You wowed them with your application, your resume and your cover letter. They want to meet you and have invited you for an interview. Now is your chance to convince them that you are a good fit. Whether the interview is for college admissions or a job you really want, you must not assume that all you need to do is talk about yourself.
Now is the time to prepare yourself.
What to Wear
Never underestimate the power of a first impression. Plan what you will wear in advance and get everything ready the night before. Take a look at your shoes. Do they need to be polished?
If you are interviewing at a college or a business, wear business attire. If your interview is in a more casual environment, it is still, of course, important to be neat, tidy and well-groomed. Shorts, t-shirts and jeans should never be an option, even if that is the norm at your potential work site.
A good rule of thumb is “earrings only,” even if you have a number of piercings.
It is also a good idea to cover tattoos. Some people may make assumptions based on those. You can educate them after you are hired!
Other tips to think about:
Don’t chew gum, but do pop a breath mint in.
Leave your cell phone in the car.
Don’t bring in a cup of coffee or soda. A bottle of water is better if you feel like your throat will get dry, but it is probably best to try to avoid that. If you are offered a drink and you’d like one, go for it. But don’t feel like you have to.
Getting Mentally Prepared
First of all, make sure that you are confident. What if you were asked, “Why should we select you over this entire stack of applicants?” If you aren’t able to answer that question with conviction, don’t waste your time or the interviewer’s time. I can guarantee you that others in that stack of applications could answer that question. Know that you are the best choice.
Next, take the time to find out everything you can about the institution or company to which you are applying. Check out the “culture” and make sure you are a good fit.
Use the web to take an in-depth look at the company or school website. Don’t assume that, because you’ve been there or know others who work/go to school there, that you have this step covered. Click on any tab that says “About Us.” Read the mission statement. What are the priorities? Are these your priorities, as well? Can they be your priorities?
Use social media. Look at Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What are the hot topics?
Use your contacts. Friends/acquaintances/relatives that have experience with the company or campus culture may have some great insights that can give you an edge.
Make sure you have thought about the questions you might be asked. There is a wealth of websites with potential interview questions. Look through some of them, but don’t get too invested in any of those lists. Ask yourself what you would want to know about a potential employee and make sure you can answer that.
Be prepared to be asked what you do really well and what you plan to improve (strengths and weaknesses). Be prepared to speak about your skills that are specifically related to the job-site or institution.
Think about examples of successes you have had and about times when your best-laid-plans have not worked out. Don’t be afraid to be honest, but make sure you can end it with a positive spin: what you learned, what you would do differently next time.
Unless it would stress you out, ask someone to run through some questions with you and practice responding.
It is, of course, easier to say than to accomplish, but try to relax. You are the best one for this slot. Make sure they know that.
Margee Greenfield owns CollegeBoundDirections in Bridgewater. She has nearly 40 years experience as a college advisor and counselor.