Interviews are one of the most crucial steps in obtaining a job. An interview is a meeting where a group of established employees ask questions to a potential hire to see if the person would be a good fit for the job. An interview is an opportunity to showcase a crisp professional image, communicate personal desire and skills-based ability to work for a company and demonstrate quick critical thinking skills to illustrate how you can be a long-term asset to a company.
Take the opportunity to practice your interviewing skills with a system called Interview Stream. Go to our interview stream website and set up an account. The site features interview tips as well as a method of conducting a mock interview.
- Prepare for the Interview
- Research the company and position for which you are interviewing. Demonstrate genuine interest and commitment by connecting your professional skills to the company’s skills. Come prepared with a physical copy of your résumé and cover letter, along with a portfolio of work.
- Find a professional outfit to wear to make a good impression! Dress more professionally than normal and ensure that it is clean and well-fitting. Have an outfit prepared the night before to eliminate next-morning stress. Dress conservatively.
- Figure out where you will go for the interview. Leave a little early in case of traffic issues or other surprise problems. Know where you need to park and in what building/suite/room the interview will be conducted. Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early to relax and get prepared.
- “Wing the interview.” The interviewer will be able to tell if you are prepared or not. You may receive questions directly related to the position and company that you will not be able to answer if you have not done the proper research. Dress casually because everyone else is in casual attire. An interview is the chance to present yourself as clean, polished, and professional. Ensure that the clothes are neat, wrinkle-free, and is at the very least, business casual (dress shirt, slacks, and shoes). Arrive too early or too late. Arriving too early (such as an hour) makes it appear that you cannot follow directions or are too eager. Arriving late makes it appear that you have poor time management skills and/or do not care about the position.
- During the Interview
- Take a deep breath and smile! It is okay to be nervous. Be confident enough in your abilities and skills that you can communicate your value to a company despite the nerves.
- A couple of minutes before the interview begins, check your overall appearance. Ensure that you have fresh breath, that your hair is clean and neat, and that you look polished.
- Be prepared for common interview questions:
- “Tell me about yourself”
- Use this as an opportunity to summarize your strengths as a professional, talk about recent accomplishments and explain how previous positions have given you the skills you need to be successful in the position. Match your career assets and experience to the specific job requirements.
- Example: “My name is Jane Doe. I recently graduated from Piedmont Technical College in Human Services. I am disciplined with my time, consistent in providing excellent work, and strong at adapting to various environments. For the past three years I have also worked as a General Manager. I have stocked shelves, managed inventory, trained employees, and provided timely feedback to improve sales. My skill set includes excellent organizational skills, the ability to oversee money transactions, and leadership skills to teach and encourage a team of staff to be their best in customer service and inventory management.
- “Why do you want this job?”
- Be honest and show that you have what it takes to be an asset to the company. Do not talk about money but explain how your abilities and experience would strengthen the company and demonstrate that you will thrive in this environment.
- Example: “I want this job because I believe that I have what it takes to be an exceptional Managing Secretary. Given my experience managing a store, I know how to handle different personalities and oversee a large number of operations. I believe that this position would allow me to benefit the company by keeping accurate records, overseeing the notes and memos of others, and passing along secure information.”
- “What are your weaknesses?”
- Find a weakness that communicates a strength but is nonessential to the job. Avoid humble bragging but be honest about something you have found difficult to manage (impatience, time management, confidence, experience). Give specific measures by which you are improving.
- Example: “I struggle with managing my time wisely. While I have the skills needed to succeed, I will often under or overestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a project and have run into problems with deadlines. To counter this, I proactively plan around the projects I have to complete, allocate realistic time frames, and communicate with my team to have a system in place.”
- “Do you have any questions?”
- Always follow up with questions. Questions show that you have a genuine interest in working for the company and that you are willing to learn and grow. Make sure that you do not ask something that can be easily discovered by research and avoid inappropriate or personal questions.
- Examples: “How would you describe a typical day at the job?” “What would you say the general work environment and culture is like?” “Are there any opportunities for advancement in this position? If so, what do they look like?”
- After the Interview
- Within 24-48 hours of the interview, send a message of appreciation. Figure out whether an email, written note, or phone call is appropriate and ensure that it gets to the individual(s) who conducted your interview. Be professional in the note and do not sound needy or desperate.
- Ensure that you follow protocol in the next phases of the interview. Follow instructions carefully and maintain contact with the organization as you proceed through the process.
- Maintain professionalism, even in the face of rejection. Thank the employer for their time. Hone your skills, learn from your mistakes, and grow as a career-minded person. If rejected, move forward with grace and keep searching for your dream job!