Interviewing skills are crucial if you ever want to find a job (hopefully, you do). Almost every job, particularly entry level jobs, have a formal interview process, standardized to be fair to each candidate. So how can you gain an advantage on the competition? These 4 steps may help!
Qualifier: In my current position as Graduate Assistant for Assessment at the Joe Crowley Student Union, I have sat in on or lead over 100 interviews, mostly for student positions, but some for University faculty positions. These are some of the things I have found that really make a candidate stand out.
- Do your homework!
If you don’t know what a company does, why are you interviewing in the first place! Not only does researching the company you are interviewing for give you a leg up on your competition, but it also may reveal that you wouldn’t be a good fit, or that the position isn’t what you thought it was. But after you have verified you really want this job, doing extensive research will make you look great. Not every company will ask in depth questions about the company, but many will, and being knowledgeable about the company shows you have already invested some of your time in the company. When interviewers see this, they know you are a dedicated individual, willing to go above and beyond, and hiring you won’t be a mistake!
The level to which you research can vary interview to interview, however. For example, I have a friend who works in Finance, and before his interview he made a point to research the current market, identify key statistics regarding the company he was applying to, and was able to recite this data during his interview (he got the job by the way). And like I said, not every company will ask you questions about your knowledge of the company, but having that knowledge in your back pocket doesn’t hurt!
- Practice makes perfect!
I frequently interview University students for student positions, exposing me to countless poor interviews. And it isn’t because these students would be bad employees, they just don’t understand how the interview process works. There are countless questions many interviewers ask, such as; what is your greatest strength, what is your greatest weakness, and why do you think you would be a good fit. Having been exposed to the interview process before gives you an advantage, and having been through many interviews is an even greater advantage!
Since having interview experience is key, there are a couple courses of action you can take. For students still in school, there are many networking events that have mock interview sections where you can go through a mock interview and receive feedback. If this is not available to you, you can always ask a friend or relative to run you through some interview questions. Finally, my recommendation would be to simply look for interviews. No interview ever locks you into a job, so you can always decline any job offer. But actually going through real interviews will help you improve your skills, feel more comfortable, and do better for the next interview that really counts!
- Come prepared!
This one is simple. Always bring a padfolio/brief case to interviews. Even before the interview begins your interviewer/s will be able to see you are prepared. In that padfolio/brief case, regardless if you are asked to or not, always bring multiple copies of your resume. They might already have copies, but having copies available shows you came prepared, and that you are proud of what you have accomplished and put on your resume. Finally, bring a list of questions you have already prepared. At the end of essentially every interview you will be asked if you have questions. It is vital that you ask questions, but it looks even better if you had these questions prepared beforehand. Obviously, if one of your questions has been answered throughout the course of the interview, don’t ask again.
Lastly, make sure to dress appropriately. Rather than me going into detail on this, I encourage you to follow this link to read about proper interview attire.
- Confidence, not arrogance!
All companies have a different company culture and look for different things in applicants, but pretty much no company wants to hire an arrogant asshole, especially one that shows it in the brief time they have for an interview. And if you are an arrogant asshole, try to fake it. And while you don’t want to come off as arrogant, being a confident, knowledgeable, and polite candidate can do wonders for you.
As companies have different cultures, all people have different personalities. Typically, I am a rather reserved, deliberate individual. And while I don’t want to be “fake,” being personable can go a long way towards connecting with my interviewers. I want the company to see I am a well-educated candidate who has something to offers to them, while also fitting into their culture.
There are many other tips about how to nail your interview including good answers to those buzz questions we discussed earlier , but these are the most important topics I have learned from my interviewing experience. I hope this helped you to get that job you’ve always dreamed of!
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