Congratulations—you’re close to graduation! While this time brings joy and celebration because it’s a huge accomplishment, it also means stress and anxiety due to the next step—finding a job. And of course, you’d like to find a job as quickly as possible so you can put your new degree to good use.
The hardest part of the job finding process might come after you’ve spent time searching for positions and submitting applications. It’s the time where you meet a stranger and do your best to convince them that you’re the best candidate for the job—the (dreaded!) interview.
These days, every company wants to be unique and ask questions you might not expect. That means you need to be prepared to answer questions about more than just your strengths and weaknesses. While the prospect of trying to speak intelligently on how the Internet works or whether you consider yourself a hunter or gatherer can be nerve-wracking, it doesn’t have to be.
Job interviews should be taken seriously, but they don’t need to be scary. It’s all about preparation. Here, hiring experts and consultants share tips for interviewing that you don’t want to overlook.
1. Be clear about your accomplishments
You should always have examples of what you accomplished in past positions, but you need to be clear about how the company benefited from what you did.
“Start with the results of your skills and use dollars whenever possible when talking about your experience,” says Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations. “Managers will find the details of how you accomplished something much more interesting once they know what the accomplishment is.”
2. Take phone interviews seriously
It can be all too easy to see phone interviews as less important than a face-to-face meeting. Don’t fall into that trap. Phone interviews can lead to an in-person meeting, or even an outright job offer, so prepare accordingly.
It’s important to smile while you’re speaking because the interviewer can hear that, says Eric Melniczek, author of Transition to the New World and career counselor at High Point University. He also suggests dressing like you would for a face-to-face interview because that will help your confidence.
3. Don’t be afraid to get personal
Your accomplishments and skills are the most important things to focus on during an interview, but employers want to know about you—the stuff they won’t find on a resume. Be selective—you don’t want to share your entire life story—but do be prepared to talk about some things not directly related to the job.
“Prepare an interesting anecdote about yourself that will be memorable and also demonstrate your work style,” says Patricia Hickman, associate director of the Suitts Graduate and Alumni Career Center at the University of Denver. “But before you do so, make sure that you listen carefully to the interviewer so you can tell the most appropriate type of story.”
4. Practice, practice, practice
You likely don’t talk about your skills and past job performance daily, but you need to have ready answers for an interview. The solution? Practice! Experts often say that you should write down answers to common interview questions and practice saying the answers out loud. This will help you remember what you want to say when the time comes, and help avoid awkward phrasing that may arise due to the importance of the moment.
5. Learn as much as you can about the company
Employers will be impressed if you can demonstrate your knowledge of the company, so before the interview, be sure to acquire some of it!
While you can learn a lot about a company from its website, why stop there?
Author and speaker Barry Maher says the best interview performance he’s seen came from a woman who, before her interview, spoke to employees at that company who held a similar position to the one she wanted. Thanks to her research she already knew what issues those employees faced and could discuss them.
Another way to learn tidbits you might otherwise overlook is by reading the company’s annual report. In addition to the mission and values of the company, there’s important information for job seekers in an annual report, says Nirav Mehta, associate director of the University of Michigan’s Ross EMBA program.
“This report identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats the industry is facing,” Mehta says. “And by reading this report inside and out, the interviewee will have the ability to converse with the interviewer on a deeper level and ask intelligent questions.”
6. Ask questions
If you’ve taken the time to prepare for the interview and research the company, put that information to good use by asking questions. Multiple experts said that interviewees who asked good questions showed the potential employer that they were serious about the position.
“Questions should be detailed and in-depth highlighting the interviewee's ability to thoroughly prepare for the interview and possible employment with the company,” says Robin Reshwan, founder of Collegial Services. “If an interviewee does not ask questions it may lead the interviewer to think that they are not invested in the opportunity.”
Now you know…
Although job interviews will always be a little tricky and cause some amount of stress, you now have some insider tips. Bookmark this article and re-read it each time you have an interview—it’ll refresh your memory and give you the confidence to impress your future employer!
For more advice on preparing for interviews, connect with your career services advisor or read more posts in the Career Services blog.