You stare down at your resume. Do these words describe me well enough? Am I the perfect person for this position? Will these things even get me the job? Your palms sweat, your head fills with endless possibilities of what could happen in that very room, and–you hear your name. Time to shine! Interviews can seem tough, especially when tackling your very first one. What do you wear? What do you bring? It can put a lot on your mind for sure. Hopefully, we can take some weight off your shoulders and make this process a little less stressful.
Keep reading for 10 ways to absolutely nail your interview.
1.Knowing the Company
Before even thinking about your interview you need to make sure you educate yourself about the company of interest. “It’s important to have some knowledge of the company and position you are applying for so that you know their culture and the types of people they are looking to bring in,” University of Florida sophomore Gordon Beaucejour said. This allows a level of professionalism during your interview process and shows the person interviewing you that you take interest in actually working with them and you don’t give off the idea that all you want is a job. “[It is important that you have] a confident and purposeful understanding of how you can add value to the organization,” President and CEO of 78Madison Joe Bouch said. Additionally, in knowing about the company, make sure you familiarize yourself with the important people who work there, the brand’s goals and how you would fit in with the company.
2.Preparing for a Potentially Asked Question
Know that there is a difference between sounding genuine versus sounding like you prepared an entire script for your interview. Practice interview questions but don’t rehearse a script. “Try and practice how you are going to introduce yourself and have others ask you questions that would likely be asked in your interview,” Beaucejour said. The Internet makes a great resource for practice questions. “The internet is a gold mine,” Bouch said. “Just Google ‘What questions might be asked for an advertising agency job?’” In doing this, however, don’t limit yourself. Prepare yourself for typically asked questions but remain ready for anything else that could come your way. One time in an interview for a leadership position I was asked, “What color describes you best?” You never know what your interviewer will throw your way.
3. Dressing for Your Interview
How professional do I need to dress? What if this looks too professional? What shoes do I wear? For boys, a dress shirt, slacks and dress shoes make a good outfit. Depending on the position, decide for yourself if a coat or blazer would make a necessary addition or not. You can add elements to stand out, too. “Maybe experiment a little with your outfit to stand out from other applicants with a unique tie or watch. This can be a great conversation topic if there is a story behind it,” Beaucejour said. For the ladies, you might rummage through your closet a bit more as more options are made available. You could wear a dress or a skirt but do make sure you wear closed-toed shoes. When planning your outfit, watch the length and the tightness of your clothes. In other words, don’t wear your party dress for your interview. “Whenever I’m interviewed, I go for the typical business casual look: A neutral-colored blouse, black dress pants and nice shoes such as pumps or flats. Sometimes I add a simple necklace and a ring because I want to feel pretty!” University of Central Florida junior Cece Hubbard said. With that being said, bring awareness to things like colognes and perfumes. You don’t want your smell to serve as the only thing your interviewer remembers. “Always put your best foot forward,” Howard University sophomore Neal Mohit said. The way you dress for your interview carries an image of how you represent yourself. That being said, you don’t want to look sloppy, but you also don’t want to look overdressed.
4. Packing Physically for Your Interview
The day of your interview rolls around. What do you bring? Regardless as to whether or not your interviewer holds a copy of your resume, always come prepared with one on hand. “A lot of the time the person who selected you for the interview is not the person who actually interviews you so it’s super helpful to have that handy for them!” University of Central Florida senior Miranda Magnan said. If applicable, make sure you bring a portfolio of all your past work as well. Aside from your resume, another good thing to bring is water. “A water bottle is a necessity because the most awkward thing is when you are trying to hold in a cough,” University of Central Florida sophomore Caroline Allen said. Who knows? You could also bring a mint or a little tissue to wipe your hands if you get nervous sweats. Try not to bring too much, however. “For me, ‘stuff’ is a distraction, i.e., almost like a prop for a singer on ‘The Voice.’ When the song is over, was it the playing of the instrument I liked, or the voice? Likewise, I often feel candidates are fearful of being vulnerable in front of an interviewer and looking into their eyes. ‘Stuff’ allows you to have a prop; plus, there is really no way for the interviewer to know if the candidate really did the thinking or work on their own,” said Bouch. Ultimately, as long as you managed to pack yourself, you should feel good and ready to go.
