Like practice for a big game and the post-game film session, what you do during the interview is incredibly important, but it relies on good preparation. In the same way, after the interview, you are still making a strong impression that requires strong follow-up. Use the tips below to conduct the interview and have the kind of highly-valued follow-up that catches the employer’s attention.
Preparation, Preparation. Prepare well in advance of the interview by having everything in place that you will need. Create a checklist for what you are wearing, the materials you need to have with you, how you will take notes. If you are driving or walking somewhere, or even on a Zoom call, have the directions with you. Don’t just be on time, be early, about 10-15 minutes. It provides an opportunity to do some heavy breathing and calm yourself, plus time to review your notes. If you are going to an office and are greeted by anyone assisting the interviewers, be aware that you are already making another impression with the company. Be courteous and professional to everyone.
Appearance. Dress professionally and typically conservatively unless the position calls for a particular style of dress that supports the role. Don’t put on heavy scents that can be distracting. Your nerves will likely get to you and deodorant is a necessity, but go light on any other scents. Be aware that you may already be observed for how you walk, talk, sit, etc. Be ready. No gum, no mobile phones being used, no distractions. Be ready to greet whoever is about to come in the door or join the Zoom call. Body language will be observed. Be mindful of your posture, making eye contact as they talk and you talk, keep your hands still unless you are talking and tend to use your hands while making a particular point. Go here if you need more advice on video interviewing.
The first greeting. If in-person, stand up and calmly and confidently and greet the interviewers with a smile and some enthusiasm (not over the top). Gather your things and go with them, prepared with a plan for how you will lay things out on the table. If a Zoom call, you’ve already laid everything out. Your greeting again is calm and confident. Thank them for the opportunity and let them know you have been looking forward to the interview. Then sit back and let them lead the way.
Fielding questions. Sometimes the questions aren’t really about the information they want to get back. A question may often be focused on seeing how you listen, how you thoughtfully consider the question, how you react and possibly change body language, then how you put together and deliver your answer. Show that you can listen. Avoid talking over the interviewer because you are nervous and anxious to answer the question and you think you already know where they are headed. Seek clarification if the question is confusing. Answer as clearly and concisely as you can, then ask the interviewer if that answered their question. It is a skill that you will use throughout your career when trying to solve problems, so it is one assessment they are making.
Questions about capabilities or situational tactics are best supported by an example in which you can follow the pre-interview preparation in the previous section in which you have a specific challenge you faced, how you developed and executed a plan, how the results turned out, and what you learned. It is hard to go wrong with that method.
Asking your questions. At one point later in the interview or sprinkled throughout the interview will be an opportunity for you to ask your questions. It is best early on to let your interviewers know that you have some questions you’d like to ask. That reserves some time and puts a favorable impression in their heads.
In addition to clarifying the job description and priorities for the job, what are critical things for you to know? One is culture. Ask about the day-to-day job environment. Ask them for their impressions about the culture of the workplace and how it compares to anywhere they’ve worked before. Why did they choose to work there and why are they still there? Ask about some of the challenges people face in the department in which you will be working and how they are typically solved (note, your interviewer may possibly not have much to do with your department). Ask about current and recent types of projects. Ask about advancement paths and any programs the company has for helping employees develop in your kind of position. It is not a time to ask about salary, health benefits, health club memberships, and facilities, etc. Those kinds of things either are provided voluntarily by the interviewers or not. The concentration of your questions should be on clarifying the responsibilities and flexibility of the position, the workplace culture, and your ability to have challenging assignments, plus the ability to advance.
What if you don’t know? One valuable skill to learn or have is to know when to say, “I don’t know”. If it is something that needs to be answered at some point, then volunteer to find an answer and get back to them by a certain time. But if it is unknown and has to be answered at the time, don’t guess and ramble, just say you don’t know. Interviewers appreciate honesty and answers that are only as long as they need to be.
Before you leave. First, thank them individually on the spot. Express your interest (if you are still interested) in the position. Find out their timeframe for making offers. Let them know anything that is important about your own situation, particularly if there are other offers already in hand or interviews happening soon so they will know time could be short for them to get back to you. Get the contact information for the person you should contact going forward.
Tips for After the Interview
One of the greatest mistakes students make when interviewing is being so relieved that it is over that they set it aside in their mind and just wait to hear back some time from the employer. The work is not complete!
Express your thanks. Make sure you send a thank you within twenty-four hours of the interview. It should not be long and it should not push the interviewer with the top twenty reasons why you are the best candidate. The best strategy is to thank each person by name, note a few highlights about why you enjoyed the interview and a few things you learned that made you even more interested in the company and the position. A canned thank you without any personalized details about that specific interview can hurt your chances.
Post-interview assessment. Treat it like a movie review and write it down. Talk about it with friends, family, professors, and career services. They may ask questions and notice things you did not. It will be clear whether you have developed a passion for the position as you have the opportunity to talk with others about it. Evaluate your performance and how even the interviewer’s performance to better understand how you would interact in that kind of situation with that type of person again. Think about the questions that you had difficulty answering and the ones you thought you did great answering. Improve them both.
The waiting game. Hopefully, the interviewer was able to provide you with an idea about how long it would take before offers were going to be made or if they were going to schedule a follow-up interview. Wait patiently until the deadline. If you haven’t heard back, then reach out professionally asking about the timeline and re-expressing your interest in the position (short, not a mini-novel). If a date was not provided, you should typically wait about 2-3 weeks because the interviewers may have many rounds of interviews with multiple campuses.
If you are interested in part one of this article series – covering How to Prepare for an Interview – CLICK HERE!