Over the years, I have interviewed many candidates for full time jobs, student internships, and professional positions. While working in higher education. I've learned a few things about what works, behaviors to avoid, and how to make a lasting positive impression.
Step 1: The initial contact
When the recruiter calls you to offer an interview, make sure you have your list of applications close-by. I’m always surprised when a candidate doesn’t remember applying to the job I am calling about. Also, demonstrate enthusiasm. I'm not implying you want to scream with joy over the phone, but be thankful and let that person know you are looking forward to the opportunity. If the organization reaches out by email, this can be more challenging, but it’s nice when a candidate is excited about an opportunity and shows it.
Step 2: The interview prep
If the interview is longer than an hour, ask for an itinerary. This will allow you to see who you'll meet with and plan accordingly. Research every person you will meet with, as you may discover helpful information. Prepare different questions for each person you meet with, and show specific interest in his/her job and background. I'm always impressed when a candidate knows where I went to college or specifics about my job. This shows that time and effort went into preparing for the big day.
Step 3: The interview is here
You've probably read about behavioral based interviewing, which interviewers use to determine how your past behaviors indicate future performance. What’s the best way to get a handle on these questions? Preparing examples in advance is important, and you should have many scenarios to discuss at the top of your head. Most importantly, you also want to research how recruiters in your field conduct interviews. Will there be a case study? What are some of those brain teasers? Should you bring a portfolio?
This goes without saying, but be professional. Dressing the part is easy, but how you interact with team members is critical to a successful interview. With that being said, don't get too comfortable during the interview. If you get a sense that the office culture is warm and welcoming, that’s wonderful; remember you are still auditioning for the part. Don’t act like you’re a part of the team just yet, but demonstrate that you are a good fit and would work well with others.
Step 4: The follow-up
Please, write a thank you note. This seems so basic, yet so many candidates don't do it. Sending an email is fine, and it's important to demonstrate why you are the best fit for the job and reiterate what skills you bring to the table. I've had candidates interview with a group of 3-4 people, and then follow up with a group thank you email. This doesn't allow you to personalize the note in any way. Take the time to connect with each person and that really will go a a long way.
Step 4: The offer
We all know that it’s a candidate’s market right now. Don’t take advantage of this. Be polite, follow up on all requests to interview, and evaluate all opportunities fairly. In an ideal world, you will have multiple offers (this is a whole different blog). Negotiating the process can be tricky, and I highly recommend you talk to an advisor at the Toppel Career Center about the process. We are here to help as you secure that job or internship and have valuable resources as you work to achieve your career goals.