Interviews are a key component to the recruitment process. They allow companies to evaluate your skills, and help the company, as well as you, assess fit for the opportunity and the company culture.
It’s essential that you research an organization before you walk into your interview. You’re giving an employer the first taste of how you approach your work, so you want to show them how thorough and hard-working you are.
There is no way for you to predict and prepare for every question they might ask you, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t undertake thorough preparations.
The interviewer, whether or not they know it, has an expectation as to the level of formality of your dress before you arrive. This expectation is based on the kind of job you are interviewing for, the company’s culture, and a host of other factors. Imagine, for example, if a presidential candidate showed up in a hoodie at a nationally televised debate (perhaps the ultimate job interview!), or if an interviewee showed up at an interview at Apple in a business suit (thus violating Steve Jobs’ maxim: “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”)
By doing your research, you can know the company’s culture and figure out what their expectations are, and then meet them appropriately.
Let’s own from the start that this advice is based on an assumption that your interview is with a Western-style company. The qualities that go into a positive first impression are culturally-based, and vary around the world. Our Career Development Center (CDC) advisors can help you navigate interviews in other cultural situations.
You rarely lose in Western cultures by being enthusiastic, optimistic, and confident. From the moment you first meet your interviewers—whether in a formal setting or if they meet you in the parking lot—your job is to show them that you want this job, you are excited about this job, and that you can do this job well. Be sure to:
There is a simple yet highly effective way to structure your answers: The STAR method.
Concise, purposeful, and intentional storytelling is at the heart of the STAR method. Whether or not your interviewer asks you for an example (“What are your strengths?” vs. “Tell us a story that demonstrates your strengths.”), use the STAR method to create evocative, memorable answers:
Then, apply this outcome to your prospective employer: “And that is the kind of result I am excited about bringing to this company in this role.”
It is common for interviewers to invite you to ask them questions, too. Keep in mind that “Do you have any questions for us?” does not signal the end of the interview! It is itself another interview question, and the questions that you ask say something very important about you: They can demonstrate how much you have researched the company, how thoughtful and curious you are, and provide an opportunity for you to show them how you would approach this job. This is not actually a time for you to ask questions about the company which you want to have answered before you accept or decline their offer; those can come later on. Keep the focus at this point on convincing them that you are the right person for the job.
Interviews can be stressful, and you might have an urge to bolt from the room at the first sign that your time is up. Resist that temptation! You have three main things you need to do before you leave:
Good interviewers will usually give you a sense of their timeline for a decision, and how you will hear from them next. If they do not do so, it is OK to note that you are excited about this possibility, and are curious as to whether they have a sense as to when you might hear from them next, or what the next stages in the hiring process will be.
As soon as you get to a private spot away from the interview location, you should stop, take a deep breath, high-five yourself, and then take out a piece of paper and start jotting down notes:
You must send a personalized thank-you note to each person who interviewed you within 24 hours. While a handwritten note on an actual thank-you card is traditional, use your judgement as to whether the employees at this company would prefer an email. In each thank-you note, be sure to: