As college students, we are all too familiar with the looming anxiety that comes with entering the job market. Most of us will inevitably spend hours, days, even weeks searching and contacting potential employers trying to land a job—any job—or if we’re really lucky, one that we might truly love and be fulfilled by. Even getting a response about a job inquiry can feel like a massive victory- but don’t celebrate just yet! The next step in the process, the interview, can really make or break the opportunities you are afforded. Although it can be a nerve-wracking process, interviews are actually a great chance to let yourself shine. For those with a less than desirable resume, interviews allow you to make up for what you are lacking on paper by demonstrating your personality and capabilities firsthand. And if you are on the opposite end of the spectrum, the opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills will only further compliment the spectacular resume you worked so hard to build.
Obviously, interviewing is a stressful and ongoing process; it is not only the interview itself that matters, but also how you prepare before and follow up after the interview that will make an enormous difference—and just may get you the job!
Before the interview:
- Get to know your company and interviewer. Gathering as much information as possible about your potential employer is integral to a successful interview. Scour the company’s website, find any available information on the interviewer, or even call the company to speak with someone who is currently employed there. The more you know, the more prepared and interested you will seem.
- Dress for success. Not only will dressing professionally show that you take yourself seriously (and that others should too!) but it will also make you feel better. By looking your best, you can feel your best and ultimately perform to your maximum potential.
- Practice. Available online are a whole slew of potential interviewing questions. Make a list and practice answering each one. JMU’s Recruit-A-Duke offers two interviewing services: Practice Interview Program, in which students can schedule appointments to meet with employers and practice interviewing, and InterviewStream, which allows you to practice interviewing online using a webcam.
During the interview:
- Take your time. Always think before you speak. When the interviewer poses a difficult question, take your time to compose an answer that is worthwhile instead of rushing through with an inadequate response, or worse, blathering on about nothing.
- Ask questions. By either creating a list of questions beforehand, or writing down questions as the interview progresses, you will show your interest in the company and desire to grow as a future employee.
- Remain professional. Of course it is important to remain calm, cool, and collected during an interview, but this does not mean you should let your guard down. Feeling too comfortable with the interviewer can allow you to slip up and come off as unprofessional. Remember: the interviewer is your future boss, not your new best friend.
- Sell yourself honestly. It is integral to sell yourself during an interview, but it is commendable if you are able to remain honest at the same time. For example, the interviewer will most definitely ask what your strengths are, but will also expect you to know your weaknesses.
- Provide examples. When answering questions or referring to your skills and experience, be able to cite concrete examples. Saying that you “volunteered at a soup kitchen in Baltimore” will come off as much more respectable and noteworthy than saying something vague like you “helped those in need”.
After the interview:
- Say thank you. Just as you have gone out of your way to make time for the interview, so has the interviewer. Thanking them shows that you are grateful for the opportunity and humble enough to recognize the effort and time someone else put forth for you.
- Call them back. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time frame (say 2-3 business days), take the initiative to call or e-mail them back, express your continued interest in the position, and politely ask if and when you can expect to hear back. This will not only show to them that your interest is sincere, but it also will help you decide your next move within your own job search.
Interested in more information? Check out these sites that helped me out!