Preparation is the key to successful interviewing. Knowing what to expect and how to conduct yourself in this often stressful setting can greatly improve your chances of landing the job.
Following are some basic things you need to know before meeting with recruiters.
Rehearse Probable Questions
Elsewhere on this Web site you’ll find a link to a list of Common Interview Questions. Preparing your answers to possible questions is the most important part of your interview preparation.
- To start, review the list and find questions you think might give you the greatest difficulty.
- Sketch a brief outline using “talking points” that provide key words or phrases that offer clues to your answer for each question. Blank index cards are good for this purpose. Use one card for each question. Write the question on one side and the answer outline on the other side.
- Use these index cards to practice memorizing your responses. After some practice, your answers to even the toughest questions will come naturally. This will give you confidence and will help reduce any anxiety prior to the interview.
While no one can anticipate every possible question from a recruiter, you’ll find most questions come from three areas:
- your academic history;
- your work experience; and
- your career goals.
Having a good understanding of these three areas can help you answer almost any question that will come your way.
Research the Employer
Interviewers will expect you to have some basic grasp about what their organization does and some knowledge of its products or services. You don’t have to be an expert on the employer, but having no idea about the firm you are interviewing with is a deal breaker. Seen from their perspective, why would an employer hire you if your not motivated enough to learn something about their business?
Dress for Success
Always wear a suit to your interview, even if the employer promotes a casual style in the workplace. Conservative colors and styles are best. Don’t overdo makeup, jewelry, perfume or cologne. The fine clothing departments of local national department stores can offer good advice on putting together an impressive interview outfit.
First Impressions Are Lasting
In addition to proper dress, first impressions are also created by your personality and attitude. Greet your interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. Address them by name (“Good afternoon, Mr. Green.”). Make eye contact. Try to appear as relaxed and confident as possible in those first few critical minutes of the interview.
Bring a Copy of your Resume
Don’t assume your interviewer has a copy of your resume handy, even if you e-mailed or sent it to the employer prior to the interview. Bring one or two crisp copies of your resume with you to the interview. You also might consider bringing a copy with you on a floppy disk or CD, since many employers prefer to store records in electronic format.
Before the interview, try to make a list of the skills and abilities you know are required for the position. Sometimes you can find this information in the job description or advertisement. Then make a comparable list of your skills and experiences that match those requirements. Be prepared to provide examples of things you’ve done or classes you’ve taken that indicate that you possess these needed skills.
During the interview, discuss with the recruiter how you meet or exceed the requirements set forth for the job opportunity. Don’t confuse confidence with cockiness. Employers are impressed with candidates who are sure of themselves and are not afraid to market their talents.
According to most employers, candidates who ask questions about the job during the interview are perceived as more interested in the position than those who do not ask questions.
Following are some topics, considered “safe areas,” to which you can direct your questions:
- Training opportunities
- Advancement capabilities
- Company history and culture
- The employer’s primary service or product
Try to be Yourself and Relax
Most recruiters expect candidates to be a little nervous. That’s fine as long as you don’t let it become debilitating during the interview. If you have done your research and preparation, you will probably be able to handle anxiety better than those who go into the interview “cold.” Just be yourself, and answer questions honestly and plainly. If you get hit with a tough question you can’t answer, sometimes it helps to ask the interviewer to rephrase the question. Most importantly, don’t be dishonest or try to make up an answer. Chances are, that strategy will only make things worse.
Leave on a Positive Note
Before you leave the interview:
- Be sure to thank the recruiter for his/her time and consideration. Courtesy goes a long way.
- Ask for his/her business card (so you have a record of their name and contact information).
- Inquire when a decision about filling the position will be made. Make one last expression of your interest and excitement about being considered for the position.
Within 48 hours of the interview, we recommend mailing or e-mailing a short thank-you letter that expresses once again your appreciation for their consideration and your continued interest in the job. This is a quick and easy way to make you stand out from the other job candidates.