You’ve done it. You’ve graduated college and are ready to find that first job. Think of it like studying when it comes to how to prepare for an interview. Check out our job interview tips to get you in the door.
Evaluate the Job Description/The Company Itself
Many companies use their job description as the first hurdle to screen candidates. It’s essential to read through it carefully. Every part of it is a filter toward finding the right person for the job.
Consider What Type of Candidate the Company Is Seeking
Hiring is a tedious process on both sides of the desk. Save yourself a lot of time by taking careful note of the candidate that the company wants. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t want to get into sales, don’t apply for the job just because the money looks good.
Take Note of the Requirements
Companies put a lot of effort into a job description especially if they’ve been burned in the past by hiring the wrong person for the job. Look at all the things the company expects for an applicant.
A company will list specific skills to streamline the break-in period. If it’s important for the job, it will come up in the interview. That isn’t the time to tell a prospective employer you’re a fast learner. Have the skill already.
The same thing can be said of knowledge. Every industry has its own information base that anyone in the profession understands. And if you don’t have it, it’ll come out quickly in an interview.
Experience often presents the biggest obstacle especially for someone straight out of college. But it’s best to be honest with your skill set. A company often includes this requirement because they want someone who can get working fast without a lot of beginner training.
There are certain expectations with some jobs that spell success for an employer. You can acquire some of these qualities with experience. It’s all the better if you have them when you apply.
These parts of a description may seem limiting. However, it pays for both you and the employer to be upfront about the best person for the job. If you’re not a people person, you may not enjoy marketing. Do yourself a favor and apply to companies that fit your personality.
Research the Company
Like the job description, employers will often use the candidate’s knowledge of the company as a screening tool. They want to be sure that you know more about the business than what salary they’re offering for an open position.
Understand What They Do
At the very least, you should know what the company does other than that they’re looking to fill an IT position. Take the time to read about the company on its website to understand what they feel is important for others to know.
Assess Products, Services, and Its Client Base
Understanding a company is more than knowing it sells widgets. Learn about its entire product line and services it offers. This information can help you frame the answers to their questions in a way that shows you bring value to the company.
Evaluate the Company’s Recent Growth/Stability
Knowing a company’s position within its industry is essential for both the interview and your own assessment. Check websites such as Moodys to learn how it is performing. Do a search for recent press releases on a site such as PR Newswire to see what is making the news.
Use This Information to Generate a List of Questions to Bring with You to the Interview
All your research will likely provide plenty of fodder for your own list of interview questions. That is an excellent way to show your interest in a company. Make sure your questions are relevant and demonstrate a true understanding of the business.
Develop a Brief Understanding of Company Competitors and the Company’s Overall Industry Standing
Knowing a company’s competitors offers an excellent opportunity for you to sell yourself in an interview because of what you can bring to the table. Check a site such as Owler to find a list of other comparable companies. Understanding their business models can give you an edge in an interview.
Preparing for an interview is just as much about evaluating yourself as it is about researching a company. It’s also a way to help you practice intelligent answers to likely questions. You may find it helpful to review your details with a close friend.
Create a List of Your Qualifications/Assets
Making a list of your skill sets allows you to evaluate a job description better. Other traits such as your management style or leadership ability often are the things that can put you on the short list of candidates.
Include both your hard and soft skills on your list. Add things such as the programs or techniques you have mastered and the intangible things such as your interpersonal skills that could make you an effective manager. With each one you list, assess your ability or level.
Always include any certifications you have with your list of qualifications. They provide a third-party assessment of your skills. They also show your dedication to your field which will speak volumes.
Your list of abilities can include other assets such as learning to code or troubleshoot problems that can impress an employer. Consider the ones which complement your skills and show your expertise at applying them.
Consider Your Fit With the Company
Think about the kind of fit you are with the company armed with your research and qualifications list. Reading a company’s About page will often provide you with plenty of information for a realistic assessment.
Backup Your Qualifications/Assets
It’s one thing to say you have a certain skill, but it’s another matter entirely if you can show how you have used it. For every item you’ve listed, make sure and have an example of how you applied yourself to the task with a measure of its success. Doing so demonstrates your ability to think on your feet and make decisions.
Describe Effectively Why You Are the Person They Should Hire
Your research and list will provide you with all the information you need to make a strong case for the company to hire you. Be sure to tie your qualifications with aspects of the company where they would stand out as an asset.
To get the most out of your work, you should practice so that the answers flow freely. You’ll also find that it can help you feel less nervous if you know ahead of time what you’re going to say.
Enlist the help of a friend or family member to conduct a dress rehearsal interview. Take it seriously as if you were sitting in front of the employer. You might even consider wearing your interview clothes to get you in the right frame of mind.
