I can’t claim to be an expert at finding a job or on how to get hired. I have landed a few positions and internships in my past, but now as I am starting my interview process over again to find a job post-grad, even I have had a few failed interviews; from those, however, I was able to learn from my mistakes and grow as a person and potential employee. I spent several hours researching interview etiquette, interview questions and answers, and general tips after my fumbles. Now, I want to share the knowledge I have accumulated over my professional and academic experience in a simple, straight-to-the-point way to help prevent you from having to spend hours scouring the internet for help. Without experience and practice, interviews can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, however, it’s that with preparation, you have nothing to worry about. You can take actionable steps before, during, and after the interview that will help you get hired.
Before the Interview
Perfect Your Resume.
- Proofread your resume to make sure you have no typos. I know that during the job hunt, you can spend a lot of type writing, typing, and editing – emails, cover letters, and resume changes. If you are feeling burnt out and the words are just starting to blur together from rereading so many times, ask a friend or family member to help you look over your materials. They don’t have to be into grammar or English or have any type of editing experience. Having a fresh set of eyes regardless will help catch mistakes you didn’t the first time. Avoiding typos will demonstrate to your future employer that you pay attention to details and value accuracy.
- Exchange dull, boring verbs and adjectives for descriptive word choices that highlight exactly what you did in your position.
- Be specific. Add facts, data, and accomplishments. Give hard facts that demonstrate your success. It’s like they always said in high school English class: “show, don’t tell” in writing.
Research the company as thoroughly as possible; it’s impossible to over prepare. For my interviews, I generally scope out:
- the company website
- the company social media channels (including the company LinkedIn page)
- and read reviews and interviews for the company on Glassdoor.
Make sure you also know the ins and outs of the job description. Knowing the position like the back of your hand will enable you to highlight the characteristics most important to the position during your interview and highlight how your previous work experience has prepared you for this specific role and avoid making general statements about your personality.
Research the interviewer if you know his/her name. Knowing your interviewers role in the company will give you helpful background information to know what questions they may be able to answer and if you would be working directly with them. Researching the interviewer will help you avoid an awkward “wait…who are you?” moment. Your best bet for finding out position and responsibilities is LinkedIn.
Know where you are going.
- Write down the address.
- Print out old fashioned Map Quest directions.
- Make sure your phone is charged if you are using it as a GPS and pack a phone charger for the road.
- Look up an image of the outside of the building so that you know what you are looking for when you arrive.
- Figure out where you will park if parking is not available. You may be interested in asking your company contact their opinion on where to park. Of course, they do work there. They would know what your best option is.
If your interview is in the area and it is possible, it would even be a good idea to take a practice trip the day before your interview.
Prepare your answers for the common interview questions. Know how you are going to answer:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “What is your greatest strength/weakness?”
- “Why should we hire you?”
- “Why do you want to work for our company?”
- “Why do you want to work in (insert field here)?”
- “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
There are a large number of resources on the internet about how to answer specific interview questions. My advice to you is just to be careful that you don’t sound like you’re reading those answers word for word. The interviewer wants to get a sense of who you are- not what you read on the internet. Answer the questions truthfully and according to who you are, how you feel, and based on the role you are applying for.
Also make sure that you have specific situations in mind for requests such as:
- “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
- “Tell me about a time you failed.”
- “Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.”
- “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.”
These questions are a little bit harder to find examples for on the internet since they are highly personal, but there are still great resources out there. My personal advice is to make sure that you are honest and real. It’s okay to admit that you failed, but it is important to show how you have grown from it, what you learned, and how it has helped you in your career.
Other helpful resources on preparing your interview answers:
During the Interview
Dress professionally. Each company has its own policy on dress code, so if you are worried about what to wear, don’t hesitate to ask your company contact what the appropriate attire is. If you get a generic “business casual” response and still are unsure, in the past I have even been able to do my own research. I have found pictures of the employees in the office on the company LinkedIn page and social media accounts and have based my outfit around them. Your best bet, however, is to always be over dressed as compared to underdressed. If you find an image of the employees in jeans, assume it was casual Friday, and still dress professionally.
Want to know a fun fact about dressing for an interview? The best colors to wear to an interview are blue and black, and the worst color to wear is orange.
If you need more inspiration, I just posted my office lookbook over on my Youtube channel that highlights my favorite office looks!
Show up early. Showing up early will help you in a number of ways. You’ll look punctual to your future employer, and you will be much more relax if you’re not running through the door at the last minute to make your interview in time. Take the extra few minutes to adjust any stray hairs, remember what you want to say, and just relax and absorb your surroundings.
When showing up early, avoid playing on your phone to pass the time. You never know who is paying attention or notices you. It is much better to look attentive, present, and ready to go at any moment.
Ask questions if the interviewer asks if you have any questions… and even if they don’t. Asking questions helps show that you are interested in the position. Some of my favorite questions (although they vary based on position) are:
- “What does a typical day in this position look like?”
- “What is the next step in the process?”
- “When is the expected start date for this position?”
- “How can I be successful in this role?”
- “Does this role require primarily independent work or collaboration?”
I would avoid asking any questions that are answered in the job description. Be wary of this; it may seem like you didn’t study the job description well enough, which in turn makes you look uninterested.
Ask honest questions. Going to an interview helps you get to know the company as much as it helps the company get to know you. If you are wondering something, ask- as long as it is appropriate, professional, and doesn’t reflect negatively on you as a candidate.
After the Interview
Send a thank you note to the interviewer in the mail or via email after you finish your interview. Although I’m sure you thanked the interviewer for his/her time before ending the interview, it never hurts to go the extra mile to follow up and express your interest and gratitude one last time. The little things matter when trying to land a new job.
Other helpful resources on sending a thank you note after your interview:
There is no doubt that getting hired requires more than just a well prepared and beautifully executed interview. It requires being the right fit and having the needed experience and skill set. But if you fit the criteria for the position and have the relevant, necessary experience, nailing your interview will get you hired in no time.
What do you get most nervous about for an interview? What is the most unexpected question you have been asked in an interview? What is your go-to interview outfit? I want to know! Let me know in the comment section below.