsible, qualities that are very undesirable in an employee.
Relax and remain confident and professional. Remember to smile and be friendly, even if you are nervous. You may be interviewed by several company employees, so be prepared. Firmly shake hands and thank the interviewer(s) for the opportunity that they are providing. Be certain you get the names of all of your interviewers and refer to them during the interview by name. Express 100% interest in the position for which you are applying. Employers want to hire candidates who are enthusiastic about the position and company, so be sure to convey that you are eager to be a member of their team.
Maintain Appropriate Body Language
The way you present yourself physically in an interview can convey a lot about you. Make sure you maintain eye contact with members of the interviewing team. Eye contact conveys honesty and confidence so be careful not to stare into your lap or around the room. Also be aware of your posture. Sit straight in the chair with your hands on your lap or in another comfortable position. Be relaxed and avoid nervous behaviors (finger tapping, leg shaking, fidgeting, excessive hand gestures, etc.). One goal of interviewing is to convey confidence, and maintaining appropriate body language can help you accomplish that goal.
Understand the Question and Organize Your Thoughts
If you are not sure you heard the question properly or you are not sure of the question’s intent, ask for further explanation and clarification. Before answering a question, organize your thoughts and formulate your response in sequential order. A few seconds of deliberate thought is much better than 10 minutes of rambling. Choose your words carefully and use proper grammar. Avoid “um,” “ya know,” “well,” “like,” and other words that indicate nervousness, uncertainty, and a lack of professionalism. Also keep in mind that you must always support your claims with concrete examples from your experience. For instance, if you want to convey that you are a team player, prove it by sharing an anecdote about a specific time when you demonstrated your ability to work well with others. Practicing speaking your answers to frequently asked interview questions prior to your interview will help you to successfully answer questions and make a great impression.
Always speak positively about your previous experiences. Complaining about prior jobs, employers, classmates, professors, etc. can make you appear to have a bad attitude. If you talk excessively about negative experiences, the employer will begin to wonder how much you contributed to these problems and whether you will create similar issues in their workplace. Occasionally, employers will ask you questions deliberately designed to elicit a negative response ("Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone," "Describe your worst job," "What is your greatest weakness"). In these situations you must be honest and answer the question, but do not harp on the negative. Instead briefly describe the issue or problem, then focus on how you resolved the situation. This will enable you to showcase your problem solving skills and your ability to resolve conflict -- skills which any employer will find desirable. Remember to choose your words carefully and use neutral language. Stating that a group project was “challenging” is better than saying it was “horrible.”
Say “Thank You”
When the interview is complete, make sure you thank your interviewers and express your appreciation for their time. Let them know that you will be looking forward to hearing from them. Ask for a business card from each interviewer so that you have the correct contact information. Within the next twenty-four hours, follow up with thank-you letters to each of your interviewers.