Penned with Zen: Six steps to rocking your interview
Applying for a job always seems more stressful than it should be. Considering that most application postings just require a piece of paper that you personally craft to best portray yourself and a written statement declaring that you, too, are willing to work to make a way to live, getting hired should be as straightforward.
Of course, it is never that simple representing yourself. How can it be, when the most common criteria for looking through different human beings for a job position is a three-digit number that is supposed to summarize your academic career? Maybe you cannot write to save your life; the number of people I know that are cripplingly reliant on spell check is less than ideal for the average college student. So what's another avenue to consider getting hired for a job, if you cannot embody yourself on paper?
Logically - and maybe most terrifyingly - the best chance you have to secure a job is to do well in the interview. Ten minutes of two people talking to each other does so much more to highlight yourself than two or 10 pieces of paper ever could. Consider the following as tried-and-true practices for you and your interviewer to get the most out of your interaction.
Research the company beforehand
This step is first for a reason; typing the company name into an Internet search engine is the earliest and easiest thing you can do once you are informed that you secured an interview. Inquiring about the company, via online research or through a personal connection has a twofold purpose. It helps you to anticipate what sort of questions you will be asked and show how invested you are in that particular career field. An interviewer will look more than favorably at prospective employees who are knowledgeable about their company and do not waste time asking basic questions. Too frequently do job candidates ask during an interview, "So, what do you guys do for work around here?"
Practice, practice, practice
Not only does practice make perfect, but you can help reduce any anxiety you might have during the actual interview by having a pretend one. Start by asking yourself a question for each line in a resume; why did you choose to go to the University of New Hampshire? Why do you want this job? Any questions that an interviewer might ask, prepare answers for them as a sign of your professional competency to do what they ask of you. Not getting flustered during your interview shows that you ready for anything.
Think twice about describing past work experience
Maybe you had a less than stellar time at your last job. Maybe you arrived late one too many times, you hung around a troublesome employee and you both got fired, or your boss was just an idiot. Whether or not you left your last job as a victim of circumstance, you do not want to waste valuable interview time acting that way your interview. Frankly speaking, it will sound like you are complaining and cannot handle problems. Bad mouthing your most recent job suggests that you will be likely to do the same if you leave this company - that is, if they even hire you after such complaints.
Check and prepare for the small things
This part is just a reminder not to forget about the essentials for your interview. Do you know when you need to leave to get to your interview on time? Do you have an appropriate outfit for the interview? If you have to break for lunch, do you know if it's on them or if you should bring your own? Did you bring anything that they might want to see? Hint: If you think they might want to talk about it - be it a printed writing sample or a video presentation on a USB stick drive - have it readily accessible. Consider this another chance to impress your interviewer how much you prepared you are for this appointment, and therefore how much this job means to you.
Remember that giving companies a chance to ask you questions about your work experience is only half the reason they called you in for an interview. The other, bigger reason is to see what you are like. Are you the kind of person that can act appropriately in the office atmosphere? If the company has regular late nights, would they want someone like you around when everyone is tired and short-tempered? A software engineer once told me about a coworker who had tantrums whenever his work was critically reviewed. Not surprisingly, the company was not interested in dealing with an employee of such infantile behavior, no matter how talented he or she was. The interview is a chance for a company to preemptively avoid similar hiring mistakes.
Once the interview is done, send a thank you note
Chances are once your interviewer is finished with you, he still has a stack of prospective employees to call in to interview and do the whole process all over again. While you and the rest of the job candidates who are called in for an interview are all equally qualified, demonstrating that you are more courteous than the rest is a great way to make your interview memorable. It certainly seems like giving an ego trip to your interviewer for your personal advancement. Instead of second-guessing yourself if you are just being polite or not, consider it an opportunity to letting the interviewer know you are aware the whole process is nothing personal and just business. That level of professionalism is a very important characteristic that lets companies know you have what it takes.
Benjamin Kramer is a "super senior" finishing his degree in Applied Mathematics and Solid Mechanics. He hopes this column makes you think and brightens your day.
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