Presenting yourself to an employer on paper is obviously important, but resumes by themselves rarely land jobs; interviews do. Interviewing effectively means being prepared to present yourself positively by discussing your background and career goals. The employer will be most interested in your academic background, your work experience, and what you have learned and accomplished from these experiences. Here are some ways to help you get ready for your interviews.
Make a Great First Impression!
Even with some practice role playing, you will be nervous. That’s natural because this is an important conversation and some anxiety about its outcome is to be expected.
- Relax! Take a deep breath, remind yourself of your career successes and think of what you have to offer this organization. Describe your abilities and assets in relation to the job you want … this will more than likely impress the interviewer and help you to be more relaxed and confident.
- Emphasize the positive and indicate that you could contribute to the organization. Don’t volunteer weaknesses, but be prepared to discuss what limitations you have, and more importantly, what you’re doing or have done to improve them.
- Arrive for the interview early … this is really important! Lateness can leave a lasting negative impression. Have enough time to collect your thoughts and make a final check of your appearance in a mirror. This will lessen your nervousness and help you to feel prepared and more relaxed.
You should look the part you wish to play. Dressing “conservatively” is advised, and most often means a suit for men and suit or professional looking attire for women.
- Minimize jewelry, make-up, and overpowering fragrances. Once in the interview, avoid excessive gesturing, eye contact with the floor instead of the interviewer, and poor posture that may indicate a lack of enthusiasm or interest.
Try to think of the interview as a conversation, an exchange of information. Though it tends to be more formal than most, establishing rapport with the interviewer and having a sense of humor (note: this does not mean “trying to be funny”) can be as important as communicating the ability to make sound decisions and having a fistful of credentials. Having poise and confidence definitely counts.
Be prepared to answer certain significant questions about yourself. Know what questions you want to ask the prospective employer regarding training programs, new products, services or clientele, general working conditions, etc. If you have adequately researched the organization ahead of time, you should already know some of these answers, but the interview is the right time to find out more. You’ll score more points with the interviewer if you already know something about the organization and the kind of position you want. Knowing little about either is an instant turn off.
Interviews have beginnings, middles, and endings as all conversations do.
The Warm Up
Introduce yourself with firm handshake and a look that says “I’m looking forward to this” rather than “I hope you don’t ask me something I can’t answer.” Usually that first minute or two is devoted to light chitchat about the weather, your hometown, or perhaps something interesting in your resume. Remember that first impressions, positive or negative, die slowly. Make yours count.
Getting Down To It – Most of an Initial Interview will be Spent Discussing:
- Your qualifications: choice of major, most valuable courses, types of jobs held and related experiences, achievements, role in campus/ community activities, and recreational or cultural activities.
- Your goals: long term, but particularly your immediate career objectives and how you have realistically assessed your abilities in relation to these goals.
- Your knowledge of the organization: its major services and products, opportunities for training and advancement, and how you can fit in.
The employer is basically looking for a qualified person with a positive attitude and the intelligence and energy necessary to accept responsibility and follow through. Be prepared to give specific examples of how you have demonstrated some of these attributes.
- Making sure you have answers to your questions (but do not needlessly prolong the interview).
- Knowing what further information (references, transcripts) the organization requires.
- Knowing when you will be notified of the interview results.
Write down the interviewer’s name so that you can send him/her a “thank you” note. This is a professional courtesy and is especially advised if you are still interested in the job.
Remember to be yourself, know your strengths, and be honest with the interviewer. Practice and preparation are the keys to interviewing successfully. Do all you can to be as confident and prepared as possible.