Congratulations! Your cover letter and resume impressed a potential employer, and you’ve been invited for an interview.
This is a great accomplishment in itself, and you should be proud that you made it to this stage of the hiring process. If you got this far, you’ve already made a good impression on paper. Now it’s time to show the hiring manager that you can deliver that same professionalism in person. Here are a few tips to help calm your nerves and prepare as much as possible for your big day:
SCHEDULE A MOCK INTERVIEW
The Office of Career Development offers mock interviews throughout the school year for students applying to internships, part-time, and full-time jobs. This is a low-pressure way to experience an interview for the first time and brush up on your presentation skills. Be sure to schedule this session at least one week prior to your actual job interview!
REMEMBER...IT'S YOUR STORY!
Be prepared to share examples from your past experiences. Think through your professional history, part-time work, internships, campus involvement, or community service—and relate what you learned there to the position being filled. Know your strengths, and understand how to translate your weaknesses into accomplishments and triumphs.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
With so much information readily available online, there is no excuse not to have basic background knowledge of the organization where you'll be interviewing. Research items like the company's mission statement, how long it's been around, the business's target markets, main products or services, number of employees, and competitors. Knowing this information ahead of time will help you present yourself well in the interview, and also assist you in developing questions to ask the employer during the next step.
Don't Be Late
Be sure to arrive 10-15 minutes early, and give yourself time to figure out where you're going. It's always better to get there with plenty of time to spare, and plan for heavy traffic in certain cities. If you arrive in the area more than 20 minutes ahead of schedule, grab a cup of coffee and relax before going into the interview. Employers are often busy, and you may catch them off-guard by arriving too early.
Dress for the position that you eventually want. You may find out later that a company has a more relaxed dress code, but you never want to arrive to an interview under-dressed. See our "Professional Wardrobe Tips" below.
Watch Your Body Language
People make a lot of assumptions based on body language. You may be nervous going into the interview, but it's important to display a composed and confident demeanor. Make eye contact, nod your head, speak clearly, and keep good posture to show your potential employer that you're interested and attentive.
Come prepared to ask 4-7 questions at the end of your interview. Some of them may be answered throughout the course of your conversation with the interviewer, so it's always helpful to have back-ups. Inquiries about the work environment, professional development opportunities, management styles, or challenges/strengths of the organization can show that you have a genuine interest in the position—and the answers may help you decide if this job is the right fit for you!
A hand-written thank-you letter or a simple note of gratitude can go a long way. Be sure this is done within 48 hours of the interview.
Keep Your Options Open
It's great to aim for your dream job or company, but keep in mind that both you and the employer are looking for a perfect fit. Don't let an unsuccessful interview bring down your confidence. Instead, treat it as an experience and use what you've learned as preparation for the next one.
The collegiate uniform of hoodies, gym shorts, and flip-flops is completely fine for hanging out with your friends—but it's not acceptable when you're entering a workplace or attending a professional event. According to CareerBuilder.com, over 50% of hiring managers cite inappropriate dress as the top mistake an interviewee can make. Follow the tips below to help you stand out for your professionalism and quality of work, and not a wardrobe faux pas:
Wear a well-fitted, dark-colored suit (blue, black, grey, or brown)
Wear your hair in a neat, clean style. Keep facial hair neatly groomed
Wear polished dress shoes or professional-looking low heels/flats. Choose shoes you can walk in, especially if you'll be touring a facility
Make sure your fingernails are neat and clean
Conceal tattoos and body piercings
Wear dark socks that coordinate with your suit
Carry a small, professional-looking portfolio/padfolio/briefcase to hold your resume and note-taking supplies
Wear small, simple jewelry and watches
Wear bright, flashy clothing or accessories/jewelry
Wear strong perfume or cologne
Wear anything tight-fitting, low-cut, or too short. Always keep a "classic" look in mind
Wear an overly trendy or extreme hair style
Carry a backpack to your interview
Wear heavy make-up or overly long, brightly-colored fingernails
Wear casual loafers, sandals, flip-flops, or sneakers
Wear anything that is wrinkled, has stains, or is torn
Wear white socks or socks that are too short
Have tattoos or body piercings blatantly visible
WORKING WITHIN YOUR BUDGET
Looking your best in an interview doesn't mean you have to spend a ton of money. Employers understand that college students and recent graduates don't have a large budget. Still, it is extremely important that you look professional.
Explore stores that have lower-cost clothing, such as T.J. Maxx, Marshall's or Belk. When selecting clothes, try to stick with staple items in neutral colors that will be easy to mix and match. If you want to avoid the dry cleaning expense, purchase clothes that are easy to clean and iron on your own. If you're in a tight bind before an interview, see if you can borrow a suit from a friend or family member—but by the time you graduate, try to have a nice professional suit of your own.