Congratulations! You have been selected to interview next week with Company XYZ. You only get one chance to leave the right impression; so take the time to do your homework and research the organization, and you will increase your chances of leaving a positive impression. What should you know in advance?
Know Yourself - Careful self-assessment and advance planning will help you make the most effective presentation and convince the employer you are the right person for the job. Know your resume and be prepared to talk about your achievements.
- Analyze your skills, interests, personality and values.
- Make decisions about your career goals; what you want to do, why you want to do it, and where you want to do it.
- Prepare yourself to discuss any work experiences that relate to the position.
- Determine the work environment that is important to you.
- Be ready with specific examples that show how your positive traits will be an asset to the company.
- Demonstrate your ability to get along with others, leadership skills, and group interaction skills by discussing involvement with clubs, fraternities, sororities, intramural, sports, etc
Know the Company - Learning about the company and the job that is available is essential to a successful interview. Failure to do your homework before an interview can quickly turn off recruiters.
Know the Job - Analyze the job description and try to match your experiences, skills and interests. Talk with people who have worked in similar positions. Understand the nature of the job, the level of education necessary, future potential and other pertinent details.
- Write out answers to typical interview questions.
- Use a friend, or tape-record yourself answering questions. Practicing out loud is important!
- Meet with your program coordinator in the Office of Co-op and Career Services to either review your answers or conduct a mock interview.
It is as important to consider what you will wear and how you will look during the interview, as it is to prepare for the interview questions. Here's a video explaining office fashion do's and don'ts (about.com)
- An interviewer should remember what you said, not what you wore. Don't wear anything that will distract attention from what you have to say.
- Good personal grooming is equally vital
- Do not overdo cologne or perfume
- Make sure nails are well groomed
- Hair should be neat and not distracting
- Limit the amount of jewelry you wear
- Remove body piercing and cover tattoos
- Wear a skirt suit, pant suit or tailored dress with a jacket
- Avoid low cut necklines, flimsy fabrics, or tight fitting clothes
- Avoid short skirts
- Wear conservative heelswith neutral tone stockings
- Makeup should be light and natural looking
- Nail color, if worn, should be neutral
- Wear a suit or dress pants and jacket of conservative shirt and tie
- Wear shined dress shoes that match your suit pants - do not wear sneakers
- Facial hair should be well groomed
- Wear dark dress socks, not white athletic socks
- Remove earrings
5 Steps To Professional Presence: How to Project Confidence, Competence, and Credibility at Work
The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Look
Details Men's Style Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Making Your Clothes Work for You
Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work
When the Little Things Count . . . and They Always Count: 601 Essential Things That Everyone In Business Needs to Know
Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style
As appropriate, you should have copies of the following with you at every interview: resume, transcript, references, portfolio, work sample and performance evaluations from previous employers (if you have them). Make sure you can leave the copies with the interviewer because they will not have time to read them during the interview.
- Address the interviewer as Mr. ___ or Ms. ___, unless he/she says otherwise
- Don't smoke or chew gum
- Make frequent eye contact, but don't stare down your interviewer
- Use specific examples that describe your strengths and assets
- Say "yes" instead of yeah and avoid expressions such as "you know"
- Never contradict, interrupt, or argue with your interviewer
- Be alert, act interested, and focus on the positive
- Never say anything bad about a former employer or professor
- If you want the job, you must state your interest unequivocally
- Avoid discussions of salary and perks until late in the hiring process
- Always find out what happens next
- Get the interviewer's business card
Most interviews can be divided into four major sections: the introduction, the employer sell, the candidate sell, and the closing. The employer will usually control the flow of the interview while you should be trying to control the content.
- Interview only when sincerely interested in a position with the employer
- Provide accurate information on your qualifications and interests. Never falsify data such as GPA, academic major, coursework completed or extracurricular activities on a resume or during an interview
- Notify the Co-op and Career Services Office, at least 24 hours in advance, if you cannot make an on-campus interview or employer presentation. Either call the Co-op Office at (585) 475-2301 during business hours or leave a message
- Acknowledge invitations for on-site interviews promptly, whether you accept or reject them
- Notify employers well in advance if you must postpone or cancel an on-site interview
When asked what they look for in potential employees, many employers respond by mentioning all or most of the following traits:
- Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing
- Sense of responsibility for carrying out assignments
- Ability to follow directions
- Ability and willingness to work with others
- Interest in continuing to learn through both formal programs and informal opportunities
- Ability to deal with change
- Comprehension of the technology of the specific field
- Problem solving ability
In determining the level to which you have developed these traits, employers will use interviews and the documents that you submit during the application process to take a hard look at what you have done with your life to date (your successes and failures); how you are presenting yourself now; and your goals or the direction your career seems to be headed. You will then be evaluated against the criteria established for the job and the other candidates under consideration.
