Have you landed your first interview – your dream interview – for that entry-level job that could launch your career? Well, congratulations! Now, don’t panic. How do you prepare? What do you wear? What do you say? How do you act?
I’m glad you asked.
#JustCareerAdvice: Interview Prep
Know the company you’re interviewing for. In the age of the internet, there’s simply NO EXCUSE for not looking up the company, digging deep into its web page, social media presence and even eyeing a few of your potential new co-workers on LinkedIn. Glassdoor can even illuminate the culture at the company – but beware, it’s also a site where folks go to complain and not so much rave about the good things…still, it’s valuable to see if there are any MAJOR red flags beforehand.
Know the position you’re interviewing for. Again, to the internet. You can learn about things like going salaries for similar positions on Glassdoor as well. Your peers may be able to offer insights too, particularly any former classmates that graduated ahead of you. And, if the job posting is in any way unclear, you should feel comfortable asking your interviewer questions when you’re face to face as well.
#JustCareerAdvice: What To Wear
Keep it conservative. Even if you know the workplace is casual, heed the advice of my former internship supervisor: dressing well in an interview conveys respect – respect for the position and respect for yourself and what you can bring to the position. Don’t make assumptions on what is appropriate.
Ladies: Go with a simple blouse, pair of long slacks or knee-length dark-colored skirt, and low heels or flats. Jewelry is fine, but stick with understated pieces that don’t make too big of a statement. A briefcase or professional folder to hold an extra copy of your resume, cover letter and references list (always bring at least two more of each!) is not only a great accessory, but will also keep your documents pristine.
Fellas: A tie is a must. A suit isn’t always necessary in the modern workplace – though, certain careers still demand it (ie: finance). A blazer and a nice pair of slacks is a good workaround in most scenarios, as is a suit vest with slacks and a smart long sleeve button down dress shirt. If your wardrobe budget is limited, you can always wear a nice(albeit inexpensive) dark dress sweater over a shirt and a tie plus the aforementioned slacks. If you’re unsure, ask your interviewer if the office environment is a “suit and tie” environment or “business casual.”
#JustCareerAdvice: How To Act
Now that you’re dressed to impress and know all there is to know about your prospective employer without the aid of a warrant… how do you act in your interview?
Well, your first act is to arrive early. At least 15 minutes, but do yourself a favor and make sure you arrive in the vicinity with 30 to spare. City traffic and delays are no excuse – so don’t get sidelined by them. You only get one chance to make a first impression (clichés are clichés for a reason).
Bring a pad of paper and a pen and use it to jot down anything of note that the interviewer says – from salary to hours to interesting factoids about the company and the position. If the conversation sparks a question, jot that down too – because the interviewer will inevitably ask if you have questions at some point. Note-taking should be second nature to you anyway – and it shows you really care about the job.
Candidates who are engaged and, in essence, interview the interviewer about the company whenever appropriate are far more memorable to those who merely smile and nod. Just be cautious not to overtake the interviewer – there’s a fine line between being interesting and being overbearing. And, by all means, DO smile and nod. Being friendly is important too.
Finally, go beyond your resume to sell yourself as someone truly special. Let’s face it; most of your peers just leaving college – your competition – have similar resumes. Why are you the ONE for the job? Call out your passion for anything you’ve done – be it at work or in school – that relates to the job for which you are being interviewed. Even if it was your tenacity at selling the most Girl Scout Cookies 3 years in a row – if that translates to the tenacity needed in a Sales Job, go ahead and spin that as an unshakeable entrepreneurial spirit you’ve had since an early age. Let them know who YOU are and why you think you’ll shine like no one else they’re having the same conversation with.
More College 2 Career Advice…
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