I recently presented a class to a group of students to help them prepare for job and college interviews. Students are not the only candidates who can benefit from this pointers.
Understand the Company/Organization. Before you go for your interview, do your research. If applying to a college, read about the school and understand its mission and culture. If you are applying for a specific program, understand all you can about it so you can bring prepared, focused questions. If you are applying for a job, research the company online or talk with current employees. Start online with the company’s website.
Prepare the Night Before. Get everything ready so you will not have to be stressed in the morning. Have your clothes, directions, questions, pen and paper, résumé/application and everything else you need ready for the day.
Plan to Arrive Early. Give yourself time to get there, accounting for potential transportation problems. If you have a cell phone, have the contact’s number programmed in the event of a delay. Traffic happens, and a quick phone call will show professionalism and consideration. Of course, it’s a lot better if you just arrive early.
But Not Too Early. Recruiters and admissions officers have busy schedules. Present yourself five to 10 minutes before your appointment. If you are there earlier than that, find a quiet place (lobby, lounge, etc.) to review your notes. Too early could lead to an annoyed interviewer, or thoughts that you got the appointment time wrong.
You Turned off Your Cell Phone, Right? Vibrate is not good enough. Off! Ringtones and interviews don’t mix.
Be Ready to Say, “Hi!” When you present yourself to whomever you were told to meet, be confident and direct. Stand up straight, make eye contact, speak clearly and say, “Hello, my name is Sue Jones and I have a 9AM appointment with Ms. Weaver.” Every impression with every person is important. They will talk about you.
The Handshake Moment. Pretend you have announced yourself to an office receptionist. You may be told to take a seat while you wait a few moments for Ms. Weaver (remember, you arrived five to 10 minutes early). When Ms. Weaver comes out to see you, introduce yourself again (“Good morning, Ms. Weaver. I am Sue Jones.”) and offer a handshake as appropriate.
Starting the Interview. As you are getting settled, offer a clean hardcopy of your résumé/application. Take out your pen and paper to take notes and to have your prepared questions ready.
“Tell me About Yourself.” You will likely hear this from Ms. Weaver. It’s almost guaranteed. Be ready to talk for 30 to 60 seconds about yourself. Key points: your name, your purpose, one to three impressive facts about yourself, and why you are in Ms. Weaver’s office (why you want the job, why you want to be a student). Be concise.
Have Stories Ready. Think about your accomplishments and contributions. Maybe you have been in clubs, study groups, volunteered in the community or have had another job. Think about how you made a difference and tell your stories. It’s OK to brag about yourself. Nobody else is going to tell Ms. Weaver about you.
Have a Few Questions Ready. Most interviews will end with an invitation to ask questions. Have two or three good ones ready that show how you want to contribute. Great job interview question: “What advice would you give me to be successful here?” Take notes as Ms. Weaver gives you the answer.
Get Business Cards/Contact Info. That way you can follow up with a sincere “Thank you!”
Closing. Ask about next steps and what you should expect from Ms. Weaver. “When will I hear from you?” “What are our next steps in the process?” Make eye contact, offer a handshake one more time, thank Ms. Weaver for her time and say good bye.