Home » Higher Education » Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Interviewing

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Interviewing

I serve as an instructor and undergrad advisor to many and then to another group I am also a mentor or coach. I have also cultivated relationships with employers locally and outside of the city. I take these relationships seriously and they know that I try to send them strong candidates. Likewise, I try to check in with some of these contacts periodically to keep the connection fresh and to also ask them questions. I want to know  what is the profile of a strong candidate. Who are they looking for? And, they know that when they call to check references, they will get an honest reference about the candidate.

During the last month or so, I have met with some of my contacts and even made some new ones. I’m going to share some points from these conversations. This list is not an exhaustive list of advice, but a start. Now, it’s not uncommon to have an interview with more than one person and I refer to this group as the interview panel.

You got the Interview! Congratulations to you. Now, you need to impress them so that they call your references and then hire you.

Dress to impress. Ignore those articles on Linked In and elsewhere to dress how you are comfortable and don’t worry about impressing. Nope.You need to dress to impress and try to dress appropriately for the employer. If you’re interviewing for a non-profit, government, or conservative business you should dress according to the culture of that workplace.

Prepare for the interview. Google interview questions and review them and your answers in the mirror or hopefully with some trusted friends, mentor or sponsor. Also, do your research about the company. Why do you want to work with the organization? Make sure that you have a question or two for them, too. You do not want to make it painfully obvious that you haven’t taken the time to research the company and what they do. What is their mission statement? Who do they serve? Make sure that you have these basics down pat.

Be humble. You got the interview and you do not want to turn off the interview panel with arrogant responses. None of us are perfect, so think about what you have to learn or work on and how the company can help you grow. I am not suggesting that you downplay your skill set, but remember that you are getting assessed about how you will work with a team of people. I often remind my students about one employer sharing that a candidate was late to the meeting and one person opened the door to an apology asking, “Did you get lost?” The candidate responded with a quick, “No.” Big mistake. She was late to a job interview and needed to apologize for this. She did not and this set the tone for the interview. Remember that you are the short list and anything that you do that makes you look like a less serious candidate can hurt you.

Google yourself and check your digital footprint. The reality is that employers often creep and check you out–especially if they do not have good references or have a gut instinct about a candidate. I have heard from several employers who are honest about doing their research about job candidates. And, reminding you here to Google the company and what they do. This will give you ample information to ask the panel a question or two.

Prepare examples. When answering questions, offer examples from previous employment or volunteer experience that highlights your skills. You must remind the panel that you are more than competent for the job. For instance, if the panel asks you about working under deadlines, you need to refer to a situation that demonstrates your ability to work under a tight deadline and juggle multiple projects. Now, some of you might have a thin resume and could offer that you worked part-time and was enrolled in courses full-time and maintained a good grade point average. The panel will typically ask about working with a difficult situation or person–be prepared to offer a good example that highlights your ability to combine professionalism and team work.

Get a good night’s sleep and show up to the interview 10 minutes early. And, the next day place a thank you card in the mail. Yes, send a thank you card to the panel who interviewed you. Good Luck!

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