An effective cover letter and resume will help you to obtain an interview, which is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are the right candidate for the position. You should prepare carefully for the interview by researching the company in advance and having a basic understanding of the company's products and services, the clients it serves, and its organizational mission and structure. Failing to research a company before your interview will make you appear uninterested in the company and the position. You should also have a thorough understanding of the job description and be able to articulate how your qualifications match the position requirements and the organization's needs.
The interview is your opportunity to demonstrate certain skills, such as your verbal communication skills, that may not be communicated through your resume. Practicing your interview responses ahead of time will help you to appear polished and composed. Be sure to also focus on having appropriate body language, a friendly demeanor, good eye contact, and a firm handshake, all of which convey a message about your professionalism. Often, employers will ask if you have any questions for them, so it is helpful to have some questions prepared which express your interest and enthusiasm. After the interview, be sure to evaluate your performance and send thank you notes (email is acceptable) to everyone who participated in the process.
Dress for Success
Interview Do's and Don'ts
- Review the company's website, mission statement, key management, company history, company blogs, and anything else the company shares online.
- Use social media. Check to see if the company is connected on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Companies may use these sites to recruit new employees. Free databases and websites, like Glass Door, provide an "inside" look at companies.
- Dress appropriately for the industry. Err on the side of being conservative to show you take the interview seriously. Your personal grooming and cleanliness should be impeccable.
- Know the exact time and location of your interview. Know how long it takes to get there, park, find a rest room to freshen up, etc. Arrive early, ideally 15 minutes prior to the interview time. Punctuality is key to making a great first impression.
- Listen to be sure you understand your interviewer's name and the correct pronunciation. Even when your interviewer, gives you a first and last name, address your interviewer by title (Ms., Mr., Dr.) and last name, until invited to do otherwise. Use a firm handshake when greeting your interviewer.
- Be honest and yourself. Dishonesty gets discovered and is grounds for withdrawing job offers and for firing. You want a good match between yourself and your employer. If you get hired by acting like someone other than yourself, you and your employer will both be unhappy.
- Bring copies of your resume and a list of references, or a portfolio, if applicable.
- Treat the interview seriously and respond as though you are truly interested in the employer and the opportunity presented.
- Exhibit a positive attitude. The interviewer is evaluating you as a potential co-worker. Behave like someone you would want to work with.
- Have intelligent questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Having done your research about the employer in advance, ask questions which you did not find answered in your search.
- Make sure you understand the employer's next step in the hiring process. Know when and from whom you should expect to hear from next. Know what action you are expected to take next, if any. Don't be afraid to call the interviewer to follow up if you haven't heard from them in the expected time frame.
- Follow up the interview with a handwritten thank you note or email message, to express your appreciation for the time the interviewer shared with you. Re-state your interest and why you are a good fit for the job.
- Don't make excuses. Take responsibility for your decisions and your actions.
- Don't make negative comments about previous employers or professors (or others).
- Don't falsify application materials or answers to interview questions.
- A job search can be hard work and involve frustrations. Don't exhibit frustrations or a negative attitude in an interview.
- Don't be unprepared for typical interview questions. You may not be asked all of them in every interview, but being unprepared looks foolish.
- Don't treat the interview casually, as if you are just shopping around or doing the interview for practice. This is an insult to the interviewer and to the organization.
- Don't chew gum or smell like smoke.
- Don't allow your cell phone to sound during the interview. If it does, apologize quickly and ignore it. Don't take a cell phone call. To be on the safe side, turn it off or silence it before the interview.
- Don't discuss salary too soon in the interview process. Wait for the interviewer to introduce the topic.