By Lauren Beam (’07), Associate Director for Mentoring and Alumni Personal & Career Development, Wake Forest University
When was the last time you interviewed for a job? For some recent graduates and young professionals, it may have been recently. However, many of us have not walked into a job interview in quite a few years! Whether you actually enjoy chatting with an interviewer about your past work experiences and qualifications for the job, or the thought of walking into an interview room to talk about yourself makes you queasy, preparation is key to coming off polished and knowledgeable. Check out these four tips for how to ace your next interview.
Research. This may seem pretty basic, but visit the company’s website. You will want to acquaint yourself with the organization’s history, mission, values, and perhaps any new initiatives or services that they are launching or providing. Do a quick Google News search to read recent articles about the company. You will also want to know about trends within the industry in which you are interviewing – read trade journals or publications, look up your industry’s professional association, participate in a related webinar training. LinkedIn is also another great research tool for learning about the company as well as the employees with whom you may be interviewing. An additional resource that you should use to research for the interview is the job description itself. Read over it and familiarize yourself with the skills and knowledge they are looking for; then, be ready to speak to how you are qualified to do the job.
Prep your stories. You will be most effective in any job interview when you can connect the skills that the employer is looking for to the past experiences you have had in your professional life. These are the “stories” you will use to paint a picture of your qualifications for the position. As the interviewee, it’s your job to tell the interviewers how and why you can do the job for which they are hiring, and to back that up with experience. As you prep, look over your resume. Write down 5-6 key experiences, projects, or assignments that you have had in past (or current) positions that highlight your skill set as it relates to the job opening. You will likely find that as you are asked questions in the actual interview, you’ll be able to draw on these key 5-6 stories in your responses.
Practice aloud. Do you tend to ramble or use the phrases “umm” or “like” too often? Practicing your answers to interview questions, particularly with another person present to give you feedback, can help you tighten your responses and minimize vocal fillers. Wake Forest’s Office of Personal & Career Development has a great list of general interview questions and behavioral interview questions to use as you practice. Grab a friend, spouse, neighbor, or even use the camera on your phone to help you practice speaking your answers aloud.
Look, feel, and be confident. While we know that you will be rated on much more than physical appearance and first impressions at a job interview, it certainly helps to be dressed for the occasion! The rule of thumb for most job interviews is to dress a notch or two above the everyday dress code at the organization, which typically means you should wear a business suit. Wear an outfit that is comfortable and makes you feel confident. This confidence will come across in the interview (even if you are a bundle of nerves on the inside)! Additionally, come prepared with a padfolio, including paper, pen, and a few extra copies of your resume.
Want more tips and information about job interviewing? We suggest checking out these articles from The Muse. Additionally, our Alumni Personal & Career Development Center team is here to support you. Feel free to reach out if we can answer any additional questions or help you in your interview prep.