Acing the Interview: Tips from the Real World

Image by buddawiggi, Flickr

Image by buddawiggi, Flickr

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a webchat hosted by @wisebread on “Acing the Interview”. It resulted in some very unique tips and suggestions that we could all benefit from. Check out the summary below (you can also search the hashtag #wbchat to see what people had to say):

Do your research
Don’t think of it as a chore before an interview. Remember that you want this job, and the important thing is that you like the job that you’re applying for. Get up to speed on the company, the culture, and the latest news and current events both within the company and the industry.

Personal Experience: I interviewed with a large makeup conglomerate and was asked to give an example of one of their recent marketing campaigns. I drew a complete blank because I had only practiced typical interview questions. I had not researched the actual job I thought I wanted.

Dress professionally

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It may seem like common sense that you should “dress for the job you want” – but what does that mean? As in @HillHouseRock‘s post above, different jobs may call for different clothing choices. The general consensus in the webchat was slacks and a blouse for women, and at minimum, slacks and a collared shirt for men. That being said, you can never go wrong with a suit, and it’s always better to err on the side of professionalism. Don’t forget to be wary of things like jewellery (keep it simple, not flashy!), makeup (natural is better), and hairstyles (pin back long hair if you play with it when you’re nervous!).

Experience from the Chat: From TNA pants to hair rollers to tennis shoes, people have seen quite a few inappropriate wardrobe choices for interviews. Be careful how you dress – first impressions are vital!

Practice makes perfect
It’s impossible to predict what questions your interviewer will ask, but there are a few that you should have prepared answers for. Questions like “tell me about yourself” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses” are pretty standard. When practicing, think of examples from past work and school experiences that will give the interviewer an idea of issues you had to resolve, and how you did so.

Personal Experience: Before interviewing, I prepared a few key scenarios from work and school, which allowed me to give fast examples for any questions I was asked. Whether it was “tell me a time when you had a conflict with a peer” or “tell me how you dealt with a particularly difficult customer”, I was ready – and could tailor my stories to fit their questions.

You can be the interviewer too

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At the end of an interview, your interviewer will almost always ask if you have any questions. As @HillHouseRock noted in the chat, you’re interviewing the company as well. Get all the information you need before you accept a new job. Asking questions will also demonstrate initiative and that you’re interested in the position, not just a way to make money.

Personal Experience: A go-to question I’ve always asked (provided there’s a good vibe with the interviewer) is “What do you like about the company?”. It tends to soften the interviewer and allows them to open up and talk about themselves. Even though it takes place at the end of the interview, it allows you to wind things down with a conversation as opposed to an abrupt, potentially awkward ending.

Follow up

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Following up with your interviewer after the interview is a great way to remind them who you are – especially if they’ve been interviewing all day. In your follow-up, point out something that you discussed to jog their memory. Thank them for taking the time to interview you, and mention what you enjoyed most about it.

Personal Experience: I’ve never mailed a handwritten thank-you note to an interviewer before, but as you can see above, @WESTconsinCU has a great tip to send a timely, yet personalized note!

The best tips
In addition to the above list, other tips mentioned included being you, being relaxed and friendly, speaking clearly and slowly, making eye contact, showing interest, being punctual, showing confidence but not being a know-it-all, telling the truth, and being conscious of your body language. Also, don’t forget to manage your online presence.

Personal Experience: It all comes with practice. The more interviews you have, the better you’ll get at them! Know the basics and become more familiar with the rest as you go. Joining this webchat was a great way to hear the opinions of many different people, and you can ask your own questions too.

Do you have a question about interview tips? Tweet us @StudentsDotOrg.