Preparing for the interview
Interviews are one of the best ways for both you and the employer to see if you would be a good fit for the position. Don’t try to “wing it”; you’re much more likely to see a good outcome if you prepare beforehand.
The interview is your opportunity to share how your skills and experiences have prepared you to be successful in this role and an opportunity for the employer to sell you on the company. Interviews take practice. If you’ve never interviewed before, explore the tips below to learn the basics of a successful interview.
Nearly all interviews contain two parts, common questions about your past experience and situation-based questions to gauge your fit for the position. Afterward, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer.
Do your research
Before the interview, conduct some research on your career field, the potential employer and the position you are interviewing for.
- Career field: Know current trends in your chosen field. Newsletters and websites of professional organizations related to your field can be excellent resources. Riley Guide and Vault are just a few of the websites devoted to career field and employer research.
- Employer: Read the employer’s printed materials and website. Become familiar with the mission of the organization. Be prepared to talk about why you want to work for that particular organization.
- Position: Know the position description like the back of your hand. Be prepared to talk about your interest in the position and how you are uniquely qualified for the position.
Know the interview style
- One-on-one: One-on-one is the traditional interview format where one interviewer interviews one applicant. You may have a series of one-on-one interviews with several different interviewers.
- Panel: In a panel interview, the candidate is interviewed by several interviewers at one time.
- Group: A group interview is a less common format, in which multiple candidates are interviewed at the same time by a panel of interviewers. The purpose of this unusual format is to see how candidates interact with each other. Some questions may even require the candidates to work together to solve a problem.
- Lunch: Interviews conducted over a meal are becoming more and more common. Remember that the purpose of the meal is to continue the interview, not to eat. The conversation may become more informal during a meal, but don’t forget that you are still being evaluated — maintain your professionalism and stick to appropriate topics of conversation.
- Information session: Your interview may include an information session on the company, which may include other candidates. Be prepared to interact with other candidates and use this opportunity to demonstrate your respectful and gracious attitude toward your “competition.”
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Practice makes perfect. Practice your answers to common interview questions prior to your interview. Whether on the phone, via Skype or in person, the interview is your opportunity to seal the deal and land the opportunity of your dreams. The first impression you make is essential to your being chosen to fill the open position. and practice are the most important steps you can take to ensure a positive interview experience. Take advantage of InterviewStream, a Web-based interview-practice resource that offers free, unlimited usage of a virtual mock interview program.
Be on time
Few things can ruin an interview faster than showing up late or showing up unprepared. Always plan to arrive a few minutes earlier than your scheduled interview just in case there are any issues.
- Dress professionally
- Bring several copies of your resume and your cover letter
- Bring a notebook or pad and a pen
- Have a list of questions to ask your interviewer
What to do during the interview
- Develop rapport
- Use interviewers’ names
- Treat every interaction with your employer as part of the interview
- Communicate your excitement and motivation
- Send a thank-you note
What not to do during the interview
- Mistake stiffness for professionalism
- Try to “take over” the interview by dominating the conversation
- Talk poorly about past employers
- Appear arrogant/know-it-all
- Provide general, rather than specific, answers
- Behave too casually during lunch/tour/less formal parts of the interview or with someone you know
- Sound rehearsed/memorized
- Ruminate on poor answers