You’ve launched your job search and landed an interview. Don’t try to “wing it” and go in unprepared, says Laine Blazevich of the Office of Career Services at the University of Louisiana Lafayette.
Blazevich and the Career Services staff coach students through the job search process. “A lot of students come in not knowing what to expect in that first professional interview,” he says. “We want to make sure they’re prepared, they put their best foot forward, make a good impression and hopefully land the job they want.”
Interviewing is a two-way process, adds Blazevich, who is assistant director of Career Services. The employer is interviewing the student just as much as the student is interviewing the employer — the job situation has to be a good fit for both.
Here are the key steps for a successful job interview.
1. Do Your Research
You should be knowledgeable not only about the job you are interviewing for, but also the company you are interviewing with. Before the interview, conduct a thorough search on both the job and the company. Study the job description; become familiar with what the job entails and its requirements so that you can stress why you’re perfect for the position. Know the company’s mission and vision statements as well as some of its important facts, such as when it was established and by whom. Also, try to find out information about the group you would work with and the interviewers. This will help you prepare for the atmosphere of the interview.
2. Be Prepared
Arrive to the interview 10 to 15 minutes early. Make sure that you are armed with all your credentials and necessities (e.g., your resume, a pen, a notepad, references, contact information) all filed neatly in a folder or briefcase. Review general interview questions and have answers prepared for them. Some interviewers suggest having a hook, something that makes you stand out from the other candidates and really magnifies your strengths. Once you have all of these tips down, practice them! Rehearse your icebreaker, your hook and how you would answer questions.
3. Look the Part
Your appearance is the first thing that the interviewer will notice about you. In order to portray yourself as a competent candidate, avoid bright, gaudy colors, ill-fitting clothing, excessive jewelry or anything unprofessional. Opt for neutral tones such as black, tan, white, blue or grey — colors that suggest you are skillful and capable. Wear tailored clothing that fits your body type and keep the jewelry down to a minimum; simplicity is key.
It may seem daunting, but the actual interview is not nearly as nerve-racking as you might think it will be. Don’t stay up all night worrying or thinking of worst-case scenarios. Prepare your outfit and credentials the night before (have backups in case of accidents), get a good night’s rest, and eat an energizing breakfast the morning of the interview. Listen to your favorite song on your way there or call your best friend for some encouragement. Remember to smile during the interview (it will help you relax) and show enthusiasm about the opportunities this company has to offer. “If you’re prepared for the interview, then you’ll stay calm and relaxed,” Blazevich says.
5. Demonstrate Good Body Posture
Body language speaks volumes. Show the interviewer how alert and interested you are by demonstrating good body posture. Sit erect with your back straight and your hands in your lap; try to keep your palms upward or your fingertips pressing in a steeple-like formation. You can also have your hands loosely clasped. Avoid hiding your hands in your pockets, folding your arms, fidgeting and using overly excessive hand gestures. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer — this shows that you are engaged in the conversation and actively listening to what he or she is saying. Looking around or looking down implies that you are nervous or disinterested.
6. Accentuate Similarities
Studies have shown that you are more likely to be considered for a job if you share similarities with the interviewer. It can make a difference if the interviewer can relate to you. This does not mean you should abandon your personality, but you can accentuate characteristics that you and the interviewer have in common. For instance, if your interviewer has decorated his office with a sports team’s memorabilia, and you know things about that sport, you could use that commonality as an icebreaker.
7. Be Authentic
While it is important to be prepared for the interview, don’t turn into a robot. You can still let your true self and personality shine through your professional demeanor. You should rehearse what you are going to say, but don’t memorize every answer. It is okay to pause slightly before you reply, to show that you are giving thoughtful, honest answers. Interviewers will appreciate your humility and candor. “Think of different experiences you have and discuss them,” Blazevich says. “It can be a class project, a work experience, a volunteer experience, any type of experience that shows the skills and qualifications the employer is looking for.”
8. Follow Up
So the interview is over, and you think you’ve nailed it. Now ask the interviewer, what are the next steps? The response will help you know how to follow up. If they will be choosing a candidate within the next week, you can send a follow-up email within the next few days. Thank-you notes, on the other hand, are something you want to get out as soon as possible, preferably the next day. Following up will help you stay memorable and give you an edge over those who didn’t.
Career Services, located in Room 104 of the Conference Center, 200 Rex St., offers more helpful interview tips, career advice videos , seminars about the job search process and one-on-one coaching. To contact the office, call 337-482-1444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The office provides services to UL Lafayette students and alumni in career planning, development and job-seeking strategies.