Facts to Gather Before Interviewing
- Names and roles of key people in the organization
- Major products or services
- Company size in terms of sales and employees
- Locations other than your community
- Organizational structure of the company
- Major competitors
- View of the company by clients, suppliers and competition
- Latest news reports on the company or on local or national news that affects the company
Steps to a Successful Interview
- Bring several copies of your resume
- Dress professionally
- Arrive at the office on time
- Introduce yourself in a courteous manner
- Maintain a pleasant look or a smile throughout the process
- Take notes
- Read company materials while you wait
- Have a firm handshake
- Listen intently
- Use body language to show interest
- Smile, nod and give nonverbal feedback to the interviewer
- Ask about the next step in the process
- Ask about the job responsibilities – Cue your answers to parallel these
- Make sure you answer the questions they ask
- Keep responses succinct
- Watch how many times you use "I"
- Don't speak negatively about your employer, boss or coworkers
- Thank the interviewer sincerely
- Write a thank-you letter to anyone you have spoken to
Appropriate Attire for Interviews
The clothing you wear to your interview should make you look like you will fit in at your prospective employer's office. When in doubt, stay on the side of conservatism. Even if the company has a "business casual" dress policy, you're better off dressing a bit on the stuffy side than in taking a gamble only to find that your idea of casual doesn't match that of your prospective employer.
For Male Job Candidates:
- Traditional business attire means a dark, conservative suit and a white, long-sleeved (even in summer), pressed dress shirt.
- Ties should be silk and coordinate well with the suit. Avoid flashy patterns on ties. If you wear an earring (or several), remove it before the interview.
For Female Job Candidates:
- Traditional business attire is a conservative suit or dress.
- Avoid loud jewelry, too much makeup or excessively long fingernails—they are distracting. If you wear nail polish, make sure it's a subtle color and neatly done.
For All Job Candidates:
- Avoid wearing too much cologne or perfume.
- Your hair should be clean and well-groomed.
- Shoes should be polished and coordinate with your suit or dress.
An interview isn't a beauty contest, but how you dress and your overall appearance is almost always noticed by the interviewer. Don't give the interviewer a chance to rule you out because you didn't feel like ironing your shirt or polishing your shoes. Dress in a business-like, professional manner, and you will be sure to fit in wherever you interview.
Potential Interview Questions
The following are some typical behavior-based questions that interviewers often ask. The job competencies they're designed to measure are in parentheses:
- Describe a situation in which you had to use reference materials to write a research paper. What was the topic? What journals did you read? (research)
- Give me a specific example of a time when a co-worker or classmate criticized your work in front of others. How did you respond? How has that event shaped the way you communicate with others? (communication)
- Describe a situation in which you recognized a potential problem as an opportunity. What did you do? (initiative)
- Give me a specific example of a time when you sold your supervisor or professor on an idea or concept. How did you proceed? What was the result? (assertiveness)
- Describe the system you use for keeping track of multiple projects. How do you track your progress so that you can meet deadlines? (commitment to task)
- Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a challenge your company or class was facing. What was the challenge? What roles did others play? (creativity and imagination)
- What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients in building and maintaining successful business relationship? Give me examples of how you've made these work for you. (relationship building)
- Describe a time when you got co-workers or classmates who dislike each other to work together. How did you accomplish this? What was the outcome? (teamwork)
- Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn? (time management)
- Describe a specific problem you solved for your employer or professor. How did you approach the problem? What role did others play? What was the outcome? (decision making)
Questions to Ask in an Interview
The people who interview you for a job will typically ask if you have any questions about the position or the company itself. Don't pass up this opportunity to gather more information. It indicates that you are interested in the job and can help you decide if you actually want it. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
Ask the HR manager:
- Are employees encouraged and given the opportunity to express their ideas and concerns? What do employees seem to like best and least about the company?
- What is the rate of employee turnover?
- How large is the department where the opening exists?
- Why is the position open?
- Does the job require much travel?
- What are the chances of being relocated after starting the job?
- What type of orientation or training do new employees receive?
- How often are performance reviews given?
- Who determines raises and promotions and how?
- What are the long-range possibilities for employees in similar positions who consistently perform above expectations?
- What employee benefits does the company offer?
Ask your prospective supervisor:
- What would be my primary responsibilities?
- What would I be expected to accomplish in the first six months on the job? In the first year?
- What are some of the department's ongoing and anticipated special projects?
- How much contact or exposure does the department and staff have with management?
Ask a prospective co-worker:
- What do you like best/least about working for this department/company?
- Can you describe a typical workday in the department?
- Do you feel free to express your ideas and concerns here?
- What are the possibilities for professional growth and promotion?
- How much interaction do you have with superiors, colleagues, and customers?
- Do you have much of an opportunity to work independently?
- How long have you been with the company? Does your future here seem secure?
Work environment goes beyond the physical aspects of an office or plant. It also includes the people who work there and the organization's culture and values.
Here are some things to pay attention to during your visit:
- Do the people seem happy?
- Are they helpful?
- Are they enthusiastic about their work?
- Are they enthusiastic about the organization?
- Do you feel welcome?
- Do you like the people?
- Do you like the facilities?
- Do you like the management style?
- Does this seem like a good place to work?
How to Come Out First In the Second Interview
In addition to individual interviews, some companies arrange for candidates to meet with several staff members simultaneously. Success in this situation often hinges on the same strategies as used in individual interviews.
In a group interview, a job candidate must be able to:
- demonstrate awareness of the company and its goals
- elaborate effortlessly on his or her resume
- make good eye contact (first with the panelist who asks a question and then with the other panelists)
Be Prepared for an On-Site Interview
The second interview is typically held at the employer's site, so you may have to make travel arrangements.
To prepare for an on-site interview, gather the following information:
- The name, title, business address, and phone number of whomever is coordinating your trip/travel arrangements.
- Complete details about your travel and accommodation arrangements, including dates, times, locations, and appropriate phone numbers. If you will be staying at a hotel, ask the trip coordinator whose name your room is in.
- Any necessary documents/paperwork (plane tickets, hotel reservation, car rental slip, etc.).
- A map or description of how to get to your various destinations. For example, if you are flying to the employer's location, how should you get from the airport to the hotel? From the hotel to the interview?
- A schedule indicating where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there, and who you should ask for upon your arrival.
- Information on how and what expenses will be paid for by the employer, including what documentation you will need to submit and to whom in order to be reimbursed. Most companies expect to pay for all of the expenses related to a candidate's visit, so don't hesitate to inquire about prepayment or reimbursement. Conversely, don't take advantage of the employer. The expenses you ask to be reimbursed for should be legitimate, not souvenirs and the like.