Congratulations! Because of your strong skills and experience and well-crafted resume to market them, you’ve earned an interview — the chance to seal the deal. By this time the interviewer probably thinks you have the skills needed for the opportunity, but the interview is a chance to see if you fit in with the team and organizational culture.
Therefore, your interpersonal skills and the ability to appear positive and enthusiastic are key interview components. Of course you must also be able to articulate your skills, preferably by giving concrete examples of your past experiences. In fact, in a commons style of interviewing called “behavioral interviewing” specific examples are required in responses. Maximize your chances by reviewing Career Services’ downloadable and comprehensive Interviewing Guide and following these suggestions:
Before your first interview, you must prepare. Research the employer in the Career Services Resource Center, online and in the library. Request a job description from the company. Talk with inside contacts, like alumni, family friends or anyone else you can reach.
Research the company
In this day and age, there’s no excuse not to have researched the organization thoroughly. Start with its website and also use a search engine to find references to the organization in the news (e.g. Austin Business Journal, Fortune, CNN, etc.). Review the company’s purpose and products. Review annual reports and newsletters. Request information from the company’s Public Relations department. Use LinkedIn.com and search under “Company.” You an also look up specific people who have worked for that organization under “People.” In the event an interview is through a third-party recruiter, students should read the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) “A Students’ Guide to Interviewing with Third-Party Recruiters.”
Don’t forget to review your resume and cover letter to remind yourself of the skills and experiences you’re marketing to the interviewer.
Formulate answers to possible questions
Based on the job description, you should be able to identify skills important to the position and develop possible questions designed to articulate these skills. You can also get additional sample questions from Career Services. Review the STAR method (cite a Situation and Task in relation to the Action you took and the Results) to prepare for “tell me about a time…” questions used in common behavioral interviewing.
Prepare your own list of questions for the employer
Keep questions about salary, benefits, vacation, etc. to yourself until after you have an offer, but be sure to showcase the in-depth research you’ve done by asking intelligent questions that follow from your research. For many great examples of questions to ask, visit Interview Questions to Ask.com.
Things to remember to take to the interview
You may not be asked for these items but you can volunteer to share them. Even if the interviewer declines to review them (often for time’s sake), it reflects well on you to show your preparation.
- An extra copy of your resume
- A typed list of references
- A portfolio of examples of your work
- Letters of recommendation
In addition, while you probably don’t want to actually pull them out during the interview, bring:
- Questions to ask during the interview (review these before the interview and then put them away and ask from memory)
- A pad of paper for taking notes (wait until immediately after the interview to jot down your impressions)
Remember to dress appropriately
Clothes should reflect the type of work for which you are applying. For a professional position, wear a suit. For details, check out our Business Attire Resource Guide and these links:
- Dress for Success Tips - Photo examples of appropriate and inappropriate attire with employer comments from Washington State University’s website.
- Execstyle.com’s Women’s Interview Dress Etiquette - Helpful e-book with photographs describing business formal and casual attire.
- Execstyle.com’s Men’s Interview Dress Etiquette - Helpful e-book with photographs describing business formal and casual attire.
- Interview Appearance and Attire - Virginia Tech’s site
- The Protocol School of Texas’ Suiting Up for Success - Interview Attire
Brush up on your business etiquette
Body language, handshake, eye contact, mints vs. gum? Do you know what side your water glass is on when you sit down at the round table for the luncheon during the interview? Get ready to make best possible impression as a courteous guest of your interviewer by reviewing the following etiquette advice:
The Protocol School of Texas Etiquette Training Resources: Diane Gottsman, founder and leader of The Protocol School of Texas, offers students extensive training in business dining and networking etiquette through the annual Etiquette Dinner, her blog at www.dianegottsman.com and the following handy tips:
- Dining Etiquette True/False Quiz (answers provided!)
- A Properly Appointed Table
- American vs. European Dining
- Introductions and Networking
- Dining Skills - Second Job Interview
Nonnie Cameron’s Business Dining and Networking Etiquette - Almost everyone will find themselves in a dining situation in conjunction with an interview at some point in life. Be assured that you ARE being evaluated, even during this seeming social occasion. To brush up on your business dining etiquette, check out this detailed page of information.
Remember to relax before the interview
Focus on positive skills and strengths. The purpose of the interview is an exchange of information, not an inquisition. And remember that the interviewer already thinks you’re very qualified!
Plan to arrive 10 - 15 minutes early
Consider doing a “dry run” before the interview day to make sure you know exactly how to get there in similar traffic conditions. If you arrive earlier than 15 minutes ahead, wait in your car — your interviewers may not be ready for you, and you don’t want to rush them.
Obtain a business card from your interviewer and follow up!
Without the follow-up thank you note you should send immediately after the interview (within 24 hours), your efforts may be for naught. Don’t forget this important step. Next add the contact information to your network.
Other resource handouts
Sample Interview Questions - Print this list of practice questions from Indiana State University’s Career Center.
The Riley Guide - General interview advice, telephone interviews, handling improper interview question, follow-up and more.
Job-Applications.com’s Interview Questions - Great advice to answering common and tricky interview questions
Secrets to Interview Success - From the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Choices magazine
Monster.com Interview Advice - Numerous articles on preparing for the interview, during the interview and following up after the interview.