The Interview

Ahh, the interview.

What comes to mind? Sweaty palms, dry mouth, queasy stomach?

No need to fear. Below we've collected a ton of tips that will help you make the most of a job interview. If you arrive prepared, you'll see it's not quite the scary experience you might have expected.

Before the interview

Prepare for it.  Think about your experiences at previous jobs, at school, and during extracurricular activities. How can these experiences be seen as valuable assets that you could bring to this job?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What leadership abilities have you shown?
  • What new responsibilities have you been given?
  • What new skills have you learned?
  • What are your accomplishments?
  • What challenges have you overcome?
  • What do you consider to be your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses, and how are you working to correct them?

Imagine the sort of questions the interviewer might ask you, and think of answers for each.

If the company has a website, visit it, and learn a little bit about what they do.

Practice! It can really help. Ask a friend or your parent to interview you, so you can have a dry run.

Think of a series of questions you have about the job. What do you want to learn about the company and the job? At the interview, some employers will ask if you have any questions, and it's best to come with one or two in mind.

GUYS: If you're interviewing for a job in an office, wear a suit if you have one, or a shirt and tie. If you don't have a suit, or are interviewing for a job in a more casual work environment, wear dressy khaki pants and a button-down or golf shirt. Make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle-free, and that your shoes are in good shape. Avoid using cologne or after-shave, as many workplaces have a policy against scents.

GIRLS: You don't have to wear a suit, but you can't dress like you're going out for a night on the town. Borrow clothes from your mother if you have to. We suggest wearing wrinkle-free skirts of a reasonable length, or pants that drape rather than cling. A nice blouse, or good quality T-shirt or sweater will always steer you in the right direction. Make sure your shoes are in good shape. When wearing skirts, always wear pantyhose, or tights if the weather is chilly. Avoid using perfume, as many workplaces have a policy against scents.

If you smoke, don't do it just before the interview, as the smell will stay with you.

Think about who you could ask to be references for you. It is best to use previous employers (so NEVER burn your bridges when leaving a job!) who can speak about what kind of an employee you were, but personal references such as teachers, people you volunteer with, coaches, and others can also be good references. Bring the contact information for your references to the interview in case you are asked for them. Be sure to get in touch with your references beforehand and ask if they'll give you a good reference if they're called.

During the interview

Be five or ten minutes early. Being on time is a sign that you take the opportunity seriously, that you have respect for the time the interviewer is taking to meet you, and that you're going to be a reliable employee.

Be polite. Assume that everyone you're in contact with from the moment you enter the business is evaluating you. The person who interviews you can easily ask the receptionist how you conducted yourself.

Get rid of the gum.

Greet your interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. Thank them for meeting with you. Make friendly conversation on your way from the reception area to the interview room.

When answering a question, avoid using "um" and "like" in your response. If you need time to consider your answer, take a quick moment to collect your thoughts.

Don't be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat or clarify a question.

Make eye contact with your interviewer. If there is more than one person in the room, direct your response to the person who asked the question, but include the others by occasionally making eye contact with them as you speak.

Show enthusiasm and don’t forget to smile.

Be confident. Speak in a clear voice, sit up straight, and speak thoughtfully about your experiences.

Don't be surprised if the interviewer wants you to complete some standard tests. Often these tests require that you complete forms, answer a few questions, or show that you understand certain computer programs. These tests are normal, and are usually quite straightforward.

Ask questions. Ask one of your prepared questions at the end of the interview. Sample question to ask:

  • What training or orientation does the company offer new employees?

When the interview is over, thank the interviewer for their time. You can also ask them for their business card. This way, if a question comes to mind when you get home, you can easily ask it.

For additional information on interviews, see: Interviews.

After the interview

If you have the interviewer's contact information, a quick thank you note after the interview is a nice way to remind them that you're still interested. E-mail is a perfect way to send a message like this without making a big deal of it.

If you have been to an interview, you are entitled to learn whether or not the employer wants to hire you. If you haven't heard anything by the time you expected, it's OK to follow up. One quick phone call or e-mail to determine if the hiring decision has been made is appropriate.


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