You’ve done it! You have completed all of the required academic courses that you needed to earn your degree. Now, you will be tasked with applying that knowledge to the “real world.” In order to obtain that dream job, there is one important thing you will have to do; interview. For many, interviews can be scary and intimidating. However, if you really look at what an interview is intended to do, they should be perceived as fun. Where else do you have the chance to talk to someone about you? This is a chance for you to have a conversation with a professional on what you believe in and why you are the best person for the job. I will admit, I have been quite nervous going into interviews, but I quickly realized that those big, bad interviewers were not there to scare me away, they were there to really get to know me. They were waiting for me to tell them something that would make me shine compared to the other several hundreds of people that applied for the same job.
Read that last sentence again…Yup, you read it right, “A couple hundred others.” This is the reality, especially in the Criminal Justice field. It is not uncommon to have more than 500 people applying for one spot. So, now that you know this, what do you do next? Prepare. Having sat on interview panels and having been the person being interviewed, lack of preparation is one of the main issues that I have seen. So, in order to help the next generation of criminal justice professionals, I offer the following tips and tricks:
- Know the department. Make sure you take the time to research the department. Know the mission, the values, and how the department is constructed. In addition, make sure you want to work for that department. There is advice in the criminal justice field that says you should take whatever you get. I disagree with that to a point. Yes, I feel you should take the opportunities that present themselves, but I also feel it is crucial to make sure you WANT to be there. Your life will be miserable if you are stuck in a department where you don’t fit!
- Have questions. Many times at the end of an interview, the panel will ask you if you have any questions. If you simply answer, “No” then they do not feel like you are really interested. Think of three to five questions to ask. You can develop these questions from the mission, values, and construction of the department during your pre-interview prep. Do not ask about money, benefits, and time off as this is why they have a human resources department. Plus, those items will only matter when you get the job.
- Bring a notepad. Like I mentioned above, interviews are nerve-racking and you will forget. So, write down some basic facts on the department, your questions, and any other items that you feel are important.
- Self-Assess. Make sure you know who you are as a person. You will be asked some form of a question that asks for your strengths and weaknesses. Take some time before the interview to write down three to five strengths and three to five weaknesses. By taking the time to self-assess, you show maturity and a willingness to grow not only professionally, but personally.
- Dress to Impress. This is so important. For guys, invest in a suit and a few dress shirts and ties. For females, purchase a nice dress suit for the interview. I have seen people show up to interviews in everything from sweats and t-shirts to tuxedos. This is a professional field and you will be expected to look professional when you are working in the criminal justice field. Trust me, it is worth the investment. Also, make sure you are clean cut and for males, shave. I would also offer to make sure your shoes are polished and free from dirt.
I could keep going and going with tips and tricks, but the best part of interviewing is the experience. You will all learn something about yourself and you will develop your own personal style to interviewing. Know that interviewing is progressive and do not let yourself expect to be the perfect interviewer. Overall, have fun with the interview. Be yourself and smile!