Have a Great Interview
It doesn’t matter whether you are a fresh graduate or a seasoned alumnus; everyone gets nervous before an interview. Nerves before an interview are normal. Accept them and move on. You may have received an invitation to interview as a result of sending out your resume or perhaps as a referral from your network. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you must prepare for the interview just the same.
Do Your Research
Frankly, there is no excuse these days to show up for interview without knowing basic facts about the company. A simple Google search will bring you on the company’s website (if they have one) where you can browse their mission statement and products, look at their global footprint, read about their directors and service departments and so on.
You should make a special effort to glean what you can from the website about the position you are applying for. What makes you the right person for that job? Look for points that you can use during the interview.
Don’t miss the company’s press room. It doesn’t matter what it is: a CSR award for the CEO, a new office in Singapore, record-breaking profit (or loss) in the last financial cycle, if the company has been in the media lately, you want to know why and be able to discuss it should it come up during the interview.
Review and Master Your Reésume
As it was most likely your resume that got you the interview, you want to go over it once or twice before the big day. If you have had any chronological breaks or perhaps took longer or shorter than average time to finish a section of your education, you will want to be prepared for related questions about this during the interview.
Practice Makes Perfect
Many universities have mock interview sessions at their Career Center which makes it possible for you to get interviewed by a professional who will pretend to be the employer and test you. If you do not have that option, make sure you find someone who has held interviews before to help you prepare. You could also reach out to your mentor and network to provide any additional tips.
Be ready to introduce yourself, if asked, with a concise background including your name, major, experience, leadership involvement, interests and career goals. Make this short and snappy.
You don’t know in advance what the interviewer is going to ask you, but be ready for questions that invite you to describe your short-term and long-terms goals, ask you to assess your own strengths and weaknesses and invite you to describe recent achievements. These are common questions and they provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate maturity, career commitment, self-awareness and outline specific highlights of your career so far.
Use Your Network
Do not hesitate to reach out to your network and ask anyone you know if they know someone at the company you are interviewing with. Having an insider can be a game changer for you: not only can contacts vouch for you, but they can also provide you tips on how to handle the interview.
Dress to Impress
Deciding what to wear is a big part of the interview preparation process. You want to decide on your outfit the night before the interview at the latest and not find yourself running around like a headless chicken on the morning of the big day.
The dress code of the company may be casual, but you should dress conservatively in any case. There is a fine line between casual and sloppy and you do not know where the interviewer will draw it. It is better to go for a suit; trousers and jacket for men, skirt or trousers and jacket for women.
Keep the colors dark or muted and make sure the suit is a comfortable fit. Anything that pinches at the collar or bulges at a seam will make you feel uncomfortable and look untidy.
In your spare time you may decide to paint each finger and toe a different color of the rainbow, but an interview is not the place to display your creative sense of nail art. One subtle shade of nail polish, if any, will do. Otherwise, just make sure nails are clean and buffed.
Do not chew gum or wear excessive make-up, aftershave or perfume to an interview. You want to be memorable, but not for the wrong reasons. Any distractions in your personal presentation will only take away from how well you do in other areas of the interview.
Arrive in Advance
An interview is nerve-wracking, but it does not have to be stressful. There is nothing worse than getting lost on the way to an interview. Your anxiety level will rise with every second that ticks by and by the time you find the company building you may be sweaty, twitchy and in no state at all to give a good impression. If that is the case, the interviewer still has time to see you at all.
Don’t let that happen. Make sure you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there. If you know the journey is going to take you an hour, leave with plenty of time to spare. You can always grab a coffee in a cafe in sight of the company building if you arrive with too much time to spare.
Make sure that you have the company telephone number in your mobile. If against all odds and the best of your preparation, you still look like you are going to be late, call and say so.
Some people seem to be blessed with natural confidence. Their hands never get sweaty, their mouth never dries, their voice never wavers and their gaze never falters. During an interview, these people rise to greet the interviewer with an open, friendly smile and a dry, firm handshake knowing they have made a great first impression right off the bat.
Well, the rest of us might not be blessed with innate confidence, but we can learn to ‘fake it till you make it’.
• Arrive early
By getting to your interview location early you have removed the potential stress of being late. You have time to take in your surroundings and absorb the atmosphere of the workplace. You will have time to visit the washroom and run cold water over your hands and wrists, cooling them and reducing the risk of the dreaded damp handshake.
• Sit straight
Nervous people instinctively curl in upon themselves to appear smaller. Own your space. Sit up straight with shoulders back and relaxed.
• Don’t forget to breathe
Before you are aware of it, anxiety can cause you to breathe more quickly and take more shallow breaths. This has all sorts of knock-on effects on the nervous system including dry mouth, dizziness and palpitations. Breathe deeply and evenly and still your nerves.
Many candidates attempt to answer every question even though they may not know the answer. This is a dangerous strategy some interviewers will intentionally throw you the odd curve ball. It would be better to be direct and honest than waffle through a question to which you do not know the answer.
Always be cautious not to stretch the truth too far on your resume as most employers go through background checks and may reach out to your former employers to verify the information, especially if it looks too good to be true. Employers also have the power to verify your GPA with your school.
Express Your Interest
Once you have gone through the most intense part of the interview and are approaching the final minutes of your encounter with an employer, it is very important to remind your interviewers that you are still interested in the position and still feel confident in your abilities to perform the job given all the facts. By expressing your interest bluntly and with passion, you will reassure the interviewer that you still feel comfortable with the job.
The last step in the interview process is the follow up. Always ask for business cards at the end of the interview. This will enable you to set yourself apart by sending a thank you email and reiterate the points you touched upon during the interview so that they can stay fresh in the interviewer’s mind.
It is also an opportunity to follow up on any points that you may not have answered clearly. Timing here is critical! Some employers will make their decisions by the end of the day before they check out so it is wise that you find a computer immediately following your interview and email the person who interviewed you. If you met several people, make sure to keep each email a bit different instead of copying the same message and forwarding it to all.