So you’ve figured out, more or less what you want to do and where the opportunities are. Now; you have been called for an interview. Here are five steps for interview success for students and graduates:
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Thoroughly research each employer you pursue. It is not enough just to show up for the interviews and hope for the best.
Take the time to research and understand the company and the person who is giving the interview. Students should approach their answers from the perspective of the person who is doing the hiring. What would that person be looking for if the roles were reversed? Job seekers need to plan their responses so they cover key information about what they can bring to the job, and then rehearse out loud until they feel confident.
2. Attitude makes a difference.
The key element to successful interviewing is not your experience, your grades, what classes you took, your extracurricular activities, or any of the other basic necessities. Those skills are what got you the interview. The key element to successful interviewing can be summed up in one word: attitude. If you want to rise above others with better experience, better grades, or better anything, you will need to work on developing a highly positive work attitude.
Your attitude determines whether you will “make the cut” or be discarded. Remember, there are plenty of competitors with the ability to do almost any given job– especially at the entry level. The way most employers differentiate at the entry level is by candidates’ attitudes toward the job.
You can teach a new employee many things, but attitude is not one of them. Many employers are willing to teach skills to new employees if they come through the door with a positive, energetic “can do” attitude.
3. Ask the right questions.
Ask about the position, job responsibilities and company values.
4. Dress for success.
Before the interview, the student job seeker should find out the company’s dress code and dress a level up from that. It’s better to be overdressed than under-dressed.
This is not to say that you need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Go for quality over quantity. One or two well-chosen business suits will serve you all the way to the first day on the job and beyond. Then, when you are making some money (and have a chance to see what the standard “uniform” is for the company), you can begin to round out your wardrobe. For now, no one will fault you for wearing the same sharp outfit each time you interview. If you desire some variety within a limited budget, you might consider varying your shirt/blouse/tie/accessories as a simple way to change your look without breaking your wallet.
5. Leave a lasting impression.
There are two simple steps you can take to make a lasting impression after your interview and greatly increase your odds of success.
The first is to call the interviewer to thank them for their time. If possible, you may want to add additional information which was not discussed in the interview. An example would be: “I understand from speaking with the receptionist that Microsoft Office is your corporate software standard. I just wanted to mention that I’m also fully proficient in each of the tools in the Office suite.” This phone call should ideally take place the same day. If you are unable to reach the interviewer directly, leave a voicemail message.
The second activity is to immediately write the interviewer a short note, thanking them for their time and reemphasizing your interest in the position. Then do your best to get it to them as quickly as possible. E-mail it, fax it, hand deliver it, messenger it, use overnight mail, whatever. But be sure they have it before the end of the following day. Ideally, you want to get it in their hands by the end of the day of the interview or first thing the following morning. Why? Because the quicker your letter arrives, the greater the likelihood of affecting a positive impact. A thank you note provides an opportunity to thank the interviewer for his or her time, and one last chance to express interest in the position and reinforce why you are the right person for it.