Interviews, like taxes, are something no one can escape.
As a young adult, the interview is a right of passage from college student to “employed adult”; and as if they weren’t scary enough, interviews are usually the first impression a potential employer has of you. It is important to understand that interviews are not only about reviewing your resume or portfolio, but also presenting yourself in a desirable way to a hopeful employer.
Even at 22, I have been to my fair share of interviews already, and to be completely honest, some have gone horribly. However, with experience (both good and bad) comes insight, and I would like to share some of my personal habits before, during, and after each interview that I have found helpful and has resulted in job offers.
I like to think of interviews as a three-step process in which the employer formulates an impression on you, but more importantly, where you formulate an impression on the company that you could potentially work for.
The first, and arguably the most important step, is preparing for the interview. Take some time (as in hours, not minutes) to look up the company’s website and find what initially stands out to you. Personally, I look for specific words or phrases that are repeated or stand out, so that I can mention them during the interview when applicable. For example, a company that I was interviewing with used the word “diverse” numerous times on their website, and I later found out that they were hosting a diversity summit at their headquarters (which I made sure to attend). Mentioning what made me a diverse candidate was what ultimately set me apart from my peers, and I was able to attain an internship because of that one powerful little word. You can never over-research a company, and by looking into the potential position, hiring staff, and company culture not only looks good, but helps you decide if you would make a good employee.
The second step is actually pulling off the interview. You researched for hours, you picked a tasteful outfit to wear (AND BATHED, please), and you’ve practiced potential questions in front of the mirror or with a friend. Come a bit early, with a smile on your face, and greet everyone you come into contact with. Remember, the interviewer isn’t there to make the interview hard or uncomfortable, and most likely wants to hire your just as much as you want to be hired. All of the preparation you have done will make the interview seem less daunting, but it’s important to remember a couple of things:
· Shake hands firmly and make eye contact.
· Do your best to remember names. (This makes the third step easier!)
· Show confidence in your answers. Employers are interested in how you say things just as much as the actual content of your answers.
· Be yourself.
It is always okay to ask for some time to formulate an answer to a tough question, or to ask the interviewer to repeat or reword a question, but it is NEVER okay to lie during an interview. You want to display your authentic and capable self during this conversation, and lying will only hurt your chances in finding a good fit in the company.
The third step is employed after your interview: be sure to thank the interviewer (by name) for his or her time, and exchange business cards or contacts. Give them some more of that direct eye contact that makes everyone uncomfortable and a nice firm handshake (make sure you don’t have super sweaty palms or else you will stay up till 3am wishing that you wiped your palm before you made physical contact with them, TRUST ME).
This “after interview” step is all about going the extra mile to leave a good impression, so be ready to follow-up with a thank you letter, phone call, or e-mail. I have always been told that nothing beats a hand-written letter, but if this is not possible, e-mail will work just fine. (Just make sure you are prompt in sending the thank you.) Be sure to include something in the letter about your conversation with the interviewer, so that it seems more personal and that they are reminded of who you are. If all goes well, you should hear good news from them soon!
The best thing you can do for yourself, as a young adult, is to know your capabilities and articulate them well. Having this skill set is what ultimately will get you your dream job, and will help you decide whether you are a good fit within a company. Happy interviewing!