Ace your interview

What should you wear? What should you bring? What should you say? Whether it’s your first interview or your fifth, there’s always some anticipation or maybe anxiety about how your interview will go. Wherever you are in your job search, here are 7 tips on how to ace your interview.

1. Research the company.
This seems like a no-brainer, but most candidates struggle with step 1! If you walk into your interview without knowing what the company does, you are unprepared. Take just 15 minutes to Google the company, and skim through their website to see what they boast. Look over a couple news articles if any that feature your company. This can be a good way to answer some interview questions such as “why do you want to work for ABC?” Even if you’re applying just for the money, you can say something like “it was rated the best workplace in our state for interns” or “I saw it was one of the fastest growing companies this year in the industry, and I wanted to be part of that growth.”

Another quick thing to do is check the company’s LinkedIn to see the scale of the company. You can also look up your recruiter if you know who they are. (If you don’t want them to know you’re searching them, just right click into incognito new tab.) This can be useful if you notice you went to the same university as your recruiter, or both love the same sports. Remember, they’re not just looking at your qualifications, but also if they want you around the office as a co-worker.

2. Dress for the job you want.
If this is a professional office environment, dress business professional. Depending on other factors like climate and company attitude, you could even lose the suit jacket and add colors for business casual. For lower wage entry level jobs, nice slacks and a clean button down shirt should be fine. Always look up your company to see what the employees there are wearing!

If your first interview is a phone call, this would be a great opportunity for you to ask “what is the company culture like?” and “how would you describe the office environment?” Sometimes, they may mention things like Jean Fridays which may signal their office is more formal normally, so you should come in business attire.

3. Practice your handshake and greeting.
When 55% of communication is nonverbal, it’s important to use your body to put your best self forward. Start with a friendly smile, greeting, handshake, and introduction. Make sure your handshake isn’t too floppy and not aggressive. Think enthusiastic!

Have a nice friendly greeting, and be prepared to make small talk. You could mention a unique piece of art or architecture in the office, or your positive interaction with the receptionist. If you’re from New Jersey, you can talk about the weather. Whatever it is, don’t complain too much, expose too much about yourself, or crack degrading jokes. The first few moments determines the dynamic of the rest of your interview.

4. Know what you’ll be asked.
Today, we are blessed with the amazing website Glassdoor, where for many major companies we can look up past interview questions. Be sure to study them and have the best answers prepared. If your interview will be technical, brush up on your knowledge as soon as you can, then review over time, so that during the interview you’re less likely to blank out.

5. Have stories ready.
By stories I mean experiences that relate to a certain skill. For most students, these will be your group projects, that really hard exam you thought you were going to fail, that terrible professor that graded arbitrarily, the time the customer screamed at you when you were taking their order. Craft the story in a way where it has an introduction, conflict, and resolution with a lesson.

For example, if the interviewer asks “Can you tell me about a time you dealt with failure?” You can talk about the calculus exam you failed freshman year, but through hard work and utilizing all your resources, you were able to pull a passing grade, and learned to better manage time and get help from the people around you. You can use the same story for the question “What’s the hardest class you’ve taken at school?”

6. Prepare to ask your interviewer questions.
It DOES NOT MATTER if you think you already know everything about this company. Ask a few questions no matter what. It shows interest in the company, and that you’re serious about the job. After all, if there are things you don’t know and don’t ask, doesn’t that mean you don’t care about working there?

Some good questions to ask are “What are some things expected of me during my first couple months in this position?” “How many candidates will you be picking for this hiring season?” “What are the next steps of this interview process?”

Unfortunately, I don’t recommend asking about salary or benefits unless they’ve either mentioned it already or asked your directly about your thoughts. Especially when you are applying for an entry level position, this could work against you.

7. Arrive on time.
Arrive on time. Really, arrive on time. It’s rude to the person who cleared their schedule for you, and shows you aren’t a reliable person. If you can’t be bothered to manage your time well for a job interview, there’s no way you’ll show priority when it comes to meetings and deadlines. On the other hand, don’t arrive too early. Once I arrived 45 minutes early for an interview. When I waited in the lobby, the receptionist had notified my interviewer, and they ended up feeling stressed and rushed to get to me. I would say 10-20 minutes early is a good time to enter the building, depending on the level of security. Even if you do arrive earlier, try to stay outside for a little while.

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