Once you’ve written your resumes, sent your cover letters, and snagged an interview—what’s next?
An interview is your chance to show someone in charge of hiring why they should choose you. While it is one of the last steps in the hiring process, it is arguably the most important. This is your chance to show off your confidence and display your poise.
BACKGROUND ON INTERVIEWS
The number of interviews you will have to participate in will vary with each company. Some companies may require only one interview before making a hiring decision, while applying to other companies may entail having a number of separate interview meetings with different departments. Interviews can range in complexity and seriousness, from initial screenings to competitive final interviews.
Once you have applied for a position and submitted your resume, you should be prepared and expect a possible phone call from a representative of the company you applied to. Phone conversations can sometimes be the most difficult form of conversation when you are speaking to someone you have never met. This is why you will want to sound relaxed, pleasant, interested and engaged in the conversation; and practice beforehand your greeting and an explanation on why you are interested in being hired, if asked.
PREPARING YOUR “SALES PITCH” FOR AN INTERVIEW
The interview is the employer’s chance to find out if you’re suited for the company and position. You should be prepared to explain how your strengths could add value to the company. Your resume tells them you’re qualified, your interview tells them you’re valuable.
At some point in the interview process you will want to cease on the opportunity to state why you are the ideal candidate. This is called your “sales pitch.” But putting together your sales pitch is not something you do spontaneously and during the interview. You will want to think through ahead of time and construct in your mind what information about yourself you think would be the most interesting and relevant to share.
Generally speaking, interviewers appreciate hearing about an applicant’s background, because it can tell them about your character, how you think, your work-ethic, skills and overall help employers discern if you are a good fit.
The challenge for you is to figure out exactly what information in your background is worth discussing. As you develop your talking points, consider bringing up your education, why you chose to attend The King’s College and how the curriculum has helped you develop the necessary skills to qualify for the position.
In addition, you will want to be prepared to discuss previous work experience listed on your resume and how that relates to the position you are applying for. Practicing your “sales pitch” ahead of time will help build your confidence and prepare you to think on your feet for questions that relate to your background.
PREPARING FOR QUESTIONS
When interviewing, employers may ask behavioral questions—these are the “Tell me about a time when ...” questions.
If someone asks you “When did you take charge of a situation?” it can be awkward to pause! Think through some of these things—times when you lead, followed, had to change course, etc. Consider how your experiences at King’s and in other jobs have helped you develop particular skills, and illustrate those skills through stories.
If you get a question you hadn’t considered, take a few moments to think through it, and don’t panic. Interviewers may try to stump you to see how you handle pressure in real life!
If you have gaps or unflattering aspects come out (low GPA, few activities, etc.), don’t panic. You may not have to address them, but if you do, illustrate how you’ve changed. A terrible GPA your first two years that got better once you got into classes in your major can illustrate your passion for the field, especially if there was a turning point. Employers don’t need you to be perfect, but they do need you to be committed.
The employer may ask you if you have any questions. This is where knowing the company is important. Throughout the interview, try to illustrate how your experience matches with the goal, culture, or work of the particular company. Never give the impression that you’re desperate for any job—be specific about wanting this job, even if you have two other interviews in a week.
Researching the company ahead of time can allow you to ask intelligent questions. If this is in the early stages, you can ask questions regarding travel, or more specific tasks. Asking about the interviewer’s favorite part of the job and least favorite parts may give you an interesting insight into the company.
If you have a question, go ahead and ask. Ask tactfully and at an appropriate time in the conversation. If you have any specific stipulations (can’t work on Tuesdays, couldn’t commute, etc.), be honest but not abrasive. It’s better to find out in the interview if the job is a good fit than five months in!
COME PREPARED AND WITH CONFIDENCE
Some basic points:
- Plan to arrive at least 5-10 min early. You do not want to arrive flushed, sweaty, and disheveled
- Dress appropriately (see section “Etiquette”)
- Bring your resume (bring in a folder or portfolio non-creased copies of your resumes; you will want to bring extras in case you will be unexpectedly introduced to additional individuals in the company. You should also bring any letters of recommendations that are relevant to your positions, along with your list of references.
- Use a nice firm (but not to firm) handshake and remember to smile when you greet your interviewer
- Walk and sit up straight and use good eye contact during your conversation