Just because the interview is over doesn't mean your work is complete.
It is advisable to send a thank you letter to the person(s) who interviewed you within twenty-four hours after the interview. Not only is this a courtesy, but it reinforces your interest in the position. It can also serve as an additional opportunity to separate you from the other candidates by recalling a notable topic or attribute discussed in your interview.
Most employers will tell you when you can expect to hear from them. If you do not hear by that date, it is appropriate for you to call them.
If the employer requests additional materials, such as a completed application, transcript, or references, see that they are sent as soon as possible. If something will be delayed, inform the employer of the reason.
If an employer indicated an interest in pursuing things further with you, but you are no longer interested in the opportunity, inform him/her of that fact as soon as possible.
It is important to maintain current records on all your job search activities. Record all contact and address information for each organization to which you apply, updating the log with each follow-up call or letter, interview, etc. Accurate records can help to remind you about the current status of each job opportunity you are seeking, as well as when a follow-up query is appropriate.
After each interview mentally review the questions asked by the interviewer and your responses to them. Were you caught "off-guard" by any questions? Could you have answered a question better, in more detail, or in a more focused manner? Quiz yourself after each interview and take notes. This will enhance future interview efforts.
There are standard areas of questioning by interviewers. Review the following examples so you are prepared to answer the most common questions.
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you choose to interview with our organization?
- What do you consider to be your strengths? Weaknesses?
- Have you ever had any failures? What did you learn from them?
- Of which three accomplishments are you most proud?
- Have you had difficulty getting along with a former professor/supervisor/co-worker? How did you handle it?
- Have you ever spoken before a group of people? How large?
- Why should we hire you rather than another candidate?
- What do you know about our organization (products or services)?
- How do you think a friend, professor, or former supervisor would describe you?
- How do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
- How do you solve difficult problems?
- Give me an example of your experience working as part of a team.
- What are your career goals?
- Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
- Describe how you are able to work on several assignments at once?
- How do you feel about travel?
- How do you feel about the possibility of relocating?
- Describe your ideal job.
- Why did you choose your major? RIT?
- Do you think you received a good education? In what ways?
- In which campus activities did you participate? What did you learn from them?
- Which classes did you like best? Least? Why?
- Do your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why or why not?
- Do you plan to return to school for further education?
- What job-related skills have you developed?
- What did you learn from your work experiences?
- What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
- Have you ever quit a job? Why?
Tell me about the time when you...
- Worked effectively under pressure
- Handled a difficult situation with a co-worker
- Were creative in solving a problem
- Were unable to complete a project on time
- Persuaded team members to do things your way
- Wrote a report that was well-received
- Anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures
- Had to make an important decision with limited facts
- Were forced to make an unpopular decision
- Had to adapt to a difficult situation
- Were tolerant of an opinion that was different from yours
- Had to deal with an irate customer
- Delegated a project effectively
- Surmounted a major obstacle
- Set your sights too high (or too low)
- Prioritized the elements of a complicated project
- Got bogged down in the details of a project
- Lost (or won) an important contract
- Made a bad decision
- "What are you strengths?" - Describe your strengths relative to the ideal candidate, and in order of importance to the position for which you are applying.
- "What are you weaknesses?" - This is a bona fide trick question. Your weaknesses must be strengths in disguise. Here is an example: "I am very detail-oriented. Sometimes I'll spend hours getting something just right. But as you can see from my recommendations and transcripts, I still manage to get plenty of work completed, too. As a matter of fact..." Turn it into a positive! Or, site a minor weakness and explain how you are overcoming it.
- "What are your career goals?" - It is your job as a candidate to know what that typical career path is. Contrary to what some think, excessive ambition is not really impressive to employers. Saying, "I want to be making $250,000 within five years," is probably going to cause the interviewer to think you are naive or immature or both. Saying, "I want to be employed in a manufacturing environment and working part-time toward my Master's Degree," is probably a lot smarter.
Go to the interview prepared with some of the following questions:
- Can you tell me what a typical day is like for someone in this position?
- Will this position be assisting one of your staff or working on a special project?
- Will I move around during my co-op assignment to work in different positions or departments?
- What type of training is given to a new employee - on the job, classroom, and individual?
- Are employees ever transferred to other geographical locations or other fields?
