Few people relish interviews, and it is easy to respond to them by being either overly nervous or even overly cocky. It is important, then, to prepare for an interview as you prepare for any test. Incredible resources are available to you, including websites where you can "practice" by choosing among various responses to tricky interview questions, your school’s Career Services staff, and technology that allows you to videotape yourself doing a mock interview. With all these resources, I’ll keep my advice here brief, focusing on oft-overlooked fundamentals.
Basic Tips for Interviews
- Carefully review your resume and cover letter to prepare for the interview, and anticipate the kinds of questions that these documents might inspire from a stranger. It’s surprising how many candidates forget that the resume and letter they sent might be right there in front of the interviewer.
- Read company literature and review any personal correspondence you’re received from the company. Of course, research the company’s web presence heavily, and go beyond the company’s webpage—read publications by company members or search a newspaper local to the company for its mention.
- Be prompt, neat, and courteous, dressing appropriately for the occasion even if it’s simply a career fair at your school. Believe it or not, I’ve had recent graduates who came back to the school on recruiting trips cite this issue to me as their number 1 concern. I recall one recent graduate turned recruiter saying after a long day of career fair interviewing, "I wish to god they’d just be on time, cover their tattoos, and remove their piercings."
- Listen attentively and speak thoughtfully—do not rush yourself, and don’t be afraid of a bit of dead air if it helps you to think before speaking. Try to sense when you have fully answered a question and then distinctly stop rather than trail off into mumbled uncertainty.
- Be prepared to ask relevant questions. You will likely be expected to do so, showing that you have an inquisitive mind and a genuine interest.
- Express enthusiasm, but be realistic about your expectations of the job.
Common Mistakes Made During Interviews
- Criticizing yourself, partly to show humility even when it isn’t expected.
- Interrupting the interviewer’s questions or speaking out of turn.
- Overselling your case, trying to be too funny or too personal, or intentionally acting cocky to make an impression.
- Making uninvited or elaborate promises that are inappropriate for the circumstances.
- Drawing out the interview beyond its scheduled time frame or otherwise trying to control its pace.
- Lingering over questions that can better be addressed later, such as fringe benefits or starting salary.
- Speaking either too colloquially or too formally.
Qualities That You Can and Should Enhance in an Interview:
- Communication and technical skills.
- Motivation and willingness to accept responsibility.
- Self-confidence, decisiveness, stability, maturity, amiability, and loyalty.
- Perseverance, energy, common sense, and tact.
The Top Reasons Why Job Seekers Are Rejected:
- Lack of enthusiasm and interest; no evidence of initiative; no goals; lack of maturity.
- Poor personal appearance; extreme or careless dress.
- Poor scholastic record or few extra-curricular activities without reasonable explanation.
- Excessive interest in salary, benefits, or promotion.
- Lack of interest in or knowledge of the company.
- Poor presentation of self; therefore, lack of poise, awkward personality, abrasive manner, lack of confidence, timid approach, arrogant or conceited attitude, poor speech habits.
Advice on handling yourself in interviews abounds on the web. Here are four recommended sites: