By LIZ MACLEAN
As students begin the search for summer internships and jobs, there are often many questions about the interview process. Getting ready for an interview can be scary, especially if it’s a student’s first. The way to succeed in such a nerve-racking, daunting, situation is to be prepared. The Office of Career Services located in Riverside gives students advice on how to enter an interview confident and ready to be hired.
Doing research about the company they applied to is one of the best ways a student can prepare him or herself for an interview, said Kelly Allgeier, Assistant Director of Internship Programs at Career Services.
“Thinking about what’s important to this organization or company and adapting your responses accordingly can help the employer see that you’re going to be a good fit,” Allgeier said.
Linda Hermansen, a marketing professor, agreed that research is one of the most important ways a student can prepare for an interview.
“Know the company,” Hermansen said. “Know everything that you can about the job. Know the industry beyond the particular company. Understand what has made them successful today to appreciate what has gone into making them successful and appreciate what’s going on in the bigger environment and what they need going forward.”
Colette Eddy, President of Aerial Innovations, agrees that it’s important for students to know about the company before the interview.
“They should’ve done some homework on the company,” Eddy said. “They should smile and have eagle-eye contact.”
Allgeier recommends that students practice answering behavioral-based questions, such as, ‘tell me about a time when you…’ and use examples from past jobs or experiences to demonstrate their abilities.
“For an interview, students will want to put their best foot forward,” Allgeier said. “If they don’t already have a contact with the company, that will essentially be their first impression.”
This is why Allgeier insists on wearing a suit to an interview, whether it’s a pantsuit or skirt suit. She also suggests sticking to neutral colors, not overdoing the jewelry or perfume, and staying away from stiletto pumps. Even if the position a student applies for doesn’t require dressing up, it’s important to look polished and professional in the interview, which includes wearing a suit.
“You can still show your personality through your clothes, but you want to be as well-dressed as the best-dressed person in the company,” Allgeier said.
Both Allgeier and Hermansen agree that a student’s ensemble has the chance to either make or break an interview. Appearing polished and composed is important in showing the employer the student is serious about the position.
“First impressions matter,” Hermansen said. “Before you say anything, they’ve seen what you’re wearing, so it’s part of your brand; part of how you establish an image and a front, and everything you do after that is going to support that image.”
Students who are poised and have their outfits on point stand out to employers and make a good first impression. The way they stand and interact with the interviewer can determine how the rest of the interview will go, as well as how the employer views them.
Eddy says she looks for candidates who are “dressed right and happy,” and says their presence is one of the most important aspects of the interview, as soon as it starts.
“Attention to detail, how the entered the room, their posture, their dress, no cell phone out, and, this is a big deal: a handshake that does not feel limp,” Eddy said.
Once the outfit is picked out, it’s time to focus on what to bring to the interview. If the potential job is in the marketing or advertising field, students will want to bring a portfolio of their work. Testimonials from past clients can also look good to an interviewer.
“Definitely take enough samples of your resume for every interviewer,” Allgeier said. “[Students] may want to take a reference page so that if the employer asks for it, they have a page of references to hand to the employer.”
After the interview starts, students will want to do the usual: a firm handshake, use eye contact, and have confidence. What’s the best way to appear confident and qualified?
“Practice,” Allgeier says. “Our office offers mock interviews, so students can meet with a career counselor one-on-one and do a mock interview.”
Students can also use software called Optimal Interviewing offered on the Career Services website to record a mock interview and then replay it to see if they say “um” a lot or talk too quickly. Career counselors can watch the interview with them and give them feedback on how to make their answers stronger.
Allgeier suggests that students ask what the format of their interview will be when they schedule it. Interviews can take the format of one-on-one, group interviews, or a panel interview. Knowing the type of interview will help students know what to expect and be more confident going into the interview.
Students often ask what will make them stand out in an interview. Allgeier says appearance, personality, attitude, and willingness to learn make students appear more attractive to employers. Hermansen says that confidence is key to appearing qualified for the job and helping students stand out among competitors.
“Confidence in themselves, confidence in their research on the company, and confidence in their ability to contribute positively to that company,” Hermansen said.
Maintaining enthusiasm throughout the interview is also important. Candidates should seem interested in the position they’re applying for and exhibit good eye contact with their interviewer.
“They need to be engaged in the conversation, not distracted,” Eddy said. “They also should exhibit some energy.”
Once students have aced the interview, a closing statement can help employers remember students in a positive light.
“[Students] can summarize how their qualifications align with the position, based on what they know from the job description as well as what they’ve gained from the conversation in the interview,” Allgeier says.
Sending a thank you note via email within 24 hours of the interview is also a good idea, since it can make students stand out from other candidates.
Career Services will host many events throughout April, so stop by their office in Riverside 116 to learn more about resume critiques and interview opportunities.