Congratulations college graduates! Take a minute, have a drink, celebrate surviving school… and then buckle down again! It’s time for round two of hard work, called “Finding a Job”.
If you want to be successful, you can’t roll out of bed, throw on the first thing you see, and meet your interviewer with a winning smile. Might work, but most likely, probably, definitely won’t.
Modern job markets are fiercely competitive, and with the information world literally at the tips of your fingers, there’s no reason why you don’t stroll into that interview and wow whoever you meet!
This article will cover interview preparation (everything from updating your resume, analyzing your skills/qualifications, and researching the company) to what to wear, how to conduct yourself politely and professionally, and how to prep for and practice your interview questions.
Let’s find you a job!
Before The Interview
Do some analysis! That phone in your hand is armed with information. Use it! (Unless it’s a land line… then find a computer.)
- Carefully examine the job listing and distill out the important keywords and phrases.What kind of tone does the listing use? What kind of employee are they looking for? What kind of skills and qualifications do they want?
- Consider all your skills and qualifications, then grab a notepad and make a list.Are you good at organizing workflow? Are you an Excel master? Do you have killer public speaking skills? Match up what you’re working with to what they’re looking for! Be prepared to discuss these qualifications and your experience with them in the interview.
- Research the company!This is a crucial step to understanding the company’s culture, direction, goals, mindset, and workplace environment. You’re going to spend a good chunk of your time at this place, with these people. You want to know what you’re getting yourself into.Study the company’s website. Review any relevant trade journals or literature. Read press releases to understand the current state of affairs and future plans. Use websites like Glassdoor, Vault, and Career Search to read what previous employees have said about the company (and take said reviews with a boulder of salt). Look up your future employer on social media to see what they have to say and how they engage with their followers.
- Update your resume!These companies aren’t looking for cookie-cutter individuals! They are looking for unique, talented employees with relevant skills and experience. Your resume should reflect this! You can’t just hand out the same resume at every interview, because every job is different, and you should tweak your resume to reflect each one.Don’t be generic. Tailor your objective to the needs of that company. Ditch the clichés and monotone! This is the portion of your resume that should (professionally) show a taste of your personality and SCREAM how you are a perfect fit and what you can do for THEM! Check out this article for some great examples!
Adjust your job descriptions to focus less on the tasks and responsibilities that you performed, and more on what you achieved for the company. Your goal is to show a potential employer what you bring to the table, and how you can improve their business.
- Host A Q&A SessionStudy possible interview questions and rehearse your answers. The key is being prepared! Practice with a family member or friend, and rehearse in a mirror so you’re able to see your gestures, facial expressions, and mannerisms.Your goal is to discuss yourself and your capabilities as confidently and comfortably as possible. Prepare answers for the awkward or hard questions about your weaknesses, lack of related or leadership experiences, and your work history.
Create a list of questions to ask your interviewer before you conclude your meeting. It shows an active interest in the position. Don’t ask for information readily found on the website or in any literature, because you should already know those answers anyway.
DO NOT ask about salary or benefits. Those discussions come later.
DO ask about how soon you can expect to hear something or if they need any additional information from you. You can also ask about important job criteria, how employees are evaluated, and advancement opportunities.
Check out this list from Forbes of 50 interview practice questions!
The Day of the Interview
This might sound like common sense, but get a good night’s sleep and make sure you eat! Your brain works best when it’s rested and hunger will negatively affect your mood, mindset, and performance.
Know where you’re going and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Do a drive by the day before, so you can anticipate traffic and are comfortable with the route.
Show up early. Not an hour early, but 15 minutes is appropriate. It’ll give you time to sit down, look through your notes, and adjust to the environment. Remember that you’re being observed from the second you set foot on the property, and act accordingly. Be polite to everyone you meet and mind your manners, even in the waiting area.
What to Take
- A portfolio with several copies of your resume and cover letter
- A notepad and pen
- A list of references
- The questions you have prepared
- Mints (NOT gum, no smacking during an interview)
What NOT To Take
- Your cell phone. Tuck it in the center console!
- A purse. The portfolio is sufficient for an interview and allows you to enter and exit the room uncluttered.
- Food or beverages. Leave your coffee in the car!
- A crappy attitude. Even if you’re having a bad day, put a polite smile on and get through your interview. THEN go home and binge on Netflix.
During The Interview
Keep your handshake brief and confidently firm. Make eye contact and smile pleasantly as you introduce yourself.
Don’t fidget or touch things that aren’t yours. (Not even if there are fun toys on the desk!)
Be genuine, polite, and attentive. The interview dialogue should be a conversation where you listen intently and answer thoughtfully. This is where all that research you’ve done comes in handy. Think of it as writing a paper, but out loud and in real time.
Keep your body language confident and professional. Don’t slouch, jiggle your leg, fuss over your clothes, or fidget.
Stay on task for the meeting. Avoid tacky humor and tasteless jokes, as well as discussions of politics, religion, or money.
Be sure you get business cards from everyone you meet and interview with!
Send handwritten thank you note within 24-48 hours of your interview. Time is of the essence! Thank you notes make a great impression and nudge you back to the front of your interviewer’s mind. Thank you notes can be as simple as, “I enjoyed meeting you and learning about (the company). Thanks for your time!” or written like a sales letter, reminding the reader of your qualifications and why you’re perfect for the job.
This article from The Balance has great pointers for writing thank you notes!
Keep your interview outfit clean, pressed, and hanging up neatly so it’s always ready to go! This will save you stress and time because you won’t have to worry about what you’re going to wear and if it’s clean.
Always err on the side of caution and overdress. You can’t go wrong with a clean, pressed suit in a neutral palette. Go light on jewelry and accessories. Always try on your interview outfit to make sure it’s comfortable – you don’t want to be distracted and adjusting your clothes constantly.
DO NOT show up to an interview looking like you just rolled out of bed! Do something with your hair! This goes to men and women.
- Ladies, stick to simple, classic styles that flatter your face and don’t require ongoing attention. Style it in such a way that you can leave it alone and focus on your interview.
- Gentlemen, be sure you are clean shaven and your hair is styled. Even if it’s as simple as a touch of gel, it makes a difference!
As strange as it sounds, having nice hands is important. Especially if you’re going to be shaking a stranger’s. If you don’t spring for a manicure (yes, men, this applies to you too) at least be sure your hands and nails are clean and trimmed neatly.
Stick with your “everyday look” when applying makeup and be sure to brush your teeth!
Choose comfortable, appropriate shoes and make sure they’re clean and shined, if need be.
Take a deep breath, and good luck!