Arrive early. Plan to arrive for your interview 10-15 minutes early. If you arrive earlier than that, go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, drive around the block, or sit in the lobby. Arriving too early may create an awkward situation and arriving late definitely creates a bad first impression. Be sure to ask for directions when making arrangements for the interview and always allow enough time for bad traffic.
Dress professionally. Your interview attire should be appropriate for the position for which you are applying. If you are unsure, choose conservative dress. In most cases, business suits are appropriate for both men and women. Carry a briefcase, portfolio notepad or manila folder. Bring extra resumes, list of references and a list of questions you need to ask.
Be yourself. Your personality and background may appeal to some employers and not to others. It is to your advantage to be yourself, rather than try to mold yourself to fit an image you think will appeal to an employer. After all, you want to find a position and employer that is compatible with ‘who you are’ and your career objectives.
Sell yourself! Six out of ten people don’t get the job they want because they don’t sell themselves. Be prepared to market your skills and experiences as they relate to the job described. Be self-confident and positive in describing your abilities to do the job. Convince the employer that you are the right person for the job and that you can help the employer solve some of their problems.
Answering the Tell me about yourself question. Eight out of ten interviews begin with this question. Respond by illustrating how your interests and skills relate to the position and how your experiences and background would enable you to contribute to the position and organization. Spend about 90 seconds to two minutes highlighting your experiences while providing a focused answer. You may want to start out with personal information, then focus on academic experiences and professional experiences, and conclude with the reasons why you are interested in the position.
Use examples whenever possible. Just stating your skills and strengths is not enough. You must demonstrate how you have successfully applied them. Be sure to give complete answers to questions. A typical answer may take 30 seconds to two minutes to explain.
Communicate effectively. Speak clearly and enthusiastically about your experiences. Listen carefully in order to effectively and appropriately answer the questions being asked and to learn as much as possible about the position. Be positive about prior experiences, employers, former supervisors, college experiences, even your weaknesses. When describing a bad experience focus on the facts (not your feelings) and be brief.
Silence is okay. Those pauses may seem longer to you than to the interviewer. A pause before answering a question enables you to organize your thoughts and present a concise answer. If you are unsure about a question, always ask for clarification before answering the question. When you have finished answering a question, stop, don’t ramble on endlessly.
Watch your body language and nonverbal communication. Maintain good eye contact, don’t slouch, appear interested–not bored and control any nervous habits (fidgeting, drumming fingers, etc.) Your voice quality also demonstrates your confidence–speak clearly. Have good personal hygiene, do not wear too much make-up, jewelry or cologne/perfume. Pay attention to the details–polished shoes, professional hair style, clean nails, fresh breath, etc.
Social etiquette and small talk skills are important. Be prepared to engage in small talk at the beginning of the interview. Your conversational skills are part of that first impression. Also, you may be invited to lunch or dinner as part of the interview. The meal is a significant part of the interview especially if your social skills are being evaluated as part of the hiring decision.
Expect the unexpected. During the interview, you may be asked some unusual questions. Often times the employer is simply seeing how you react to the question.
Qualities Employers Seek in Job Candidates. Employers typically are looking for individuals who possess a pattern of success (academic accomplishments, leadership qualities, activities;) strong grades, written and oral communication skills; related work experience; interpersonal skills; leadership potential; decision making and problem solving skills; creativity and intelligence; flexibility; initiative/innovation; enthusiasm and positive outlook; self-confidence; polished personal style, honesty and integrity; ability to get along with others–a team player; and good work ethic.
Always follow up. After you have a job interview, it’s important to follow-up right away that means within 24 hours of your interview. If time permits, send a handwritten thank you note. Surveys report that more than half of hiring managers prefer a handwritten note to an email. However, if the interviewer mentions that they will be making a decision fast, send a thank you email.