Going for a job interview can be a very nerve-racking experience, whether you've just graduated from high school and are now looking for work, or you've just graduated from college and are looking to start a career in your field. How you perform in the interview does not only determine whether or not you get the job, but it can also determine what position you'll have, your salary and how you can work your way up in the company and in your industry. Therefore, it's very important to familiarize yourself with some job interview tips to help you get your foot in the door.
How to Land a Job Interview
Before you can even start thinking about how to do your best in a job interview, you'll first need to know how to land one. These days, just getting an interview with a company for which you're interested in working can be very difficult. The process of applying to various jobs can feel very frustrating and discouraging, but the fact that you're in the market for a competitive job means that you've worked hard. It make take several job applications before you'll get invited to an interview, and here's how to increase your chances:
- Brush up your resume so that it's updated and stands out.
- Consider applying to jobs that may be for a lower position or lower pay than you're expecting. Remember, it's all about getting your foot in the door.
- Network and utilize your connections. Many people land interviews based on whom they know.
- Be proactive. Sometimes, you have to follow up several times on a job application before you hear back.
- Treat applying for jobs as a job. Take it seriously and plan on investing some time in doing it.
- Make sure your professional pages, such as your LinkedIn page, are updated to reflect your most recent employment or attained skills.
- Prioritize your job interview. It may be tempting to make plans when you're not currently employed, but if you're asked to come in for an interview while you're on vacation, that can be a problem.
Job Interview Preparation
Once you've landed a job interview, it's time to start preparing. First and foremost, remember to be open minded about the job, whatever the position may be. Even if it's not your dream job, if there's room for you to grow with the company or make valuable connections, then it's a worthwhile opportunity.
Secondly, there are more superficial yet important things you can do to prepare for an interview. Make sure you have a professional outfit to wear to the interview, whether it's a suit, a dress or casual attire that reflects the company's work environment. Rearrange any plans or appointments that may conflict with your interview, and give yourself time a few days before to rest and sleep well. It's all about getting in the zone.
General Interview Tips and Tricks
In order to make a statement at any interview, it's a good idea to review some general interview tips and tricks, especially if it's been a while since you've been in this position. By familiarizing or reminding yourself of general interview etiquette, you can spend more time focusing on what you need to know for this specific interview:
- Always look up information about the company. Check out its mission and values and read over the job description that you initially found before choosing to apply for the job.
- Try to predict what the interviewer may ask you. Feel free to take some notes, which are usually acceptable at an interview as long as you're not relying on them the entire time.
- Do a practice interview with a friend or peer or practice doing it with yourself in the mirror.
- Try to do some yoga, breathing or meditation exercises right before the interview if your nerves get the better of you.
- Always be cordial and polite. Shake hands and be confident when you introduce yourself.
- If you're a fast speaker, work on slowing down your speech.
- Interviewers can tell a lot about a candidate in the first few minutes. Therefore, make sure you're looking crisp, your hair is groomed and you stand up straight.
- Make sure your phone is off or on silent.
Job Interview Tips to Get Your Foot in the Door
Once you have the basic job interview tips down pat, it's time to impress the people interviewing you. Be sure that you've done a lot of research on the company and that you know what's expected of you for the specific job for which you're interviewing. To make yourself stand out in order to get your foot in the door, there are a few things you can do:
- Bring your resume with you to the interview as well as a portfolio or whatever you need that's unique to the job and showcases your work.
- Be ready to talk about your experiences and how you'd utilize them at the company.
- Discuss all your versatile skills and highlight the fact that you can adapt to a new environment quickly. Be prepared with specific examples reflecting this.
- If you're interviewing for a lower-level position, treat the position with the same amount of respect that you would any position. Ask about opportunities to move up in the company. Demonstrate that you have the drive and commitment to stay with the company if it's a good fit.
- If there are several opportunities available, stress the fact that you are open to taking what's available (as long as you are actually open to taking it).
- Demonstrate that you're willing to work with others but that you also have leadership qualities.
Interview Tips for Students
Job interviews aren't only for recent graduates. They can also be for students who are still in school. In fact, interviewing as a student is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door somewhere and have a job lined up immediately after graduation. Some students studying education may already have job interviews lined up with schools in their area, and law school students may already be interviewing with specific firms a few months before graduation.
As a student, the same interview tips apply as they would to someone who graduated more than a decade ago. However, as a student, you may need to do a little more research. Don't ask anything about which you can find the answer with a quick online search, and learn about the interviewer or the employer to see what things you have in common. This can help them see the potential in you for the future.
Interview Tips and Questions
After the interview is complete (most interviews take an hour or so), they will ask you if you have any questions. One of the most important rules for any interview is that you should always have questions to ask. You should come up with several questions to ask before the actual day of the interview, but you also may come up with a few during the interview as well based on what you've been asked or what has been said.
This may not be the time to ask about salary or vacation time, but you could ask about things specifically related to the job. Since you're trying to get your foot in the door, don't ask anything in a negative manner. Frame all your questions as positively as you can.
Some examples of questions are:
- "Will I be given an opportunity to work with others?" instead of "Will I have to work with other people?"
- "Will there be a chance for me to receive regular feedback about my work?" instead of "Are there performance reviews, and if so, how often?"
- "How much flexibility will I have in this job to bring in my own thoughts and ideas?" instead of "How strict is my position?"
- "What is the work environment like on a day-to-day basis?" instead of "What's the routine like here?"
- "Are there professional development opportunities to enhance my contribution to the company?" instead of "Are we going to be required to attend professional development seminars?"
- "Will I be given access to materials, tools and resources?" instead of "Will I need to buy my own supplies?
The Day of the Interview
You can prepare for your interview as much as possible, but when the day comes to actually do the interview, some people can blank out.
To prevent this from happening, you also need a lot of preparation the night before and the day of your interview. The night before, make sure all your materials are organized. Pull out the outfit you are going to wear and set several alarms so you don't risk oversleeping. Know where you need to go for the interview and plan to get there early. Most importantly, get plenty of sleep.
The morning of the interview, eat a nutritious and filling breakfast – one that you're sure won't give you any stomach pains or discomfort. Take a look at yourself in the mirror and make sure there's nothing on your face and no sleep in your eyes. Report to the interview early and make your presence known. If you have a little extra time, review your notes subtly before being called in for the interview.
Common Interview Mistakes
Interviews are hard work even when you're interviewing for a job just to be able to get your foot in the door. There's no person in this world who has a perfect interview every time. Even though you can have some expectations of what you'll be asked or how it will go, it's impossible to prepare for everything. Therefore, there are some common interview mistakes that you should do your best to avoid, but don't stress about it if you make them:
- Forgetting the name of the person interviewing you.
- Repeating the answer to something that has already been asked or asking a question that has already been answered.
- Not knowing the answer to something or providing an answer that doesn't make sense.
- Giving too much away or saying something negative about your previous job.
- Admitting that you don't know how to do something without framing it in a way that says you're willing to learn how to do it.
What Happens if I Have a Bad Interview?
If you make some mistakes in your interview, don't fret. If you're not sure how to answer something, remember that it's OK to tell your interviewer that you're unable to give a good answer right now, but you're happy to write to them with the answer later. Interviewers don't expect you to be perfect. They want you to be prepared, but more importantly, they want to see who you are and what kind of person you can become once you get your foot in the door.
However, if you really feel as though you've bombed your interview, there's not much you can do except wait and see how it unfolds. In the meantime, continue applying to various jobs that can help you launch your career. Look at a bad interview as a learning experience. Then, hopefully, everything will fall into place.
Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.