Congratulations! You’re ready to start your career and know you can succeed. All you need is a great job to get you started. So getting that job will be easy, right?
Here are tips from fellow interviewers and recruiters to help you in the interview process. We’re rooting for you, but your success depends on being prepared.
Do your homework. Homework isn’t limited to school. Before going into your interview, prepare yourself by learning about the industry, the company and position you want. If you’ve never been to the physical location where you are interviewing, drive by it the day before. It’s a good idea to do a “mock interview” with a trusted mentor before the real thing too.
Be on time. By “on time,” what we really mean is early — at least 15 to 20 minutes. This gives room for error on potential parking snafus, check-in processes, and the unexpected traffic jam. Plus, by the time of your interview you’ll be calm and collected instead of harried and frazzled. If you’d rather show even earlier, that’s great, just hold off on going into the interview location until about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
Dress the part. The dress code for a professional job interview is business formal. For men, this means a suit, crisp shirt and tie; for women this means a skirt suit or pants suit. Keep accessories conservative and to a minimum. You’re selling your skills, not your fashion sense. Grooming tips: nails — clean and neat and if polished, use a classic color and unchipped; cologne/perfume: skip, but keep the deodorant!; tattoos — cover if possible; hair — natural color and styled or groomed (Pro tip: when in doubt, get a haircut).
Have the right supplies. The recruiter isn’t going to tell you to bring a nice writing pad, pen and extra copies of your resume, but that’s expected. One supply we expect not to see is your phone. So what are you going to do with all your downtime from your early arrival? Read the industry magazines in the lobby, make polite small talk with the other interviewees, or write down interview thoughts and questions with that nice pen in the note pad you brought.
Ask questions. Asking questions demonstrates that you’re engaged in the process and helps display your critical thinking skills. Make sure to prep two or three questions ahead of the interview. If there’s only time for one question, ask “what qualities are you looking for in the ideal candidate?” Then describe how you match the qualities they describe. You just nailed it!
Sell your skills. Businesses want people who are knowledgeable and competent in their area of expertise, as well as people who are pleasant, can hold a conversation, and will make great co-workers. Speaking of your area of expertise, let yourself shine! Confidently and honestly show your ability. If arrogance is a weakness of yours, keep that in check. However, telling us that you excel in the skills the company is looking for is not arrogance, but confidence. If you have an interview for a position that doesn’t exactly line up with your college major, you have a little extra work to do. You need to clearly articulate how your skills transfer to the job you’re applying for — and since you did your homework, you know what skills are needed.
A final word: you may do all these things exceptionally well and still have a tough time landing your first job. That’s okay. You will land it. Just keep after it like it’s your job — because it is.
Anne Marie Swanson is a member of the705, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette Class XXII, and the communications chair for the Leadership Institute of Acadiana. She is the onsite college recruiter at CGI Lafayette’s Center of Excellence.
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