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Interview Advice

You’ve posted your resume on numerous job boards and submitted multiple applications for jobs that caught your eye. Now, you wait anxiously for your phone to ring. You expect that call back  to be very consequential for your career, considering that you are on the hunt for your first “real” job out of college. It could be the start of a wonderful, rewarding career full of unique opportunities and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. When you finally do hear the buzz of your cell phone, you’re relieved to hear that they want to set up an interview – but it dawns on you that this stroke of fate is merely the first step – the first real challenge, indeed the most momentous, will be hitting it out of the park in the interview room. Don’t panic – while your first professional interview will certainly be an important test, it is ultimately a test of preparation. Rest assured, if you take time to prepare, you’ll be able to rise to the challenge and leave every interview room with a satisfying feeling of victory. Here’s some advice for your first professional interview.

While there is wisdom in not judging a book by its cover, dressing appropriately is key to creating a good first impression. To put it bluntly, if you don’t dress appropriately for the job, the hiring manager will likely write you off as soon as you walk through the door. Since you are a graduate looking for professional-level job, dressing appropriately probably means a suit and tie for guys, and a blazer and skirt/trousers for women. Make sure you get enough sleep the night before your interview, and that your hair is under control the morning of. Ideally, dressing well projects confidence and credibility, so don’t put yourself at a disadvantage right out of the gate by looking haggard and messy.
After your appearance, the next thing the hiring manager will encounter will be your greeting. Ensure that when you walk into the interview room you make direct eye contact, smile and give a confident greeting. You don’t want to startle the hiring manager with a booming voice, but you’ll want to speak audibly and clearly. Don’t hesitate to come up with a greeting beforehand, and I always find it useful to practice it so it becomes second nature.  In fact, I like to plan out my interview approach in four steps: greeting, company research, pitch and then goodbyes.
The more you know about the company you’re applying for, the better off you’ll be in the interview. Understanding the organization’s mission –and culture, too, perhaps- will likely impress the hiring manager and allow you to converse confidently during the interview. It will also allow you to better connect your skills to the job description, which is absolutely critical for selling yourself. You will inevitably encounter some variant of the question, “tell me why we should consider you for this position,” so if you know the company well, you’ll be able to tailor your responses to the organization’s needs.
Selling yourself is probably the most difficult task for most newly-minted professionals, as it’s unfamiliar and frankly a bit awkward at first. Here is where preparation and practice really come into play. It’s helpful to keep in mind that everyone else who got a call back for an interview also has the qualifications for the job on paper. Thus, it’s going to come down to how well you sell yourself in the interview and the impression you leave on the hiring manager. Some general advice is to speak confidently, highlight your relevant experience and leadership roles, and perhaps most critically, spell out why you are someone they would want to work with. They are looking for attributes like integrity, honesty, flexibility and reliability. Since your first job out of college will be an entry level position, employers are looking for candidates with not only the relevant course work, but character traits that will cultivate a positive and productive work atmosphere.
If you’d like to put all of your interview preparation to the test, contact the Career Center here on campus to schedule a mock interview. Mock interviews are a perfect way to hone your communications skills and to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with your first real interview. I highly recommend doing this –mock interviews really help you feel more natural and at ease. The more relaxed you are in an interview, the easier your responses will come –you’ll be fluid and confident. Remember to take every new challenge as a new opportunity to improve yourself and learn something new. By diligently preparing and taking things one step at a time, you can accomplish whatever you set your sights on. Let your light shine by taking the reins and steering yourself into new adventures that reap rewards of self-satisfaction and improvement.
Until Next Time,