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Prepare

The first step towards a successful job interview is to make sure you are prepared. This means you are able to talk effectively about your skills and career interest and that you are knowledgeable about the company and the position you are seeking.

Do Your Homework

Being able to say, “I just read an article about that while I was researching your company,” is very powerful in an interview. It shows that you have a genuine interest in the company and that you are prepared and willing to go above and beyond what is expected. Before your interview, take time to:

  • carefully review the job description and requirements
  • research the prospective company by talking with current and former employees
  • review the company’s website, press releases, annual reports and other publications
  • look up recent articles about the company
  • research industry trends and activity online

Quick Tip: The Importance of a Handshake

The handshake is the first impression someone gets of you (after your dress). Here are some tips for getting the handshake right and then three examples of getting it wrong.

  • Handshake should be firm with good eye contact.
  • Speak clearly and state your name, if applicable.
  • Include a greeting such as, “It’s nice to meet you.”
  • NO informal handshakes such as fist-bumps, high fives, etc.
  • NO two-handed shakes; these are very personal and sometimes patronizing.
  • “LIMP FISH” – puny, too delicate
  • “BONE CRUSHER” – too hard, hurts the hand
  • “SHAKER” – shakes too much

Dress

A good first impression can make or break your chances of getting hired. That’s why your appearance — how you dress and present yourself — is vitally important in any interview, regardless of the nature of the job for which you are applying. If you present yourself in a professional manner, you will be treated as a professional and given consideration for the job as a professional.

Women

Suit – well-fitted, conservative pant or skirt with jacket in black, navy or dark grey
Don’t look disheveled, too casual or inappropriate. No jeans, turtlenecks,corduroys, textured tights, corduroy blazers or skirts, cowl-neck sweaters, lowcut necklines or clothing that is too tight.
Little or no perfume or scented lotion
Make-up should be simple and sparse
Be well-groomed with nails neatly cut and manicured and teeth freshly brushed.
Briefcase, leather portfolio or notebook – in black, brown or burgundy
Purse – leather in same color as shoes, only use if not using a briefcase
Jewelry/Accessories – simple and conservative, minimal amount to complete the outfit. No bangle bracelets or plastic belts. No visible piercings (nose rings, tongue piercings, etc.) except for simple earrings.
Hair – neat and conservative, styled away from your face
Shoes – conservative, plain leather pumps in a dark or neutral color
Hosiery – neutral-toned, sheer, no seams
Shirt – coordinating blouse in a solid color or with a conservative pattern, cotton blend or silk with a simple cut and no excess frills
Skirt – suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
Keep colors and patterns simple and understated. Don’t wear clothing with patterns that are too “busy” or colors that are too “loud.”

Men

Suit – well-fitted, wool or wool blend in navy or dark grey
Socks – over the calf, either nylon or thin cotton in black or navy
Belt – leather in either black or brown
Tie – classic width of 3 to 3 ¼ inches in silk or a silk/wool blend, solid, with neat stripes or a conservative pattern
Shirt – long-sleeve, white or pale blue, solid or with thin stripes
Shoes – conservative leather slip-ons or lace-ups in black or brown
Briefcase, leather portfolio or notebook – black, brown or burgundy
Hair – Neat and conservative
Jewelry – very minimal, NO earrings or other visible piercings (nose rings, tongue piercings, etc)
Be well-groomed with nails neatly cut and manicured, teeth freshly brushed and face clean shaven with unscented or very limited to no aftershave.
Don’t look disheveled, too casual or inappropriate. No jeans, turtlenecks or corduroys
Don’t mix and match suit jackets and pants.

Quick Tip: Interview Clothes Are A Worthwhile Investment

If you do not already have one, take the time to purchase a quality suit. Students starting out may wish to have two suits and several coordinating shirts and ties or blouses and scarves. Select the best quality clothing you can afford. Don’t pick anything too flashy or trendy. Stay conservative and select attire that you will use for years to come.

Ask

As with anything, preparation is the key to interview success. Before your job interview, spend time reviewing possible interview questions and rehearsing your answers.

As you practice, think about the purpose behind each question. What kind of information is the interviewer trying to obtain? How might the question allow you to show your qualifications and interest in the position? Practice over and over until you believe your answers are good and you feel comfortable in your delivery.

Interview Questions

Chances are good you’ll be asked one of these most common interview questions listed below. Think about how you would answer each one and check out our Tips for Answering 8 Common Interview Questions.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are your greatest weaknesses?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Describe a problem situation and how you handled it.
  • What is an accomplishment of which you’re most proud?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Are you willing to travel if needed?
  • What kind of people do you find difficult to work with?
  • Are you willing to work overtime if needed?
  • Why did you choose this area of work?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What did you like most or least in your recent job?
  • How do you work under pressure? Give an example.
  • When are you available to start?
  • What are your short and long-range goals?
  • Assuming you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?
  • Do you have plans for college or continued study?
  • What failures have you experienced? What have you learned from your mistakes?

