You’ve worked hard to complete a postsecondary education program and you’re ready to take your skills to work. While you may be a whiz at your specialty , that won’t neccessarily help in turning an interview into a job offer.
“What employers want to see in job candidates is a positive attitude, enthusiasm, an interest in their company/job and good communication skills,” said George Bagel, director of career services at Brenau University in Gainesville. “That’s what I learned in talking to leaders in four different employment sectors about interviewing. They are more interested in your soft skills than your school or major. Can you think critically? Are you passionate about your field? Can you articulate your interest in what they do and how your skills would be an asset?”
Not sure how to turn your knowledge and experience into a real-world job? Here’s a crash course on interviewing.
Research the company and the job before any job interview. Use LinkedIn, Google and any contacts you have with the company.
“Be able to say succinctly why you’re interested in this company and this position and how you’d be able to do the job,” Bagel said. “Carry a portfolio with a few questions of your own. When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, the worst thing you can say is 'No.’
“If you haven’t interviewed before, make use of the career services office at your school. Sign up for a mock interview and get advice. Students say they don’t want to do that because it makes them uncomfortable, but you’d rather be uncomfortable at a mock interview than a real one.”
2. Look the part.
First impressions are crucial. Dress conservatively in a business suit and close-toed dress shoes. Be well-groomed and confident.
“Thinking you’re too young or inexperienced for the job could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s the image you’ll project,” Bagel said. “Walk with confidence, smile, shake hands firmly and look your interviewer in the eye.”
3. Clean up your Internet presence.
Make sure your Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account are professional. About 80 percent of hiring managers will check to see how you present yourself online.
4. Keep your answers positive and succinct.
When the hiring manager says, “Tell me a little about yourself,” don’t tell your life story. Give him information that is pertinent to the job, i.e., you were always good in math, so you thought you’d take accounting in college and found out you loved it. This company and job fits with your career goals because… .Expect at least one question about your weaknesses, worst job experience or a time of great stress in your life.
“Answer honestly, but focus on how you handled the situation and what you learned from it. Don’t end the story with a negative impression. Give it a positive twist.”
5. Close the interview professionally.
“Not closing the interview well could jeopardize your chances of getting an offer,” Bagel said.
Ask questions that show you’re interested in learning more about the company and the responsibilities of the job. Thank the interviewer for his time. Reiterate your interest in the job and ask about the next step in the process.
Immediately send a short, hand-written thank you letter to the interviewer . Thank him again for his consideration, explain why you think you’d be a good choice for the position and write that you look forward to hearing from him.”
1. Don’t be late.
If you’re unfamiliar with the location, drive to it ahead of time . On the day of the interview, allow plenty of time and arrive 10 minutes early.
“Excuses like 'I got caught in traffic,’ or 'My alarm didn’t go off,’ aren’t the way you want to start an interview .
2. Don’t be negative.
Complaining about or blaming a former boss, teacher or internship supervisor will only reflect poorly on you. If you’re asked about dealing with a tough manager or coach, focus on what you learned and how you made the most of the situation.
“They’re more interested in your attitude than your story,” Bagel said.
3. Don’t dress in extreme styles.
Wearing casual, sloppy clothes; low-cut or too-tight outfits; too much makeup or jewelry; or chewing gum may make you memorable, but not in a good way.
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” Bagel said.
4. Don’t be unprofessional.
Turn off your cellphone . You’re not there to chat with friends or Twitter followers; you’re trying to find a job . When communicating with potential employers in résumés, cover letters or e-mail, always use good grammar and correct spelling. Never use texting shortcuts.
5. Don’t mention money.
Unless the interviewer brings up the subject, don’t ask about salary and benefits until after a job is offered.