Before stepping into an interview, be sure to thoroughly prepare. A candidate going to a job interview without preparing is like an actor performing on opening night without rehearsing.
To help with the interview process, keep the following ten rules in mind:
- Keep your answers concise and relevant.
Unless asked to give more detail, limit your answers to two to three minutes per question. Not sure how long your answers tend to be? Consider a practice interview at the Career Services Office. You can participate in this exercise in two ways: opt to have your practice interview recorded on a mini-DVD (which is yours to keep), or use our brand-new online tool InterviewStream (accessible from our home page) from any computer that has a webcam and Internet connection.
- Include concrete, quantifiable data.
Interviewees tend to talk in generalities. Unfortunately, generalities often fail to convince interviewers that the applicant has assets. Include measurable information and provide details about specific accomplishments when discussing your strengths.
- Repeat your key strengths.
It's essential that you comfortably and confidently articulate your strengths. Explain how the strengths relate to the company's or department's goals and how they might benefit the potential employer. If you repeat your strengths, they will be remembered and -- if supported with quantifiable accomplishments -- they will more likely be believed.
- Prepare success stories.
In preparing for interviews, make a list of your skills and key assets. Then reflect on past jobs, on-campus leadership positions, or academic projects and pick out three or four instances when you used those skills successfully. Practice describing those skills and experiences (out loud). If possible, record and review your "success stories" so that you can evaluate how relevant and convincing they are.
- Put yourself on their team.
Align yourself with the prospective employer by using the employer's name and products or services. For example, "As a member of _________, I would carefully analyze the ________ and _________." Show that you are thinking like a member of the team and will fit in with the existing environment. Be careful not to say anything that would offend or be taken negatively. Your research will help you in this area.
- Image is often as important as content.
How you look and how you communicate are just as important as what you say. Studies have shown that 65 percent of conveyed messages is nonverbal; gestures, physical appearance, and attire are highly influential during job interviews. During your practice interview at the Career Services Office, make a note of the non-verbal messages you might be sending.
- Ask good questions.
The types of questions you ask, and the way you ask them, can make a tremendous impression on the interviewer. Good questions require thought, research, and preparation. Just as you plan how you would answer an interviewer's questions, write out specific questions you would like to ask. Stay away from questions about salary, benefits, start date, promotional opportunities and company perks. Questions should pertain to the work, the company, their mission, and your contribution to their success.
- Maintain a conversational flow.
You will be perceived more positively if you consciously maintain a dialog during the interview. Remember, this isn't a presentation, it's a conversation. As you interview, follow your answers with "check-in" or feedback questions (e.g., "Does that answer your question?" or "Would you like to hear more?") to create conversational interchange. As you prepare for your interviews, pay attention to your body language and tone of voice to ensure they are conducive to a positive, productive discussion.
- Research the company, product lines and competitors.
Research will provide information to help you decide whether you're interested in the company. It's not unusual for an employer to ask, "Why are you interested in working here?" Make sure you can be specific about your reasons.
- Keep an interview journal and send thank-you note.
After each interview, make notes about how it went, what you might do differently next time, as well as any follow-up action that is required on your part. Within 24 hours of the interview, prepare and send a concise thank-you letter, which should restate your skills, interest, and what you believe you can do for the company.
Because of their importance, interviews require preparation. Only you will be able to positively affect the outcome. You must be able to compete successfully for the job you want. To do that, be certain you have considered the kind of job you want, why you want it, and how you qualify for it.
In addition, recognize what employers want in their candidates. They want "can do" and "will do" employees and often evaluate the following qualities in a candidate:
- Communication skills
- Work record
- Outside activities while in school
- Impressions made during the interview