It is important to find out as much as you can about the company/organization. Researching the company/organization will help you be prepared both to answer interview questions and to ask the interviewer questions. Take some time, in advance, to use the internet to discover as much information as you can about the company.
Spend time, as well, tapping into your network to see who you know who can help give you an interview edge over the other candidates.
Here's how to research a company and
key tools for researching employers.
Once you get to the interview stage of the application process, you have succeeded in convincing an employer to invest time in meeting you. When you developed your resume and cover letter, you already:
- analyzed the job description
- identified and conveyed your skills and accomplishments most relevant to the position
- researched the employer
- explained what attracted you to the organization and/or position
However, there is more to do before the interview so you are prepared to answer questions on the spot and articulate what makes you a truly compelling candidate.
Don't let your first interview be your first time actually answering interview questions! Consider the following strategies when preparing:
- Write out answers to questions you think the employer will ask.
- Practice saying your responses
out loud. Answering potential questions in front of a mirror can make you more aware of your facial expressions and gestures. You can also HEAR yourself and this helps with volume and pace. Most importantly, once you say it, it will flow much more smoothly in front of someone else.
- Practice with friends or family, or schedule an appointment with a career counselor at the
- Ask for feedback on the content and organization of your answers (completeness, level of detail, how easy to follow) and your presentation style (pace, voice quality/tone, energy, posture, eye contact, hand gestures).
- Film or record your responses using your smartphone and review your performance. Ask yourself, "Did I look/sound confident, relaxed, and enthusiastic?" "What does my body language say?" "How were my pace and volume?" "Did I smile?" "Did I look too serious?" "Did I look nervous or did my voice sound shaky?"
Also, find out what type of interview you will have. This will also help you prepare mentally so it is not a surprise when you are in a room with several individuals. Types of interviews include:
One-on-one: Just you and one interviewer, the most common type of interview
Panel: You are interviewed by more than one person at the same time
Group: A group of candidates is interviewed by a panel or one interviewer
Meal: You are interviewed while eating, usually over lunch
Working: You are put to work and observed
Phone or Video: Often used as a screening tool before inviting you to an on-site interview
On-Site or Second Round: After you have made it through a screening interview, this is a more extended interview at the employer site that may include a series of different types of interviews, a site tour, and a meal.
Depending on the position you apply for, you may be asked questions from any of three different categories:
Since most interviews consist of a mix of different question types, practice responding to questions from both the traditional and behavioral categories, and add in some technical or case questions if you are entering a field that is known to use them.
Show up to interviews ready with several stories that demonstrate your relevant skills and accomplishments. Develop them by anticipating the skills that are important for the position and reviewing your past experiences.
Accomplishments can be found in all parts of your life:
- Academics, such as class projects (How did you work with others? Lead others?)
- Sports (Will your goal-orientation transfer to your career? What did you learn about being a team player?)
- Activities (Have you published a story, given a speech, or marched in the school’s Band? Were you a leader?)
- Volunteer, work, or internship experiences (When did your performance exceed expectations? Achieve something new? Make things easier? Save or make money?)
Here are some ideas of what to wear to your interview. How you should dress will vary somewhat depending on the industry and specific company culture, but it's better to dress up than to be too casual.
- Unless otherwise directed, dress conservatively.
Men should wear a dark suit and conservative tie. Women should wear a dark suit. Avoid miniskirts, trendy outfits, or loud colors. However, for a more casual or part-time position, it may be appropriate to wear a collared shirt, slacks, and/or a polo shirt.
- Make sure your clothes are cleaned and pressed.
- Wear polished conservative shoes with closed toe and heel. Men should wear long, dark socks and women should wear trouser socks or if wearing a skirt, tights or nylons.
- Minimize jewelry, makeup and fragrance. Women should wear no more than one pair of small earrings. Men and women should wear no additional body piercings.
- Style your hair neatly and keep it off your face.
- Turn off your cell phone, and do not chew gum.
- Be respectful to everyone. Job offers have been denied based on how applicants have treated administrative staff.
- Build rapport in the first 5 seconds. When your interviewer comes into the waiting room and calls your name, walk toward that person with confidence, make eye contact, extend your hand for a handshake, and say, “Hello, I’m (insert your name here).” This should help set the tone for a successful interview.
- Do not put your belongings on the interview desk. Put them under the desk or away. Make sure they are not in your way if you have to stand to make a presentation.
- If a panel interview is part of the second-round interview, be sure to maintain eye contact with everyone on the panel as you answer questions.
- Be prepared to answer the same question several times since you will probably meet with several people over the course of the day. Stay enthusiastic and consistent in your responses.
- Remember that you are always being evaluated. In group activities and during meals, your ability to work with people and your "fit" in the organization are being assessed.
- Keep in mind that the interview is a two-way street. Be observant. What is the atmosphere like? Are employees friendly?
- Be sure to ask when you can expect to hear from the employer again.
- If you receive a verbal offer on the spot, it's usually better to think about the offer before accepting or declining. If you are not ready to make a decision, ask for written confirmation and tell the employer when you expect to make a decision.
- Within two days of the interview, send a thank-you note/email to the person in charge of the interview process with copies to the others involved. Mention what you appreciated from the day's activities and reiterate your interest in the position and the organization.
- A week after sending the thank-you,
you may contact the employer to show your continued interest and ask if there is any additional information you can provide.
- If the employer does not respond within the expected time frame, you may phone or email the person who interviewed you to ask about your status.