5. Calming Your Nerves
Breathe. Nerves normally occur. Arriving early helps you find some time to cool off. “I love listening to music on the way to my interview so that when I arrive, I am in a good mood and am ready to spread my joy. When I feel good, everything becomes simpler and more possible so by entering with an optimistic and positive viewpoint, I think I stand out more as an applicant,” Beaucejour said. Channel your inner happy place before going in so that you truly embrace that peaceful state of mind. “Take some deep breaths before going in, think of positive images such as a best friend, family or a good memory while waiting,” Mohit said. If you know you prepared well then you shouldn’t worry. “Before you walk in the door, figure out a way you can get the interviewer to talk first,” Bouch said. “Or if you walk in their office and in some way it is ‘cool,’ say ‘I love this office. Is that your family? Or ‘Are those awards you won?’ Something. Nerves tend to go away after 30 seconds to one minute of dialogue…any dialogue, so get them to talk first.” Once the conversation picks up you will realize that you can breathe a little and just act like yourself.
6. Going Into Your Interview
A million things probably run through your mind as you walk in the door, but first impressions mean everything. “Go in with a smile and firm handshake because that first impression will greatly impact your chances on how well your interview goes,” Beaucejour said. “A smile can let them know that you are a friendly and approachable person and a firm handshake will let them know that you are confident in yourself.” Although you feel filled with pre-interview nerves, don’t forget to act human. Greet your interviewer because you never know if your future boss is sitting right across from you asking you questions. Additionally, watch your posture when you walk and sit down because that also shows a lot about how you hold yourself. Be sure to sit straight up instead of slouching over. Knowing where to place your hands shows calmness and readiness for the interview.
7. Answering Questions
Your interviewer will ask a variety of things. Some questions might seem so easy to answer while others seem a bit more elaborate. Ask for a minute to think. The silence may feel awkward initially, but it would feel even more awkward if you had no way to elaborate on an answer. Keep the company in mind while answering your questions and keep in mind how your personality could potentially line up with the company’s expectations. Stay true to yourself when answering questions as well. Don’t feel the need to lie or make something up. Although important to highlight your strengths, nobody embodies perfection so don’t be afraid to mention your weaknesses. You could incorporate this by alluding to the idea that if you received the position it would allow you to tackle and work on some of those weaknesses.
8. Standing Out
For all you know, you could be the 100th interviewee of the day. Make yourself memorable. Stand out by showing interest for more than just yourself, but also the company and its employees. “A successful interview is when the conversation isn’t back and forth questions, but a flow and it comes naturally between the interviewer and interviewee,” University of Central Florida sophomore Alison Cole said. Making the interview conversational shows that you openly listen to whatever your interviewer says and not just how you will answer the questions. What else can make you stand out? “A fire in their belly–passion–show the interviewer you are right for the position,” Bouch said. Going back to knowing about the company you applied for, find a way to incorporate your strengths into how they will work for the company. What do you offer that someone else may not? Don’t devalue yourself. Everyone possesses at least one unique thing about them that they can bring to the table.
9. Following Up
Always follow up and always say thank you. Your interviewer set aside time to hear your voice. Whether or not you get the job immediately or get called back in, thank those involved in the process. Right after the interview, this could look like a thank you email or depending on how quick it delivers you could even send a thank you card. This shows respect and for all you know could finalize their decision of hiring you or not if this was something that made you stand out from the other interviewees.
10. Defining the success of your interview
Obviously everyone desires to get the job. If you don’t, however, that doesn’t mean you failed at your interview. “Success in an interview is an arbitrary concept because it depends on the position you are interviewing for as well as the other applicants,” Mohit said. Just because you did not get the job does not mean you don’t qualify for it. The reason could vary–limited spots or even people that happened to be more experienced than you also got interviewed the same day. A plus to the interview itself means that you managed to put your name out there. “I would define a successful interview as being able to establish an appropriate relationship with the interviewer,” Beaucejour said. “The reason I emphasize establishing a relationship with the interviewer is that even if you do not get the job, they now know your name and can then refer you in the future and you have another person who can help you get you to where you want to go.” If you felt good and know you put out your best, genuine self during the interview, you succeeded. Practice makes perfect and timing means everything.
If you prepared for your interview and it did not go the way you wanted in the end, look for the positive in the situation. “Remind yourself that it’s so commendable and admirable that you, as a person, were able to put on his or her ‘big girl or boy pants’ and try and accept that fact that it might result in disappointment but you were still willing to put yourself out there in a professional atmosphere,” Allen said. Don’t forget to always put your best foot forward and stay true to yourself.