Use Common Job Interview Questions and Answers from TheBalance.com
As a guide for the mock interview, use typical questions and answers from a site such as TheBalance.com to prepare you for what you’re likely to hear. Often these questions are thought provoking, so knowing what to expect can help better prepare you.
Practice Interview Etiquette
The job interview still is something of a ritual with certain expectations. They offer an excellent way to show your fit for a job as well as providing employers with other nonverbal information to help them decide on your suitability.
Be Polite and Enthusiastic
No one wants to work with a rude person. Show an employer that you’re a team player who is ready to get to work.
Positive Body Language and Firm Handshakes
Sometimes a hiring decision comes down to how a person came across to the employer. Make a good impression with body language that says you’re happy to be there.
Relax and Lean Forward
Even though you’re nervous, try to contain it by adopting a relaxed posture. It’ll give the employer a chance to see how you act under pressure.
Remain Interested and Engaged
Stay on task during the entire interview. It shows your willingness to do the job and stay focused.
Maintain Eye Contact
Eye contact is an underrated people skill. It conveys a lot about your personality in a simple gesture. Some often interpret it as an expression of honesty.
Practice Asking Your Questions—That Are Already Prepared
Be comfortable asking questions by practicing them ahead of time. Listen carefully during the interview for openings when they are relevant and appropriate.
Planning will help keep your focused on the interview without the added stress of the unknown. Make it easy for you. Do the things you can before the big day.
Pick Out Your Outfit the Night Before
Your first impression is critical. It begins with what you’re wearing. It’s essential, therefore, to use this opportunity to demonstrate your fit for the company
Conservative Business Attire
That is the best way to go if you’re uncertain about how to dress. The interview is still a formal meeting. Conservative attire sets a professional tone.
Business Casual; Use Good Judgment
Many companies have gone business casual. However, the interview process is another matter than day-to-day work. Use your best judgment to make sure you make the right impression.
Make Sure Your Clothes Are Wrinkle Free
No matter what the dress code, make certain that your clothes are wrinkle free. And don’t hesitate to bust out the iron.
Overall Appearance Should Be Neat and Clean
In addition to ironing, the impression you should aim for is to come across neat. It says as much about your personality as it does about your work style.
Your grooming should complement your neat dress. Take the extra time to look great.
Smell Nice — But Don’t Overdo It!
There’s a fine line between a pleasant and an overpowering scent. Go on the conservative side with the perfume or cologne. Ask a friend or family member to give you their take.
Get There Early
Getting to an interview early shows that you respect the employer’s time. It’s another unspoken gesture of etiquette that speaks a lot about your professionalism and work ethic.
Know How to Get There
Getting lost will only add to your stress. Know how to get to the interview site ahead of time. You should also check for things like construction that may impact your commute.
Plan Where You Are Going to Park
It’s one thing to find a place, but another thing to know where to park. Make sure to check on fees so that you have enough cash on hand to feed a meter.
During The Interview
All your preparation will help alleviate common sources of stress. There are a few other things that the extra time will allow you to do so that you stand out as a possible candidate.
Bring Extra Copies of Your Resume
Often a team will conduct an interview. Show your attention to detail with extra copies of your resume, so everyone has one.
Bring a List of References
Along with your resume, include a list of references with current contact information. Make sure and verify phone numbers and email addresses before the interview.
Bring a Notepad, Pen, and a Professional Binder
Let’s face it. You’re probably more nervous than you realize. You will likely forget some things said during the interview. Be prepared with notepad and pen.
Take Notes During the Interview
Feel free to take notes during the process. If there is follow-up information, be sure and write it down. It makes a good impression of you as one who pays attention to details.
Bring a Portfolio of Work Samples
You have one opportunity to sell yourself. Do it with samples that demonstrate your fit for the company as proof of your list of qualifications.
Use These to Portray Your Ability to Handle the Job
Work samples allow you to show how you’ve applied your skills to a task. That is just as important as having a qualification. And it’s the application that will interest employers.
Always have some relevant questions prepared in advance. If you’re interested in working for a company, show it. Your research will give you plenty of talking points.
Be Mindful of Nonverbal Communication
Remember that an employer bases a hiring decision on more than is on your resume. Let your body language convey the messages that aren’t on paper.
Don’t lose sight of your facial expressions. They do a lot to show interest. And you’ll find that a smile on your face will keep your mood light too.
The interview will likely include preliminary information that all candidates hear. Even if you know it already, pay attention during the entire meeting.
Always Project Confidence
The most important thing to do during an interview is to project confidence in yourself and your ability to do the job. It’s critical that you know and believe it. That feeling will come through during the entire interview.
Interviewing for a job is never easy. However, if you prepare ahead of time, you can avoid many of the common pitfalls that doom a candidate’s chances. With knowledge and information comes power. Your preparation will fuel your confidence to ace the interview.