- Who will be my manager and how much contact will I have with him/her?
- Why is this position open? (Fired, resigned, new…) Tell me more about this?
- What are the best aspects of this job? And the worst?
- What are your most important product lines? (Be sure you've done your homework before you ask this question - don't ask the obvious)
- What positive changes have you seen company wide and what do you see for the future?
- What type of turnover do you see company wide?
- What is the company culture?
- Do you have co-op students working for you?
- How long have you employed students?
- Do you re-hire your co-op students for subsequent co-op work periods?
- What other jobs have you held within the company?
- What do you like most about the company and your job?
The Geographic Area
- What is the housing market like in this area?
- What are the best features about the city/area? The worst?
- Is public transportation adequate?
This interview takes place on-campus, at the company (on-site), or over the telephone and usually lasts approximately a half-hour or less. The interviewer is trying to narrow the candidate pool so first impressions are extremely important during this interview. Some employers may make a hiring decision based upon this interview only
This interview is used to assess your "fit" with the organization. Interviews are offered to the most promising candidates and usually involve a good portion of the day. During such a visit, you may meet with one person or many people from a variety of departments. You will have the opportunity to discuss job responsibilities, your qualifications and interest, salary, and benefits. This is an excellent opportunity for you to evaluate the job, atmosphere, and people with whom you would be working. Some organizations also administer tests of various types at this time.
If travel is involved in an on-site visit, be sure that you understand the situation before accepting the invitation. Travel arrangements for second interviews are handled in one of the following ways:
- The employer representative will take care of everything, including expenses.
- You will be expected to make all or part of the arrangements, and the employer will reimburse you for all or part of the expenses later.
- You will be expected to take care of everything, including expenses.
Many companies screen applicants over the telephone. How well you do will depend on your preparation for such calls and the impression you make. Here are some tips:
- Any telephone calls during your job search could be an employer. Answer the phone appropriately every time; first impressions are important.
- Be sure to inform roommates and parents of the importance of taking careful telephone messages for you.
- Your greeting on your answering machine should be businesslike.
- Keep the following items next to your telephone: paper, pen, copy of your resume, date book, a log of companies you have contacted, your own course schedule including major exams/projects, and a copy of the job description.
- Express your pleasure at receiving the call, but don't act like you have won the lottery.
- Ask for a minute to turn down the stereo, close the door and set the stage for privacy and quiet.
- Your voice is your only means to express energy and enthusiasm.
- Use pauses effectively -- think about what you will answer or ask next.
- Don't hang up before you know the next step and thank the interviewer for calling
- Get the interviewer's full name, title and phone number.
We recommend this video: How to Ace a Telephone Interview and Get the Job (Youtube)
Interviewing remotely is becoming more and more common for initial interviews. Keep these things in mind to make the experience a good one!
- Find a quiet place to do the interview.
- Test your webcam and the software or site you will be using.
- Make sure your microphone and sound settings are working correctly. Be sure that the microphone is set to a good volume, and that goes for your speaker volume as well. Practice speaking clearly through the microphone; you may find that you need to speak more slowly during a video conference, since there are sometimes lags when communicating over the internet.
- If possible, practice for the interview with a friend.
- You might think the situation is informal, but it's not perceived that way by the people interviewing you. Dress-up for the interview, even though it will be conducted over a webcam.
- Good video interview software will have a window that shows what you look like to the interviewer. Try to look into the camera when talking instead of the image on the screen. Posture is probably more important in this situation than it is in person. Make sure the area in which you're sitting is neat and nothing strange or interesting is showing that might distract the interviewer or make you look bad.
- Usually better to use an Ethernet connection instead of a wireless connection to reduce the possible video delay or loss of connection.
- Get your interviewers name and phone number, just in case you experience technical difficulties.
- Shut down your mobile phone or any other potential distractions within your control prior to the interview.
- Many people haven't done a video interview before and it's okay to tell the recruiter or hiring manager that you are new to the process.
- Avoid leaving the confines of the camera until the interview is completely administered and remember to thank the employer for his/her time and consideration of the interview session. • Go about the interview much the way you would a face-to-face interview. As with any kind of interview, being prepared is the most important thing.
The Office of Co-op and Career Services has facilities you can use to conduct your interview in a quiet and controlled environment. Give us a call if you wish to reserve an interview room.
The basic premise of behavioral-based interviewing is the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar circumstances. Instead of asking how you would behave in a particular situation, the interviewer will ask how you did behave. Below are tips for preparing for one:
- Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or action (example: course work, work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.)
