Interviewing Tips...Just In Time for Graduation!
Summer is coming and school is winding down, but for many upcoming high school and college graduates this is the time of year when panic starts. Why?
“They know that interviews, either for summer jobs, internships, or first-time ventures into the real world of work are just around the corner,” says business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, author of NewRules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Prentice Hall Press.)
According to Pachter, interviewing can be a nerve-wracking experience, even for seasoned professionals. “But the pressure is really on for new grads. Simply telling them to bring extra copies of their resumes and arrive on time just isn’t enough,” she says. “Most new grads have little experience with the interview process.”
Fortunately there are ways to overcome this
obstacle. “It’s all in the preparation,” says Pachter,
“By following these 10 guidelines, young people can alleviate a lot of the jitters commonly associated with interviewing.”
1. PREPARE MEANINGFUL DISCUSSION POINTS. I call this “knowing the stories of your life.” You may not have corporate experience to draw upon, but you’ve certainly experienced things in your life, like encountering rude customers while working part time, dealing successfully with difficult teachers or working with others as part of a school team or club. Think of positive, specific examples ahead of time and use them when you answer questions.
2. ROLE PLAY THE INTERVIEW WITH A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER. You will learn where you stumble or whether you use “like” or “um.” Be open to the feedback that you are given. Anticipate the tough questions and know how you will answer them.
3. READ BOOKS ABOUT BUSINESS LEADERS. You may not have a lot of leadership or management experience, but reading about leaders will give you lots of topics to discuss. You can occasionally say something like, “Well I haven’t managed a team yet, but from what I’ve read in Jack Welch’s book, Winning, one of the key ingredients of success is…”
4. BUY A BUSINESS SUIT. When interviewing for most jobs in corporate America, it’s usually best to wear a suit—even if the company has a business casual dress policy. If it’s not a corporate job, you can wear nice slacks or skirt and shirt or blouse. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. Your shoes should be polished and in good condition.
5. ADAPT TO THE WORK ENVIRONMENT. Though for some, college is a time to celebrate your uniqueness with pink hair, tattoos, or body piercings, it’s usually best to keep that side of yourself private for the interview. Don’t wear more than one pair of earrings and make sure your tattoos are covered. Turn your cell phone off and no gum chewing.
6. SHAKE HANDS TWICE. Believe it or not, one of the simplest things you can do to convey a sense of confidence and professionalism is to shake hands properly at the beginning of the interview and at the end. And shake hands with everyone in the room. Recruiters tell me they are impressed by this behavior.
7. BE ENTHUSIASTIC. Many candidates have good job skills, but they seem passive during the interview. You need to be engaging. Don’t slouch, avoid nervous gestures like hair twirling, look the interviewer in the eye, and smile during the interview. Answer the questions clearly and concisely. Prepare a couple of questions to ask the interviewer. It shows your interest in the position.
8. FAKE IT UNTIL YOU FEEL IT. When it comes to confidence, this has been my mantra for years. If you act confidently, others will perceive you that way (even if that’s not how you feel on the inside.) Eventually, you will feel more confident and the inside will match the outside.
9. SEND THANK YOU NOTES. Write to each of the people who interviewed you. An emailed “thank you” is a quick, informal way to say thanks, but it does not replace the personal, thoughtful quality of a handwritten note. If timing is important, email is the way to go.
10. LEARN FROM EACH INTERVIEW. What went right? What can you improve upon? Review the questions you were asked. How did you answer them? How will you answer them in the future?
Barbara Pachter is the author of numerous books, including The Power of Positive Confrontation ( paperback, Marlowe & Co.) and When the Little Things Count...And They Always Count (paperback, Marlowe & Co.)
Pachter is a speaker and coach specializing in business etiquette and communication. Her client list features major organizations worldwide, including Microsoft, Pfizer, Chrysler, and Genentech.