Interview Tips – Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
The interview, that thrilling, foreboding obstacle to employment. Like any obstacle course, there are the expected sand traps, walls and worse yet- surprises. The key to successfully handling this is preparation, and recognizing that the majority of the situation is in your control- you can go to the gym to prep for your 5K, or you can go to McDonald’s. Whichever you think will get you where you need to be. So lets cover the bases.
Before your interview…
1) Research the organization: Sure, when you wrote your application, you had a feeling that this was an organization that you might want to work for. And yes, you were reasonably sure that you liked their work and found the field pretty interesting. But this is the interview, where you need to clearly articulate the fact that you KNOW you want THIS job with THIS company. It is rare that an interview doesn’t begin with some form of the question “What brought you to ___insert employer here___?”
2) Know what they do!!!: This should be an obvious one, but it is rather surprising how many people walk into interviews with a pitch suited for somewhere entirely different. If you are interviewing for a position with a sales team at a commercial bank, it would be extremely unwise of you to spend 30 minutes extolling your deep passion for education policy (not that there’s anything wrong with being passionate about education policy). Speak to your audience’s business and the role you are trying to fill because, once again, you do not want to leave them wondering “why is s/he even sitting here?” Make your answers relevant to the organization you are sitting in front of, and relevant to their work.
3) Know your resume: Be prepared to elaborate on any experience you’ve listed on your resume. Highlight skills you’ve demonstrated and gained that you are eager to bring over to the position you’re applying for. This should be all about what has equipped you to step into this position and excel. Focus on how your background has prepared you to add value to whatever team or department you work with, and how able you will be to make someone’s life easier (preferably your supervisor).
4) Know your story: Your background (academic, professional, and sometimes even personal) is what connects your resume to this organization. Why are you spending thirty-five minutes to an hour sitting across from this person if not because this company fits into your plan? Clearly articulate the common threads in your resume, what interest or drive led you from one step to another, and how this organization is a carefully chosen, and natural, next step. Where do you see this position leading you? (Do not respond that you’re using this position as a stepping stone to a job with one of their competitors. Saying you want to grow with the organization or hope go back to school is fine.)
5) Leverage your personal connections and networks: If you have anyone currently working for, connected to, or who has previously worked at that company, they should be advocating on your behalf in the background. Remember, companies place a lot of importance on referrals from within.
These are all things you should consider and prepare for prior to your interview.
Day of the interview…
1) Re-read your resume: It’s funny how we forget some things when we’re nervous. Little things…like our names, or what we’ve done for the past year. As you sit in a waiting room or lobby, give yourself a moment to breathe. Read your resume, and sort of remind yourself “Oh yeah, that’s who I am.”
2) TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE: A good rule for first dates and interviews. Because they’re almost the same thing.
3) Arrive 15 minutes early: Lateness to an interview is not acceptable. If you’re coming in on the train, get to the area near your interview 30 minutes early, grab a bagel or some tea and wait. They should get a call from the lobby five minutes before your appointment time letting them know that you’re downstairs.
4) Dress professionally: Show respect for their time, and yours, and look your best.
5) Ask questions: One of the best ways to handle an interview is to remember that you’re interviewing them as well. Ask questions, get information and thereby demonstrate your interest in the company. It’s also great to put your interviewer in the hot seat for a change. No need to ask anything too invasive, just something to show that you’ve done your homework on them and want to learn more.
6) Stay on topic: Answer the questions you are asked.
7) 1.5 minutes: That’s the absolute maximum length your answers should be. Avoid rambling answers.
8) Send a thank you note: Let your interviewer know that you appreciated the time they too to give you the interview. Whether by email, letter, or courier pigeon, your note should be sent that same evening after your interview.
So, those are some guidelines, some interview etiquette, if you will. For more interview prep, take a look at this Forbes article on The 50 Most Common Interview Questions. Know who you are, what you’ve done, and that this organization is where you want to be—then let your professionalism and preparation demonstrate that.
By Xevion B., Wall Street Services Reporter