Inappropriate Questions

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Act includes guidelines employers must follow when conducting job interviews. Criteria requires that questions must be job-related, and the answer must be necessary to judge an applicant’s competence for the job in question. Questions should NOT be used to find out personal information, as the answers could have a disparate effect. In a nutshell, employers should not ask about any of the following, because to not hire an applicant because of any of this information is to discriminate.

  • Ancestry, national origin, race or color
  • Gender
  • Age (except to establish that an applicant meets minimum age requirements by law)
  • Marital and family status
  • Religious or political affiliation
  • Disability

Your Turn: Questions To Ask And Not To Ask During Your Interview

In addition to being asked questions, you should be prepared to ask a few questions yourself. After all, you need to make sure that this job, at this company, is right for you. Below are some sample questions, but you will also want to develop some of your own questions that are specific to you and the company where you interview.

Questions To Ask

  • Why is the position open? Promotion, company expansion, or did someone leave the company?
  • What are the day-to-day responsibilities of the position?
  • What do you expect the responsibilities to be six months to a year from now?
  • Does the position provide the opportunity to work on special projects? If so, what are recent ones?
  • What computer software and other technology skills are required for the position?
  • How many people work in this department/office? What is the management structure?
  • How long have you (the interviewer) been with the company?
  • What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
  • What is the work environment like? Do employees work well together or as a team?
  • Is there travel associated with this position?
  • In your opinion, what type of person is successful in the company (team player, self-starter, etc.)?

Questions NOT To Ask

While you want to make sure you find out as much as possible about the position and the company to be able to make an informed decision, there are some questions that are inappropriate for you to ask in a first job interview with the company. Also, do not ask any questions that are answered in the job posting, position description, company website or literature.

  • What is the salary? What types of benefits will I receive?
  • Can I take off time for vacation?
  • Is this job hard?
  • Will I have to work overtime? Will you pay me more?
  • Do people hate their jobs here?

Quick Tips: Ending On The Right Note

Just as first impressions are important, so is the way you end your interview. Make sure you leave the interview just as you entered it — smiling and enthusiastic.

Before the interview is over, be sure you ask if there is anything about your background that needs to be clarified. This is important because it allows you the opportunity to resolve any concerns before you walk out the door.

Ask the interviewer for a business card. This will be extremely helpful when you write the thank-you note following the interview.

Remember to thank the interviewer for his or her time and the opportunity to meet.

If you are interested, tell the interviewer you are interested in the position and that you look forward to continuing the process. If you feel comfortable, ask what the next step is in the job application process.

Follow Up

After each job interview, it is important that you take time to review the position and company, send a thank-you note within 24 hours and that you follow through on any requests for additional information or directions to call back at a specific time.

Position and Company Review

Following an interview, use our Position and Company Review Worksheet to help you organize and remember important information that, should you be offered the job, you will need to consider as you determine if the company and position are right for you. The review can also help collect your thoughts as you prepare a thank-you letter to send to the interviewer.

Thank-You Letter

It is essential that following an interview you write a thank-you letter to the interviewer to acknowledge the meeting and to remind him or her of you after you have gone. This letter shows your organizational skills and professionalism and offers you the opportunity to reemphasize your qualifications and interest in the company and position.

An effective thank-you note is:

Personalized. Even if you interviewed with more than one person, you should send a thank-you letter to each person with whom you interviewed. Make sure to modify your message so each interviewer receives a unique note.

Professional. Your thank-you note should be typed or handwritten neatly using simple, professional stationery. If typed, use stationery and format consistent with your resume. If handwritten, use blue or black ink, your very best handwriting and cream or bright white note cards.

Concise. Your thank-you note  should simple, pleasant and professional language and should never be longer than one page.

Timely. Mail your thank-you letter within 24 hours of the interview.

Specific. Mention the names of the people you met at the interview and reference specific points that were discussed. Your thank-you note should show that you:

  • paid attention to what was being said
  • understood the importance of the interviewer’s comments
  • are excited about the job, can do it and want it
  • can contribute

Quick Tip: Is It Okay To Send A Thank-You Note By Email?

At times, yes. Especially if a quick hiring decision is expected and time is of the essence, email is appropriate because it allows you to follow-up and express your thanks the same day as the interview.

Still, even after sending a thank-you email, you should send a traditional thank-you letter by mail as well. Even in today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, many employers say they still appreciate receiving a handwritten thank-you letter. It shows that you are conscientious and professional and it may help set you apart from and above other candidates.