Whether you’re a student looking for a part-time job or a graduate seeking full-time employment, chances are you will have to endure the most dreaded part of the hiring process: the job interview.
But don’t stress, because there are steps you can take to prepare for your interview, and there are behaviors you can practice to ensure that you make a great first impression on the employer. As someone who has interviewed with many different companies, including retail stores, public relations firms, and marketing firms, I have worked to perfect my interview tactics and maximize my chances of acquiring the job I want.
Here are a few tips that I can provide from my own experience:
Do research on the company you are interviewing with prior to the meeting.
Make sure you know exactly what the company does, and also make sure you know all the requirements and responsibilities of the position you are applying for. You can often find a substantial amount of information about a company just by Googling it. The interviewer might ask you why you chose that specific company to work for, and you want to be able to provide a good answer. Impress the interviewer with your knowledge of the company. Bonus points if you can connect a relevant personal detail about yourself to your reason for wanting to work for that company.
Look up common interview questions for your field, and ensure you are prepared to answer each of them.
By researching and preparing for common interview questions, you will be able to answer questions in the interview much faster. Plus, you will likely feel much less nervous if you are well prepared.
Prepare a 15-20 second “elevator speech” about yourself prior to the interview.
More often than not, the first thing an interviewer asks is to tell him or her about yourself. This is your chance to make an excellent first impression and talk about relevant experience. Make sure your elevator speech is no longer than 15 or 20 seconds. Don’t ramble; just ensure you make relevant points that describe your experience and who you are a person in your elevator speech.
Plan what you will wear ahead of time.
If you need to buy anything for your interview attire, try to do it in advance. You don’t want to have to be scrambling around trying to find appropriate interview clothes that fit at the last minute. I had to do that once, and it wasn’t fun. You will be much less stressed if you have all of your interview clothes ahead of time.
Do dress for the position you are applying for.
If you will be working in an office or corporate setting, professional dress is appropriate for the interview. For women, I would recommend wearing closed-toe heels and either a blazer with dress pants or a neutral colored dress. For men, a blazer, tie, pants, and dress shoes. Some workplaces will give you more freedom with what you wear, but it’s better to play it safe for the interview. You can never go wrong with neutral colors. However, if the position you are applying for is more creative, you can add a pop of color to your outfit to make a statement. Use your best judgment.
If you are interviewing to work in a clothing store, I would recommend wearing some of the clothing they sell to show that you will be a good fit for the job and actually like the clothes in the store. Just make sure that you look as clean and professional as possible, no matter what style of clothing you’re wearing. You still want to make a good first impression.
Don’t wear strong perfume, flashy jewelry, or revealing clothing.
You want the interviewer to be focused on you, not on what you’re wearing. If the interviewer is distracted, he or she will be less focused on what you’re saying. Refrain from wearing strong perfume, overly flashy jewelry, or anything too revealing.
If you would like to wear makeup, keep it simple and natural-looking.
Don’t overdo it. Heavy makeup could also distract the interviewer.
Bring a few of your resumes with you to the interview.
Often, the interviewer will print out your resume prior to the interview, but not always. There might also be multiple people interviewing you, so having extra copies to hand out is convenient for the interviewer(s) and earns you brownie points.
Be on time.
Please, please, please be on time to the interview. In fact, you should plan to arrive 15 minutes early. First impressions are incredibly important, and the interviewer might think you are unreliable if you are late to the interview.
Ensure your handshake is firm.
A firm handshake goes a long way; it shows that you are confident and assertive.
Especially at the beginning of the interview, it’s important to smile. Look enthusiastic about the position. Show the interviewer that you really want to work for his or her company. Employers want employees who are excited about the job. Smiling while maintaining a calm, professional demeanor will make an excellent impression on the interviewer.
Try to stay calm.
Yes, I know that interviews are nerve racking. There is nothing wrong with being nervous; I think almost everyone gets a little anxious before an important interview. If you can’t calm yourself down, at least try to look and act calm during the interview. You want to seem confident to the interviewer. But remember, every employer has been in your shoes at one point in his or her life. The employers will understand if you are a little nervous. Just do your best.
Have good posture.
Good posture looks professional. Sit up straight, and hold your head high.
Make eye contact with the interviewer when you speak to him or her.
Eye contact is one of the most effective forms of nonverbal communication. Don’t let your eyes wander around the room; you might appear distracted to the interviewer. By maintaining eye contact with the interviewer, you show that you are focused and are genuinely interested in communicating with him or her.
Answer interview questions to present yourself in the best light possible.
Sometimes, the interviewer might throw you curveball questions. He or she might ask you a question that could potentially reflect badly on you or a question that you don’t know the answer to. Here are ways to handle each of these scenarios:
- If the interviewer asks you a question that could reflect badly on you, such as, “Why were you fired from your previous job?” then you should be honest about the mistake you made, but then discuss how you learned from your mistake and why it won’t happen again.
- If the interviewer asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t make up some random answer. Say something along the lines of, “I don’t know, but I can find out by _______.” It’s okay to not know the answer to something, and you can turn the situation around by showing the interviewer that you are capable of finding the answers to questions you don’t know. This will make you look much more favorable in the eyes of the interviewer.
Use appropriate hand gestures as nonverbal communication.
I naturally move my hands when I speak, and it helps to convey the idea I am discussing. However, if you don’t have that natural tendency, you can practice making appropriate hand gestures when you talk so your verbal and nonverbal communication techniques are in sync.
At the end of the interview, ask relevant questions.
By asking a question or two at the end of the interview, you show the interviewer that you are interested in learning more about the company and the position you applied for. Here are some ideas for questions you can ask the interviewer:
- What does a typical work day look like for this position?
- What are your company’s values?
- What do you look for in an ideal candidate?
- What do you love the most about your company?
- What are the biggest challenges facing your company right now?
Don’t forget to thank the interviewer at the end of the meeting.
It is common courtesy to thank the interviewer for taking the time to interview you. A “thank you” will help you to end the interview on a positive note.
Send a thank you email to the interviewer within 24 hours after the meeting.
Follow up with a thank you email to maintain contact with the employer after the interview.
If you don’t hear back after a week, send a follow up email.
After sending your thank you email, give the employer some time to get back to you. A week is sufficient. If you don’t hear back after a week, it wouldn’t hurt to send a follow up email to the employer to check in.
If this post helped you, don’t forget to comment, share, and subscribe. Thank you so much for reading, and good luck with future interviews!