Once you have developed your resume and cover letter, it is time to begin preparing for the interview process. Those tools will get you in the door, but it is just as important, if not more important, to think about what you do once you are in the room. That is when the real work begins. Here are a few tips to consider as you prepare for your interview.
Research the Employer and Job Opportunity
- Success in a job interview starts with a solid foundation of knowledge about the organization you are meeting.
- It is important to understand the employer, the requirements of the job, and the background of the person (or people) interviewing you.
- Request the full position description to prepare for the interview. Some HR sites do not include the full position for their post.
- Scour the organization’s website, other published materials, and search engines to research projects, initiatives, organizational charts, as well as the vision and mission of the organization. That awareness will allow you to speak to what value you bring to those projects, similar work you may have done, and shared ideals with the organization.
Review Interview Questions and Responses, as well as Develop Your Own Questions
- First, take some time to review top interview questions and write down drafts to those questions. It is a great way to organize your thoughts.
- Also, be sure to ask if there is an agenda for your interview or a set structure. For example, will your interview be one on one or with a group or panel?
- Once you have reviewed questions and drafted responses, take time to practice what you would say to ensure your responses are articulate and concise.
- Provide concrete examples of your experience that speak to your ability to fulfill this role and will promote your candidacy.
Dress for Success
- Plan a wardrobe that fits the organization and its culture. Remember that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Make sure your clothes fit, are nicely tailored, and are pressed. (Gentlemen – make sure you cut the string that secures the flap of your jacket. Women – if wearing a suit skirt, make sure you cut that the string that secures the flap in the skirt.)
- Keep accessories, jewelry and perfume/cologne to a minimum. Try not to smoke or eat right before the interview — and if possible, brush your teeth or use mouthwash.
Be On Time
- Arrive at least 15 minutes early for the interview. Allow for traffic and parking challenges that may arise.
- The day before the interview, pack up extra copies of your resume or CV and reference list. If you have a portfolio or samples of your work, bring those along too. Pack several pens and a pad of paper for your notes and the questions you have prepared.
- Similar to preparing for a presentation, review your notes and then take time to relax. Remember that you have this and give yourself permission to be great!
- Finally, remember to turn off your cell phone.
Make a Good First Impression
- Be polite, make great eye contact, have good posture, and present a firm handshake. Show interest throughout the entire interview and try not to fidget.
- One of the keys to success in an interview is the quality and delivery of your responses. Your goal should always be authenticity, responding truthfully to interview questions.
- For every question, try to provide an answer that not only answers the question, but also offers an example of your success in that situation or on a similar project. Demonstrate your skill set in your responses and highlight points on your resume.
Ask Thoughtful Questions
- To our earlier point, prepare questions in advance. I recommend having around ten. Depending on what you learn in the conversation you can reference the questions you prepared to demonstrate interest and understanding.
Discuss Next Steps
- As you are finishing your interview, as questions about next steps. Seek to clarify their timeline with regard to the position.
- A handwritten thank you note goes a long way. Be sure to send a note to each person you interviewed with, be that email or handwritten.
- Highlight what you learned and reiterate what you hope to bring to the table. Close again with a thank you for the opportunity and their consideration.