(Stand Out! For the Right Reasons)
So college is over, and it’s time to join the real world. You’ve compiled a resume with flattering information about your studies, summer jobs, and internships, and now you’re sending them out to everyone under the sun. It’s time to prepare for that first interview.
If your resume and cover letter are exceptional enough to attract a company’s attention, you’ll likely receive an email response to schedule an in-person interview. This is where things can get tricky. Interviews are about making a great first impression, showing that you care about the company’s goals, and showing that you have the ambition to thrive in a particular field. You don’t want to sabotage your chances by making a joke in poor taste, not dressing for the occasion, or seeming overly confident. Remember, you just graduated from college, so you still need to build a track record. Below, we’ve outlined seven useful strategies to ensure you have a successful interview.
Prepping for a job interview is all about contingencies, or what is most likely to happen when you’re in the hot seat. That means researching common interview questions online and coming up with memorable responses to each of them, so you’re not caught off-guard when the hiring manager asks “What is your greatest weakness?” It also means maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the days leading up to your interview. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat nourishing foods, and stick to a consistent exercise schedule so that your energy levels are high.
Notice how we didn’t name this section “Dress in a Suit”. Every company’s culture is different, and that typically informs the dress code. For example, interviewing for a software engineer position in Silicon Valley with a three-piece suit may actually hurt your employment chances, because the region is known for its casual and approachable work environment. However, you should at least wear a dress shirt and slacks to the interview, no matter how casual the company is. From there, it’s just using your best judgment about the company to decide whether to wear a sport coat, tie, or a tailored suit.
From the moment you walk through the door, you are making an impression. It helps if you consider every interaction as part of the interview process. Whether talking to the doorman, receptionist, HR rep, or hiring manager keep it upbeat and professional. They could all be working together to assess your character. When waiting in the lobby, try not to fidget too much or display other unattractive habits. Someone is probably watching. Then, when you first introduce yourself to the hiring manager, make sure to smile, give a proper handshake, and look them in the eye.
Since managers may interview dozens of prospective hires, you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Some interviewees forget that you’re not just seeking a position. You’re applying to be part of a professional family. To demonstrate broader interest, you should link your career history and future goals to the company’s value set. That way the manager can see that you’re passionate about the organization itself.
Interviewers expect the hiring process to be a two-way street. That means you can’t coast by talking about yourself the entire time. After the main interview, there will be time for you to ask about the role, the department, and where the company is going. Remember, this is not a time to be nit-picky about working hours, vacation days and other benefits. If you ask questions that make you seem needy, you probably won’t get the job. Stick to positive queries that show your enthusiasm about the position. You want your interviewer to get the sense that you can’t wait to start.
The typical interview provides an open platform for candidates to talk about their unique skills, previous achievements, and future goals. Managers want to hear about specific events in your life that demonstrate your potential value to the company. Furthermore, they want to know that you’re an avid learner. They’ll probably want to train you according to their corporate structure. As long as you’re confident about your skill set and run through some hypothetical questions before the interview, you’ll do fine!
Finally, when standing up to leave an interview, you should keep the same decorum that impressed the manager when you walked in. Thank them for their time, give them another firm handshake, and leave the office with a positive attitude. When you get home, make sure to draft a handwritten thank-you note or email the interviewer. It’s the classy thing to do, and they’ll appreciate the gesture.