There are very few people who do not approach the interview process with a sense of apprehension and even fear. However, keep in mind that interviews are not designed to be a process of inquisition or interrogation. Instead, interviews are simply a focused goal-oriented exchange of information between two people. Not only will you be presenting yourself and your qualifications, you will be evaluating whether or not you would consider working in the organization based on the information and impressions you acquire in the interview.
What is the most important element in acing an interview? Being prepared! Preparing thoroughly for your interview will better enable you to effectively present yourself and your qualifications as they relate to the position for which you are interviewing. Basic interviewing preparation should include:
- Before you go into an interview, you must spend a considerable amount of time thinking about yourself. Become very familiar with your resume, as you likely will be asked to speak to many points you have presented.
Know the Organization
- Knowledge of the organization, its products or services, locations, needs and current events is not only essential, it is expected! Thorough preparation will strengthen your self-confidence and show a genuine interest in the job.
Consider the Match
- Continue the interview preparation process by considering your interests, values, skills and needs in relation to the specific job you are pursing. How does this position fit with your long-term goals and current values? The better you relate your career interests and abilities to the employer's needs, the more successful you will be.
- You must be able to communicate information effectively to the employer. The more you practice, the more you will find that your interviewing skills improve. Practice in front of a mirror, with a friend, or call to set up a Mock Interview with the Business Career Center.
- Remember, oral communication is the single most important evaluation criteria in interviews. It isn't necessarily the best-qualified candidate who gets the job, but rather the one who is best at presenting his or her qualifications. Practice can pay off tremendously!
What to Wear
- The suit is the basic element of the interview wardrobe for men and women alike. Colors such as dark blue, black, or various shades of gray are considered most appropriate. Avoid being trendy. Instead, choose a conservative, classic style.
- For men, white and light blue shirts are recommended for interviews. Ties are a must! Dark shoes in brown or black are the best choices. For women, a basic medium-heeled pump in a color that complements the suit is recommended.
What to Bring
- Always bring a few extra copies of your resume to the interview, along with a separate list of references. You will also want to carry a pen and paper along to make notes following the interview.
- It is best not to carry a large bulky bag or backpack with you to the interview. A small purse and/or a resume portfolio are appropriate.
- Never be late for an interview! Try to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to allow yourself time to collect your thoughts and check your appearance.
- Upon arriving to the interview, greet the employer's receptionist courteously and with respect. First impressions are lasting!
- Greet your interviewer with a smile, a firm handshake and direct eye contact.
- Always address the interviewer as "Mr." or "Ms." until he or she directs you to use their first name.
Send a Thank You
- It is very important to send a thank-you letter to each person you met with immediately (within 24 hours) after your interview. Thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the position. (See Internship and Job Search Correspondence)
The important thing to remember when you are interviewing is that you are trying to convey to the interviewer that you are the best person for this position. Therefore, each and every answer you state should reinforce that you can contribute positively to the employer. Be yourself and focus on your positive qualities!
A few pointers to keep in mind when interviewing:
- Keep your answers direct and concise. Do not talk too much or prolong the interview;
- Remain positive when answering interview questions. Do not blame others or make overly cynical comments about a previous boss or employer. Your tact and diplomacy should shine through in all of your responses;
- Do not inquire about salary or benefits until an offer has been made;
- Do not accept an offer on the spot. A response in 24 to 48 hours is appropriate.
Sample General Interview Questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your major strengths/weaknesses?
- Do you work well under pressure? How do you handle it?
- What interests you about this specific position?
- What school activities did you enjoy the most?
- What is your ideal management style?
- Why did you select Loyola University?
- What has been your most satisfying accomplishment?
- Why should I hire you over other candidates?
- Why did you leave your previous employer, or why are you leaving your present job?
- Are you applying for any other jobs?
- Are you willing to relocate? To travel?
Questioning the Interviewer
While it is obviously important to provide quality answers to interviewers' questions, it is equally important to ask pertinent and professional questions during the interview process. Many candidates are also evaluated on the basis of the questions they ask during the interview. Questions relating to salary and benefits should typically be avoided during the initial screening interviews.
Your questions should reflect a sincere interest in the organization and the position for which you are applying. They should not be questions that you could have easily discovered on your own simply by reviewing the company's website or recruitment literature. You do not want to give the interviewer the impression that you have not "done your homework" prior to the interview. Finally, since there may not be enough time to ask all - or even most - of your questions, choose them wisely.
Sample Questions for the Interviewer:
- What qualities are you looking for in your new hires?
- What distinguishes your firm from its competitors?
- What are the most challenging facets of the position?
- How is an employee evaluated and promoted?
- If you were to name three values this organization represents, what would they be?
- What is the work environment like?
- What are the major projects I will be working on in the first six months/year?
- What are some of the typical career paths followed by others who have been in this position?
- What characteristics does a successful employee have at your company?
- Is there anything about my candidacy that concerns you or you have a question about?