The interview can be one of the most challenging aspects of the job search process. You have knowledge, talent and impressive SBU credentials; now you need to learn to communicate and articulate your skills and experiences in a compelling way. Prepare yourself for this conversation by reviewing the resources below.
Focus, preparation and practice are key to making a good impression during an interview.
A 6-step interview preparation plan
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- Research the company and the position
It is imperative that you have knowledge of an organization's mission, structure, policies, products and services.
- Investigate the organization's culture
Approximately 20 percent of the interview will be spent verifying that you have the necessary skill set, the remaining time will be spent determining if you are a good fit with the team.
- Compare your skills and qualifications to specific job requirements
Analyze the job description and compare what the employer is seeking to your qualifications. Identify your strongest relevant skills and develop samples of how you have demonstrated each of them.
- Practice your responses and prepare your questions
Most interviews involve a combination of traditional resume-based and behavioral questions. Create and then practice delivering succinct stories to various types of interview questions, demonstrating that you possess the right skill set and background for the opportunity you are seeking. It is expected that you will have relevant questions to ask about the organization and position. Prepare at least 3-5 questions to ask during the interview process.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
Dress in good taste and make sure your suit or outfit is pressed, clean and neat! Consider the company culture when choosing your interview outfit.
- Plan what to bring
Travel as lightly as possible. A professional binder, notepad and pen, along with extra copies of your resume are standard. A portfolio with samples of your work can also be included (if relevant), along with a list of references (with appropriate contact information). If references are requested, be certain to follow up with these individuals to let them know that they may be contacted.
Understanding what to do during the interview process can help increase your comfort and confidence and increase the likelihood of landing the job.
First impressions matter
Adopt the practices below to ensure you make a lasting, positive impression.
- Don't be late
To ensure promptness, arrive on-site 10-15 minutes early, but don't go into the office until 5 minutes before the interview.
- Smile and be pleasant
introduce yourself to the receptionist and be polite to everyone you see, no matter their position in the organization. You should assume the interview has begun when you enter the building where you will be interviewed.
- Be mindful of your body language.
Stand when the interviewer comes to greet you. Smile and show appropriate enthusiasm. Establish good eye contact and give a firm handshake. Have the interviewer indicate where you should sit. Keep your hands gently clasped in your lap.
During the interview:
- Really listen
Be extra attentive to the interview questions and reflect on your responses before answering. If you do not understand a question, politely ask for clarification.
- Speak clearly and enthusiastically
But not too quickly. Avoid slang and verbal pauses such as "like" and "um". Keep your responses concise and on target.
- Don't be vague
Be specific about your skills and experiences and how they can be of benefit to the employer. This is a major pitfall area for many interviewees as they often provide answers that are too vague or general in nature.
- Make eye contact
If you are in a group interview, look at everyone as you speak. Start and end with the person who asked the question.
- Ask researched and prepared questions
Ask about the position and the company. It is generally not appropriate for you to bring up salary and benefits in the first interview. However, be prepared to respond to this question should the interviewer introduce it.
- Maintain a conversational flow
By engaging in a dialogue, not a monologue, you will be perceived more positively. Use feedback questions at the end of your answers, as well as body language and voice intonation, to create the appropriate conversational interchange between you and the employer.
- End on a high note
Close by stating your sincere interest and enthusiasm for the position. Let the interviewer know that you want the job!
- Get a notification date, and say thanks
Before leaving, ask the interviewer when a hiring decision will be made and request the business cards of those who interviewed you. Thank the interviewer for the opportunity to interview.
Your conversation with a recruiter is only the first part of the interview process. It is important to keep yourself top-of-mind even after the interview as recruiters and hiring managers make their hiring decisions.
- Send a thank-you note within 48 hours of the interview
While handwritten notes tend to be more memorable, email thank-yous may also be appropriate. Use what you know about the company and the interviewer to determine which method would be ideal. Make sure to briefly include things that you might want the interviewer to know about you that you missed in the interview. Personalize the message by mentioning specific things that you discussed.
- Reflect on your interview experience
Create a list of things you did well and things you can improve for future interviews. This is an important step because if you don’t get the job, it will help you learn from any mistakes you may have made.
- Follow up after about a week
Unless other instructions were given, follow up about a week after the interview. Don’t be annoying, but be persistent in checking the status of the process.
- Send a second thank you note or email
Do this regardless of whether you get the job or not. If you get the job, thank them for selecting you and express your excitement about starting the position. If you didn’t get the job, send a thank you note for their time and consideration. This will help you stay in the interviewer’s mind in case the chosen interviewee falls through or in case another fitting position opens up.