Even if you’re new to the job search process, you’re still probably aware of how important the interview is to any potential employer’s hiring decision. If you don’t have much experience applying for jobs and speaking with employers, it may be a daunting step in the process. Think back over the last four (or more) years though. Did you interview with any administrative officials before gaining admittance to your college? Did you have any internships or volunteer work that required some face-to-face time with the organizers and coordinators of those experiences? Much of what you’ve already done will come in handy when you’re getting yourself ready for that first interview out in the “real world.” To help you even more, we’ve come up with some job interview tips below that will get you prepared and feeling more confident about meeting with employers.
Nailing a job interview is all about making a positive first impression, and there’s no better way to impress a potential employer than to show him or her that you’ve done your homework on their company and the position you’ve been invited to interview for. (And, obviously, arrive to the interview on time or a little early.) Prior to interview day, employ the skills you used to pass your college classes and study up on the company. Yes, you’re there to sell yourself to the employer, but you’re also there to show what you know so that the employer can measure your interest in the position. A good way to manage an interview in your favor is to ask intelligent questions and have talking points in mind related to the job you’re applying for. You should have the basics answered for you thanks to the research you’ve (hopefully) already done, but it’s always a good idea to show your interest in the position by asking specific questions on how the company operates or what would be expected of you if you were hired.
More tangible preparation tips involve what you should wear and what you should bring to the interview. Even if you’re meeting with an employer in a casual office, dress appropriately. Go for conservative over flashy. You want to be remembered for what you say, not your disheveled appearance. As far as what you should bring, make sure to have additional copies of everything you think your interviewer should have received already, including resumes, cover letters and writing samples. If references weren’t asked for explicitly in the job post, have a list handy in case you’re expected to fill out an on-site job application. If applicable, bring samples of your work, even if you’ve already sent or emailed them in. They may look even more impressive if they’re put together as part of a professional portfolio.
A job interview can be stressful. It’s important, though, to remain as calm as possible. Nervousness can lead to all sorts of things – babbling, bad jokes, and inappropriate comments about your last employer – so it’s a good idea to prepare enough for the interview that your nerves are kept at bay. Your best strategy will be a dry run of the interview itself. Have someone lead you through a mock interview, or if that makes you uncomfortable, prepare answers on your own to some of the more common questions asked by interviewers. If you’re still a nervous wreck after following these tips, try to at least pretend that you’re calm. Take a deep breath, and go into that interview room with your head held high and your best impression of cool and collected. You may be surprised that you grow less nervous as the interview goes on.
While most employers will ask you to describe one weakness you may have (you’ll be evaluated here on your ability to spin any shortcomings in a positive way), the interview is primarily where you’ll need to showcase your talents. Have the accomplishments that you want to highlight in mind. Think of a few goals that you have for yourself as a recent graduate, and exude passion about the field of study you’ve spent time working toward. Although you don’t want to come off as a braggart, you do want that employer to know that you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t think you were qualified for the job. Link your experiences to the position in question. How will you be a good fit for the company? Tell him or her. What makes you stand out from the rest of the applicant stack? Set yourself up for success by working to convince that potential employer that the experiences you’ve had so far make you the obvious choice for the job.
One of the most important steps in the job interview process comes after the meeting is over. The best applicants follow up with their potential employer soon after the interview has concluded, thanking the interviewer for meeting with them. This is also an appropriate time to ask any questions you may have thought of since the initial meeting. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard from the interviewer, don’t be shy about checking in, either. Some jobs require more vetting than others, and you have the right to know how long that process will take. (You’re unemployed, after all!)
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