My first couple of interviews right out of school were terrifying. I had no idea what to wear, what to say, what was expected of me in any way. The only experience I had was of waiting tables and babysitting. I was totally overwhelmed and badly needed guidance. Here are the top five tips that would have helped me immensely.
1. First impressions are key. While it may seem trivial, what you wear is incredibly important. Corporate, financial and professional opportunities may call for a suit as expected interview apparel, while start-ups or tech companies have a more laid-back vibe. It is important to know the culture of the company and to dress in a way that shows that you fit well within that environment (while still demonstrating your most sophisticated presentation). When you show up in polished business professional apparel, the interviewer will know you're serious about pursuing the opportunity. The essential thing is to be neat, professional, current and conservative. No plunging necklines, no tank tops, no open backs. And watch the cologne/perfume levels. You want to impress, not suffocate your interviewer. Just as important is showing up on time. Not an hour early, not late. 15 minutes early, tops. You want to respect that you scheduled an interview at a specific time for a reason. Make eye contact, speak clearly, smile, shake hands and smile. Be confident – you are a great candidate and you're there to tell them exactly why.
2. Remember your audience. There are plenty of hiring managers that are very good at making you feel at ease in your interview. But no matter how at ease you feel, remember that this person is evaluating you on your level of professionalism and poise. Now, I'm not saying don't be yourself. But be the most intelligent, pleasant and composed version of yourself there is.
3. Be prepared. Look up the company at which you're interviewing. Do your research. You want to be sure that it's a company for which you WANT to work. An interview is about deciding whether it would be a good fit for both parties. Bring a hard copy of your resume, whether or not you've sent a digital copy. Bring a pen, take notes. Show that you're interested!
4. Prepare questions. I know that this goes along with my previous tip but I feel like it's big enough to deserve its own section. When I've asked potential candidates if they have any questions, and they don't have any, it seems to me as though they are just passively accepting any information and haven't done any research. While you're researching the company and reading over the job description, think of a couple of questions that are relevant to your potential positions and the company itself. Feel free to ask what your day-to-day duties would be like. Ask what your biggest challenge is going to be. But do not tune our your interviewer to try to come up with questions while they talk. Engage in a conversation with them and bring a couple of questions with you to show that you're engaging with the information already provided to you. Remember that this is also your moment to figure out if the position is right for YOU as well.
5. Follow up. I won't deny that there are some candidates that I was lukewarm about when they left an interview, but with followup emails or phone calls, they grew on me. Those few words - “thank you for your time” or “I appreciate the opportunity” show the hiring manager that you are still interested after your meeting and you cared enough to take the time to reach out and show gratitude for the opportunity. It doesn't take very much of your time, but it could increase your chances of getting the job.
- Katie Berryann, Technical Recruiter