Congratulations, you scored an interview! Now what? This post will provide tips to make sure you’re ready for the big day.
1) Research the Company
- Of course, you will want to research the company online. Look at the company website and search for news articles regarding the organization.
- Leverage your network to learn more. Can you speak with alumni who work at the organization?
- Make sure you understand the position description. Does it match your skills and interests?
- Understand a little about the sector in which the company operates (health care, financial services, government, etc.). For entry-level positions, it’s usually not necessary that you know too many industry details, but some basics might be helpful, depending on the job.
- Dress code varies depending on the company. If you are not sure how to dress for your interview, ask! Your HR contact at the company should be able to help, or talk to the Career Development Center. If you are ever in doubt, opt for a simple dark colored suit. It’s easy to take off your jacket if you feel too formal, but if you show up without one in a formal work environment, your interview could be over before you even speak. Don’t wear strong cologne or perfume. Women shouldn’t mess with a lot of jewelry and accessories, and don’t wear heels if you can’t walk in them! Keep your outfit modest and uncomplicated.
- Make sure you know the format of the interview, how long it will be, and with whom you will be meeting. Most companies will tell you the positions of the interviewers ahead of the interview; if the company provides exact names, research the individuals.
2) Practice Makes Perfect
- There are several common types of interviews. Make sure you understand what type of interview you will have. Will you meet with one person or a panel, and most importantly, what type of questions will you have to answer?
- Most employers will ask you some standard questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” or, “Why do you think you are a good fit for this position?” Many entry-level companies leverage the behavioral interview. Behavioral interviews focus on your past to predict how you’ll behave in the future. Example questions might be, “Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult person,” or, “Tell me about an accomplishment of which you are very proud.”
- Anticipate questions and prepare sample answers that highlight your job experience and education. While it’s perfectly fine to use some of the same experiences to answer multiple questions, you also want to make sure you don’t repeat the same example over and over.
- Be able to explain more than just what you did; you want to give specific examples of how you’ve added value. Here are a couple of examples: (A) If you produced daily reports for your internship, say that, but don’t stop there. Elaborate, and describe how you produced the reports faster than previous interns by coming up with a new automated process. (B) If you had an intense final project for a difficult class, don’t just list the project specifications. Explain exactly what you did to help your team. You outlined the project steps and developed milestones to keep the team on track; you analyzed data and created charts in Excel, etc.
- Talk through examples out loud, take advantage of mock interview opportunities at school, or leverage friends and family who will give you honest feedback on both the content of your answers and your style. You may feel a little awkward doing this, but it truly makes a difference, and you will feel more comfortable during the real thing.
3) Always Be Prepared
- It’s the night before interview day! Tell your roommates it’s an important day and go to bed early.
- On the day of your interview, make sure you allow plenty of time to arrive at the interview site on time. If you can, drive by the interview site ahead of time. At the very least, look up directions and have phone numbers for your interview contacts handy in case you get stuck in traffic or lost.
- Get a “padfolio” (a sturdy folder) or binder to take to the interview. Depending on the job and the company, make sure to bring your portfolio and other supporting information. Use the padfolio to organize extra copies of your transcript, resume, references, and anything else you think you may need. Also bring something you can use to take notes.
4) It’s Game Time!
- The first impression counts. From the moment you walk in the door for your interview, be enthusiastic and make good eye contact. An interview is a two-way street; treat it like a conversation.
- During the interview, make sure you listen. If necessary, repeat back questions to make sure you understand them. Don’t panic if you can’t think of a perfect answer or example right away; it’s okay to ask for a few seconds to think about a question or two.
- Ask questions that show you have done your research. For example, don’t ask, “So, what does this company sell?” Do ask questions that you can’t answer by an online search, such as, “What do you like best about working here?”
- If there is an informal component to your interview schedule (like a lunch, workplace tour, or a job shadow session), remember this is part of your interview as well! Don’t slack off during those portions of your day. Your resume got you the interview, but your communication and interpersonal skills are often what will get you the job.
- Be able to articulate why you are interested in the job, even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your career. Explain how your strengths, skills, and experiences match the requirements for the job. Engage the interviewer so he or she wants to know more about you.
5) Closing and Follow up
- Understand the next steps. When will you hear back from the company? Will the next step be another interview, or could it be a job offer?
- Make sure you get contact information from your interviewers and follow up with them after the interview with a thank you note, or to provide additional supporting documents if requested.
- Close with a firm handshake, a direct smile, and a sincere, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.”
Take these tips into consideration as you prepare for your interview, and you will ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Now take a deep breath; you’ve got this!
– Brian Carlson, IS Manager, Federated Insurance