The keys to a successful interview are preparation and practice. Knowing what employers are looking for and what to expect during the interview process will help you prepare and ace your next interview.
Before the Interview
Research is critical in preparing for an interview. Employers consistently provide feedback to Barnard which emphasizes that the best candidates are the individuals who have done their homework on the company and the job before the interview.
Some areas to consider about the company:
- Organizational structure of the company –key business lines
- Major products or services
- Key people in the organization
- Size in terms of sales and employees
- View of the company by clients, suppliers, and competition
- Major competitors
- Locations other than your community
- Latest news reports on the company or on local or national news that affects the company
Some things to consider about you:
- What are the top five things I want this employer to know about me?
- What have I done that directly correlates to the position and job description?
- Why am I attracted to this company? Why would I fit?
Practicing answers to questions is extremely important when beginning to interview for any job. You want to make sure you have thought through the major “why” questions and that you are prepared to answer them. For example,
- Why this industry?
- Why this job?
- Why this firm?
Write your answers down to some of the general questions that you know each employer will likely ask. Practice answering questions out loud. It may feel awkward at first, but the difference between how an answer sounds in your head and how it comes out when you are nervous in an interview can cost you major points. Barnard Career Development offers mock interview appointments with career counselors.
Questions for the Interviewer:
Employers want to know that you have a desire to work with them. A great way to continue to sell yourself in your interview is to end with a bang. When the interviewer asks you to fill the last 10 minutes of an interview with questions you’d better be prepared. Based on your company research, prepare a list of questions you could ask your interviewer. Don’t forget, an interview is a two way street. While impressing an interviewer with your knowledge and charisma, you also need to explore whether this opportunity and environment will be a positive step for your career.
During the interview
Learn how to make a good impression, sell your skills, and ask insightful questions during the interview.
First impressions can make or break you! Before you even enter the interview room, remember the following tips:
- Be Punctual. Allow plenty of time to get to the interview. You should plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to give yourself time to "catch your breath" and collect your thoughts.
- Dress appropriately. Attire should be professional, neat, and appropriate to the industry you are looking to join. As a general rule, it is always better to be conservative.
- Body Language. Make sure you greet your interviewer enthusiastically. Give a firm handshake. Maintain good eye contact. Avoid distracting mannerisms or nervous behavior (e.g. fidgeting, crossing your arms, twirling your hair, and playing with jewelry).
- Greeters. Many companies will bring a greeter to on-campus interviews or have a junior member of the team meet you first. Greeters should be considered interviewers and treated as such. Be warm and friendly, and understand that what you say will be logged to your interviewer and included in your evaluation.
- Small Talk. Many interviews begin casually. You may have to walk through several areas of the company before arriving at the office where your interview will be conducted. Be prepared to make small talk. Just keep it simple -you will want to switch gears once you enter the office.
- Activities. Many interviewers will begin their interview questions with light material. Maybe they too played soccer in college, or were involved in theatre, or traveled the world. It’s a great way to break the ice, just be aware that these can often be missed opportunities to sell yourself. Just because the talk is light does not mean you are not being evaluated.
Once all of the introductions are made and the small talk is over you’ve got about 20 minutes until the interviewer turns the questioning over to you. How do you best control the situation? This is where your preparation will pay off.
- Sell yourself. You have a product to sell to your interviewer -you! Don’t be shy about discussing your accomplishments and highlighting your skills. That’s why you’re there.
- Don’t get stuck. Sometimes an interviewer will zero in on one aspect of your resume, but you want to make sure to utilize all areas of your background to exhibit your skill set. Use a behavioral-based question to change tracks. When asked to “tell about a time when,” use examples from your varied coursework, experiences, and activities.
- Always be positive. Never speak poorly about a firm or a particular work/school experience. Find the positive side of the situation by focusing on the skills you developed or the lessons you learned.
- Be enthusiastic. Employers want to hire people who are fresh and energetic. Demonstrate your interest in both the job and the company.
It’s not over until you leave the building. Shifting gears into the final stretch, most interviewers will ask you if you have any questions for them. THIS IS STILL PART OF THE INTERVIEW! Pull out those questions you have already prepared and use your best stuff. Also, don’t be afraid to improvise based upon some of the issues that were discussed during the interview. This is a great way to demonstrate your listening skills and your enthusiasm.
- Ask insightful questions.
- Reiterate your interest and qualifications.
- Ask what the next steps are in their hiring process.
- Thank your interviewer for their time and be sure to get their business card.