Interview Tips for Grads & Others

This article is written by Ericka Spradley, owner at My Next Level and Marcia LaReau, Founder and Owner of Forward Motion, LLC.

Making the transition from college to the workplace can be especially challenging because the rules are so different and often times, there are different assumptions on the part of both employer and employee.

To begin your preparation for the interview, Ericka Spradley asks you to rate your comfort level with the interview on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being totally comfortable). There are two common concerns: 1) nervousness and 2) how to manage concerns about experience before launching a full-time career.

In general:

  • Remember: If you’ve been called to an interview, they already believe in you.
  • The next step is to be sure that YOU believe in yourself. If you don’t, it will come across during the interview.
  • Make sure your attire is in the closet and ready at all times.
  • Don’t show up empty-handed. Carry a portfolio with copies of your résumé, cover letter, letters of recommendation, and any awards that speak to your value.
  • Practice body language: posture, eye contact, smile and nod affirmatively.
  • Practice awareness of the speed of your speech (how fast or slow you are talking).

Before the interview:
Trying to do all of this in one day can be overwhelming so the preparation begins when you actually apply for the position.

  • Research the company: their mission, goals, industry, and what makes them unique.
  • Assess the job description: Make a list of what you can and can’t do.
  • Write down any questions you want to ask about the responsibilities for the position.
  • List your personal strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to the position. When talking about a weakness, indicate how you manage it – what do you do to ensure your job performance doesn’t suffer.
  • Be ready for the basic, standard questions, such as:
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • What are your challenges and weaknesses?
    • Why should we hire you?
    • What questions do you have about this position?

During the interview:

  • BE SURE your cell phone is on silence (not vibrate!)
  • Don’t ask obvious questions (information that you can find on your own).
  • Prepare for behavioral questions such as, “Tell me about a time when your colleagues didn’t pull their weight on a project. How did you handle that?” or, “If you saw a colleague taking pictures with their cell phone – which is strictly forbidden – what would you do?”
  • Be aware of your non-verbal behaviors: tapping, avoiding eye contact, etc.
  • The interview should be more conversational (rather than an interrogation). When you respond to a question, ask a question. Example: Is there any part of my response you would like me to elaborate on?
  • Near the end of the interview always ask, “What are the next steps?”

After the interview:

  • Write a thank you note within 24 hours. Be brief, three lines or less. Do not reiterate your résumé. Include one compliment, e.g. “Thank you for meeting with me today. You helped me to feel comfortable during the interview.
  • Complete a self-assessment: think through the interview.
    • Write down any questions that were uncomfortable. Rework your response to that question so you are prepared for the next interview.
    • Polish any tentative responses.
    • Write down what went well! Did you receive any positive affirmation such as a head nod, a smile, or a response?
    • Was the meeting conversational?
    • What was the mood during the interview?

Receiving an offer:

  • Respond with, “Thank you. I’m happy that you believe I am the right candidate for this position.”
  • Write down all the specific information about the offer: salary, vacation time, benefits, etc.
  • Ask for time to think about it. You will usually have a day, maybe two days.
  • Assess the offer:
    • Will the salary be enough for you to pay your bills: rent, car insurance, student loans, gas, etc.
    • Discuss the offer with people who are knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Special thanks to Ericka Spradley for her help and insights. Click here to view her profile and contact her through LinkedIn.

Need an interview? Consider a Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop, where you will learn how to navigate the online application systems and differentiate yourself both on your résumé and in your interview.

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