You have a killer résumé. Your cover letter was so beautiful, it made your mother cry. That seemingly endless month of hard searching and submitting applications is over now – you have finally landed an interview.
As the adage goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Follow these tips to leave them saying, “wow!”
The first step to a successful interview begins well before the interview takes place. Do your homework. Does the company interviewing you have a website? Better yet – is there a job description posted online outlining the details of the position you’d like to have? Being well-versed in a company’s available material will showcase how seriously you take the position, as well as your attention to detail and competency in research.
Next, be sure to know yourself. Not to throw you into an existential crisis, but you don’t want to end up stumped by a question about your own experiences or skills – nor do you want to end up working for a company that really isn’t a good fit for you.
Read your résumé and commit it to memory. Prepare several work experiences or accomplishments to talk about, and also questions, so that when they ask you if you have any, you can remain engaged. Rehearse your answers to some common questions. Know your strengths and weaknesses, what you have to offer, and your reason for wanting to work there.
Know what you’re looking for in a work environment, and be aware that you are also interviewing the company through your observations. Does what you’ve been told about the company align with what you see? Are people smiling, or do they seem unhappy? Life comes with plenty of bills, and we’ve all got to put food on the table. Still, you don’t want to end up at a job you only like marginally better than being homeless. It all begins with the interview.
After researching the company and taking personal inventory of what you’ve got to offer and what you want, it’s time to physically prepare for the interview. Print off a couple copies of your résumé, letters of recommendation, references and samples of your work. Make sure your suit is clean – that’s right, your suit. Oscar Wilde said you can never be overdressed or overeducated, and this rings particularly true in the context of an interview for a professional position. You want to present yourself with polish, as someone who could be put in front of a client that day. If you have tattoos or piercings, consider whether covering or removing them, respectively, would be appropriate.
It’s important to note that not all businesses have the same dress code – in fact, some don’t have dress codes at all. Be mindful of this, and dress for your specific industry.
Your homework is done, your materials are printed and packed, and your suit is freshly pressed. It’s game time. Now what?
Arrive early. If you’ve never been to the location before or think you may have trouble finding it or finding parking, leave extra early.
During the interview, try not to fidget. Wear your hair up and away from your face if you have trouble leaving it alone. All of the attention should be on your qualifications – not your fingernail biting.
Answer questions directly, honestly and concisely, but stay positive. For example, when asked about your biggest weakness, you could end on a positive note by mentioning what you’re doing now to help you overcome that weakness. Feel free to pause for a moment if you need to think about your response before you speak. The ideal pause duration lies somewhere between “haste makes waste” and “he who hesitates is last.”
Finally, remember to be appropriate, but show some personality. Your interviewer isn’t just considering your qualifications on paper – they want to hire someone they feel can work well with team members in the company. It’s hard to gauge whether or not a robot plays well with others.
Give the company about a week before you call to follow up. Politely reference your interview, state that you are calling to follow up on it, and let them take it from there.
Do you have any advice for preparing for an interview? Share it with us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.