- Be ready to describe the situation, your action, and the outcome or result.
- Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you even if the result itself was not favorable.
- Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story.
Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions
- Decision making/problem solving: How did you make the decision to come to RIT and major in __?
- Leadership: Have you ever been a member of a group where two members did not work well together? How did you handle this?
- Motivation: Give me an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
- Communication: Have you ever had to "sell" an idea to a group? How did you do it? Did they buy it?
- Interpersonal Skills: Tell me about the most difficult or frustrating individual that you have ever had to work with, and how you managed to work with that person.
- Planning /Organization: What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give a specific example.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to meet people in a professional field is to conduct informational interviews. Informational interviewing is a networking approach, which allows you to meet key professionals, gather career information, investigate career options, get advice on job search techniques and get referrals to other professionals.
The art of informational interviewing is in knowing how to balance your hidden agenda (to locate a job) with the unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the demands of your field. Thus, never abuse your privilege by asking for a job, but execute your informational interviews skillfully, and a job may follow.
What Can It Accomplish?
- It will expand your information regarding a specific career/job market
- It will help to clarify your goals and serve as a reality check for some of your assumptions/perceptions
- It will bring your career research to life by gaining first-hand, current information from someone in your field
- It will establish the first link to eventual job targets and build your professional network
- It may uncover hidden job opportunities
Whom to Contact?
- Those who work in settings you like (e.g. manufacturing, business, government)
- People in career areas you are interested in (e.g. process engineer, market researcher, systems analyst)
- Those who work in specific jobs in specific organizations (e.g. process engineer at Intel, or graphic designer at Saatchi)
Where to Find These People?
Use your network, which is described above. You can also call community service agencies and trade organizations e.g., Rotary Club, business and professional organizations, women's organizations, Chamber of Commerce and alumni organizations.
What Motivates Professionals to Grant Informational Interviews?
The reasons are varied. Generally, most people enjoy sharing information about themselves and their jobs and, particularly, love giving advice. Some may simply believe in encouraging newcomers to their profession and others may be scoping out prospects for anticipated vacancies. It is common for professionals to exchange favors and information, so don't hesitate to call upon people.
How Do You Set Up Informational Interviews?
Personal referral is the most effective. Have a mutual acquaintance be the bridge to your contact. Telephone contact is the next best route if you don't have a personal referral. Letters are most effective when they are followed by a telephone call. Send a letter requesting a brief informational interview (clearly indicating the purpose of the meeting, and communicating the fact that there is no job expectation).
How Do You Prepare for Informational Interviews?
Prepare for your informational interviews just as you would for an actual job interview: polish your presentation and listening skills, and conduct preliminary research on the organization. You should outline an agenda that includes well-thought-out questions.
Learn as much as possible about the organization and something about the person you will be interviewing (e.g. title). Dress professionally and bring a copy of your resume (to be presented upon request).
Always remember to send a thank you letter to every person who grants you time and to every individual who refers you to someone.
Know exactly what kind of information you want. The following are examples of possible topics of conversation for the interview. Use these, as guidelines, to come up with questions that are important to you.
- How did you get into this line of work? Get started in this job?
- How did you prepare yourself for this job? This profession?
- What is the most valuable thing you learned in college?
- Knowing what you know now, would you take the same job again? Why or why not?
- What do you like most about it? Like least about it? What do you find most rewarding about your work?
- What skills or personal qualities are necessary in this career?
- What do you do in a typical day?
- What type of people do you work with?
- What are other specialties in this career area? Get referrals if appropriate.
- What are your organization's goals at this time?
- Would you advise people to enter this career area? Why or why not?
- What classes can I take, or projects can I do, to prepare myself for this career area?
- What, in your opinion, is the job outlook in this career area? What will affect its growth or decline?
- Where else could I find people involved in this activity? What other settings or industries do, (e.g. accountants) work in? Get referrals if appropriate.
- Are you active in any professional organizations in our field and which would you recommend?
- Arrive 10-15 minutes early for your appointment.
- Be able to introduce yourself effectively in a minute or two.
- Be prepared to discuss your own interests, skills and values and how they relate to the career in which you have interest.
- Adhere to the original time request of 20-30 minutes.
- Ask for referrals to other appropriate individuals in the field.
- Stay true to your request for information - let the individual you are interviewing bring up specific job openings.
- Always follow-up with a thank you note.
- Keep the door open to remain in touch with this new member of your network.
- Evaluate your interview; did you accomplish your goal(s)?
- Contact referrals you received as soon as possible.