So, you’ve scored an interview for that internship or job you had your eye on…and now the NERVES set in. But don’t fret! An interview is your chance to show the employer who you truly are and how you can help positively impact the company. Shake the nerves and get prepared to score your dream job with these interview tips:
- #PreptoWin for the Offer
With all things, practice makes perfect. Take some time ahead of your interview to prepare so you can feel calm and relaxed when you enter the room. Preparation can be separated into three steps:
Including details about the company in your answers, where it applies, is a great way to show how invested you are and that you have gone the extra mile to look into the company that you desire to work for. Start by visiting the company’s website, learning about their motto, values and company culture. It will also help to research the position overview and expectations in more detail so you can tailor your answers to the specific position.
PRO TIP: Learn the names of those involved with the interview. Being able to use their name in the interview process helps to build a personal connection.
Make sure you are familiar with what you included in your resume and cover letter. Chances are that the interview panel may bring up and ask about some of the experiences and skills you listed. It is also a good practice to do some self-reflection and identify what you feel are your greatest strengths and attributes to include in your answers to questions. You want to select personal attributes that make you the best fit for the job at hand.
Research the QUESTIONS
Once you feel comfortable with the company, the position expectations and how your skills can meet those expectations, it is time to marry up that information to potential questions you could be asked. A great place to start is by looking up the most common interview questions. These are often basic ones such as, “Tell us about yourself.” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” These questions can be answered by going into detail about your skills and attributes and how those can help you succeed in specific areas in the job. Outside of basic questions, it is always good to think on specific questions the employer may ask as it relates to the job. For example, if you are applying for a summer youth events internship, a question related to the job might be, “Tell us about a time you worked with young people.” or “How do you stay patient with younger kids?” With these types of questions, it is always great to include specific examples of an experience where you handled the situation like a pro.
PRO TIP 1: Keep your answers short and concise. Employers like questions to be answered directly and with relevant information. To do this practice organizing your thoughts for sample questions in bullet point form:
- Choose an experience you wish to highlight in your answer.
- List the skills that the experience taught you.
- List how those skills help with a certain part of the job.
PRO TIP 2: Employers often ask a lot of situational based questions that lead with “Tell me about a time where…”. These can be tricky, but you can simplify them by organizing them in 4 simple steps
- Describe the specific circumstances of the situation.
- Describe what your job or task at hand was.
- Describe how you resolved the issue/what you did.
- Describe the outcome and benefit that came out of how you reacted.
Once you have created a bank of potential interview questions and outlined how you would answer each, practice talking through them with yourself. DON’T memorize! You want to sound natural and not rehearsed, but prepared. A great way to practice is to familiarize yourself with the information and ask a family member or friend to “pretend” to be an interview panel and ask you questions.
- Dress to Impress
First impressions are everything. Before the interview, be sure to have your best business professional clothes dry cleaned and ready. For young men, this can mean slacks, button up shirt, tie, sport coat and dress shoes. For girls, this can be slacks or skirt (with pantyhose), button up or conservative blouse, blazer and professional shoes. OF COURSE, if you are applying for a job or internship in the agricultural or livestock realm, polished boots are most always appropriate J. If you are ever unsure about attire – for example, if you should wear business professional or business casual – you can reach out to the employer or interview committee and ask what is expected or preferred. It is better to be overdressed in a professional situation than underdressed when making a first impression.
- Come with the tools in your toolbox
Plan to come equipped with your resume and cover letter in hand and ready for the employers if they wish to take another look. Additionally, some jobs will require you to come with a portfolio of work or even a presentation to deliver to the committee. Plan to have these items ready to go ahead of time so you look prepared, and the interview committee does not have to wait on these items when you get there. It is also advisable to have a list of references available if you didn’t already provide those with your resume and cover letter.
- Early bird catches the worm
Timeliness is EVERYTHING. The night before your interview, be sure to look up how long it will take you to arrive and plan enough time to get there 5-8 minutes early, if needed. Arriving a little early not only shows you are prepared and punctual, but it also gives you some time to get comfortable and take a deep breath. Sometimes a job or internship interview will require you to arrive more than five minutes early in order to sign paperwork or check-in. Be sure to confirm with the employer or interview committee what time you need to arrive and what door you should use if a company has multiple entrances. In the unlikely case that you run behind due to car troubles or an accident on the freeway, use common courtesy and call the potential employer to let them know the situation. Chances are they would be more worried than upset if you were running late and didn’t notify them.
- Start strong and remain calm
Once the interview process has begun, be sure to hit them hard with a first impression. That means greet those involved with the interview with a strong handshake and good eye contact. From there, be assertive and own the interview process with confidence. Chances are you will be nervous (that’s good, it means you care), but try your best to remain calm. It is important to remember that your body language says as much about you as your answers do. A few tips for staying calm:
- Take a deep breath before you enter the room.
- Maintain eye contact with the interviewers and listen intently on their questions so you can answer precisely and not get lost of flustered.
- Keep your arms to your sides, or in your lap. Do not cross your arms in front of you as that puts out signs that you are closed off and not interested in talking.
- Don’t interject or interrupt the interviewer as they are asking a question, even if you suspect you know what question they are going to ask.
- If you get stuck on a question or are unsure of how to answer, take a deep breath and think before you speak to compile your thoughts the best you can.
- If they offer you a bottle of water or a drink, accept it. Dry mouth happens more often when you are nervous and doing most of the talking. Take an occasional sip between talking to keep your throat comfortable and avoid coughing.
- Come with questions
When you are nearing the end of your interview, most times an employer will ask if you have any questions for them. ALWAYS plan to have a few questions prepared to ask – this shows you are invested, and you have done some research and want to know more. Some good questions to start with might be:
- What do you all like most about working here?
- What made the last person in this role successful?
- How would you describe your company culture?
Not only are these types of questions ones that show your interest, but they are questions that can easily lead to further conversation .
- Follow up afterward
Once you have left the building and returned home (after CRUSHING the interview), it is always good to follow up with a thank you note. This can express your gratitude for the chance to meet the staff and be interviewed for the position. Most importantly it is always good to reiterate you interest in the position and how you look forward to hearing from them. This shows you are not only thankful for the opportunity, but serious about the position, persistent and diligent.