The interview is the most important part of the job application. While it gives you a chance to shine, it also gives the interviewer insights into you, your work ethic, and how well you would fit with other co-workers.
Whether you are preparing for your first interview or your tenth, in-person or online, here are some helpful tips to set you on the course to a successful job interview.
1. Look your best.
When you walk into the room, one of the first things an interviewer notes is how you dress. While it may seem simple, dressing appropriately and in a professional manner tells the interviewer that you understand the importance of the interview, are prepared to work in a professional environment, and that you are generally put together. Hair neatly arranged, appropriate attire, and nice dress shoes will make a good first impression. For the gentlemen, a suit is always a good choice. For the ladies, a nice skirt and blouse and just as appropriate, though more casual, as a pants suit.
If your interview is online, still dress as though you were going to an in-person interview - first impressions are even harder to make when you are trying to communicate through a screen. More importantly, it makes you feel more professional and prepared.
2. Bring your resume and cover letter with you.
Even though the interviewer will most likely have a copy of both, having your resume and cover letter with you shows that you are prepared. If you have a nice portfolio or file holder, place your cover letter and resume in it to ensure they stay nice and clean on the way to the interview. Having something to hold in your lap will also help you avoid any fidgeting habits.
3. Practice answering questions.
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to practice answering questions. You can role play with a friend. As a rule of thumb, you should not answer with just “yes” or “no” or with one sentence. Aim for two to three sentences, elaborating enough to show your conversational skills, but not too much that you dominate the interview.
To get you started, here are some some questions that might come up in an interview:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Do you work well with a team?
- I noticed that you did (fill in with appropriate activity), can you tell me about that?
- Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert?
- Can you describe to me one time that you failed? How did you overcome it?
- How do you feel about making decisions about (fill in a job criteria)?
- Do you have any questions for me?
For a phone interview, have at least two questions prepared. Since the interviewer cannot see you or watch your body language, having something prepared for the end of the interview shows that you are professional and know how to have a good phone conversation. To practice, have a friend call you and run through a series of questions. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become.
4. Scope out the office area and make sure you know where you are going.
Again, this may sound simple, but a smooth arrival will make you feel more confident and poised. Showing up five minutes before an interview is not good practice. Instead, try to arrive fifteen minutes early. If you have never been to the office before, make sure you know where you are going, where to park, and where the front desk is located.
You might be thinking, "This is great, but what about an online interview?" Not a problem! See tips 5-9 for successful interview online or on the phone!
5. When deciding where to sit for your interview, find a place with a neutral background and little noise.
While some platforms feature options to blur the background and reduce background noise, it is better for your own performance to find a place where you are least distracted. Even though you might be sitting in your room, creating a semi-professional environment will help you maintain professionalism. Take photos and artwork off the wall and find a chair that will help you have good posture.
6. Maintain eye-contact with the camera.
We've all seen it on online meetings - someone is always watching the video of the person speaking or their own video, rather than looking at the camera lens. Not only does it look like you are not engaged, but it is also distracting to the other person. To solve this, you may want to place the device at a different level so it is easy to look at the camera lens and put something around the lens for you to look at as a reminder. Practice the interview while recording yourself on the device that you will use and see how many times you look at the screen.
7. For a phone interview, pay attention to your tone and be concise with your words.
Tone is such an important aspect of an interview. The interviewer will notice how you answer questions, not just the content you are sharing. Especially on the phone, maintain a steady voice and an even cadence. When answering questions (this applies to in-person interviews as well), try to avoid filler words such as "like," "yeah," or "you know." It is better to say, "That's a good question" and give yourself a moment or two to formulate your answer.
In addition, maintaining good diction throughout the interview on an online platform will add to your professionalism. Speak slowly and don't be afraid to pause!
8. Silence all notifications.
With the exception of a phone interview, make sure all nearby devices are silenced or on some setting which does not push notifications. Remember, your microphone will be on the entire time, and it will pick up any notification sounds. If you have a smart watch, consider taking it off for the interview, just in case the screen lights up. If possible, remove all devices except what is necessary for the interview itself. Even though the interview is virtual, that does not mean you treat it any differently than if you were going into your prospective employer's office.
9. Before the interview, make sure your technology is working.
About a half hour before the scheduled interview, make sure your device is fully charged and has the appropriate application downloaded. In addition, test your microphone, make sure your speaker is working, and that your camera is clean and smudge-free.
Now it is your turn, go and have a great interview!
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