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Students - Current Students - Career Guidance -  - Interviews

What are the keys to having a
successful interview?

Nobody wants to flop in the interview. It's embarrassing, and more often than not, it means that you won't get the job. Some argue that "it's not fair" that you can be judged in that short of a time, answering questions when you're nervous and under stress. There may be some validity to that complaint, but in the end, that's the way it is. Complaints won't change the system. Our best bet is to not just deal with it, but to work within that system, horrible as it may be to some people. We should even take this one step further and strive to excel in the interview. Below are a few tips and points that will assist you as you work to be successful in your next interview.

1. An interview is not just about convincing the employer to hire you; it is an opportunity for you to decide if you want to work for them.

Many people have allowed the need or desire for a job to blind them from the obvious misery that working there will create. These people never last long at that place of employment. Go to the interview with the intent of making sure this is really a good fit for you.

2. Research the company.

When you attend the interview, you should be armed with knowledge about that company or organization. This means spending time reading through the company's website, taking notes, and talking to people. Call the local Chamber of Commerce or check with the Better Business Bureau. By the time you walk into that interview, you should have a clear idea about the company's goals, mission, values, and the job/role you will be filling within that company.

3. Have questions for the interviewer/s.

This is a natural result of a critical mind having done research on the company. Consider what you want to know about this company or organization before you commit hours and hours of your life to them. Write questions down and treat them like you would an essay for a picky English teacher: edit them. Your questions should not be loaded, rhetorical, leading, or otherwise negative. Questions for the interviewer should be thoughtful, positive, and real. Whatever you do, make sure you ask questions that don't have readily available answers on the internet. Your research should have answered all those questions.

4. Dress appropriately.

This can mean a variety of different styles, depending on the job for which you are applying. The general rule of thumb is to dress at least one level up from the style you will be wearing on the job. If applying for a job as a welder, then you can probably get away with wearing nice jeans and a polo or button-up shirt. If applying for an office job, don't show up in anything less than a shirt and tie (better yet, a suit) for men or a conservative dress for women. It is always better to be overdressed rather than underdressed for the interview.

5. Review some traditional interview questions.

Lists of typical questions can be found on a multitude of employment websites or in most employment books. Find a good list and start reading through them. Take your time and rehearse with a trusted person or in your mind how you would answer each one. Almost all questions are geared toward the employer finding out the following information about you. "Can you do the job? Will you complement or disrupt the department? Are you willing to take the extra step? Are you manageable? Is the money right?" (Knock 'Em Dead: 2000, by Martin Yate.)

6. Body language says almost as much about you as what comes out of your mouth. Experienced interviewers know this and look for subtle signs.

When you walk in to the interview or to meet with an employer, pick up your feet, walk confidently, shake hands firmly, stand and sit still, keep your hands in your lap or clasped on the table in front of you, look the interviewer in the eye when answering a question or when they're talking, and control your facial expressions. Body language reflects inner attitude; so the best thing you can do is go into the interview prepared and confident, but humble.

7. Answer the questions completely, but don't talk yourself out of a job.

The optimal amount of time to spend answering a question is about 2-3 minutes. At times, a question may necessitate a longer answer; however, if you find yourself 6-8 minutes into an answer to the question, wrap it up quickly. An interviewer wants what they asked for, but not a lot of extra information. Along the same lines, don't be too short with your answer. Interviewers want to know that you understand and are able to express yourself in a cohesive manner.

8. Be on time or early for the interview.

Arriving late looks bad, and nobody likes to be kept waiting. When the interview begins, the last thing you want is for the interviewer/s to harbor negative feelings towards you. When arriving for an interview, most people are nervous and feeling stress. If you arrive early, it allows for a few minutes to take in your surroundings and at least get comfortable with your environment. Fifteen minutes is a sufficiently early enough time. Any more than that and the employer will have to figure out what to do with you.

9. Bring extra copies of your resume.

Some employers are not as prepared as others, and it will never hurt to have extra copies for additional people you meet there or for those who forgot to bring their copy.

10. Turn your cell phone off.

An employer will see a ringing, dinging, or musical interruption as an affront. They'll also think that if you can't turn your phone off for an interview that you'll never have it off, or that you'll never put it down during work.

11. Never say something negative about a previous or current employer.

Employers want employees that will uplift the work environment. Being negative about a previous or current employer sends the message that you are not a positive person. A frequent question in interviews runs along the lines of "tell me about a time you didn't get along with a coworker or boss. What did you do?" Be honest, but positive. Do not place blame, but focus on the resolution to the problem.

12. Send a thank you note.

The employer has taken time out of their busy day to take a closer look at you as a potential employee. A thank you note is warranted on that alone. Additionally, it's a subtle way of bringing you back into their minds after the interview. An employer with several good candidates has a difficult decision to make, and a thank you note is a simple kindness that may tilt the balance in your favor.