Five guidelines to a successful job interview for graduates
While we're in the middle of the graduation season, I often get questions about preparation for job interviews and what are the important dos and don'ts when going to an interview. I like to focus on five actionable items that can help make the job interview a success for new grads:
1. Arrive on time. Not 10 minutes late or five minutes late or even one minute late. Plan to get there five minutes ahead of the appointed time. If you've never been to the location before, make a trial run a day or two before the interview to make sure you know how long it will take and/or where to find a parking spot. If there is any chance you are going to be late, call as soon as you realize it and alert the interviewee of your predicament.
2. Dress one notch up. It's important to look like you will fit the environment where you are applying. Find out what the typical dress code is for that particular business and then kick it up a notch. If it's a dot.com with a very casual dress code, a three-piece suit may make you look out of place for the job. On the other hand, if your everyday look is "student casual," you might have to make an investment in clothing suitable for the working world.
3. Be prepared. Do your homework. Find out about the company. Ask people in your network about the company and visit the company's website. Then develop a short list of questions your can ask the interviewer when you are given the chance. Similarly, prepare answers to questions often asked at an interview.
Practice saying your answers out loud. That way you are used to hearing your voice and your mouth is used to forming the words. By practicing, you'll sound confident.
4. Offer a positive, effective greeting. When you first meet the person or people conducting the interview, your greeting should consist of four elements: Stand up, look the person in the eye and smile, offer a firm (not bone-crusher or limp dead-fish) grip, and repeat the interviewer's name to help you remember it.
5. Thank them twice. At the end of the meeting, offer your thanks for being invited in to interview. Then, at home that night, write a thank-you note, a short one, expressing your appreciation.
I am often asked, "Is an e-mail or a mailed letter better?" I actually like both: e-mail because it arrives right away, and regular mail because it reminds the interviewer about you and shows him or her that you understand the importance of expressing formal appreciation for the opportunity.