Interviewing is never a completely comfortable experience. In fact, looking for that first real job can be particularly stressful. After all, you have limited time to convince someone that you are the right person for the job and a good fit for the company. And that someone, no doubt, is talking to a number of talented, ambitious people about the role you covet.
To help you prepare for your next job interview, and to stand above the competition, here are some tips that will help you get your first real job.
Take a Crash Course on the Company
Remember the key objective of a job interview is to fulfill the company’s needs… not to provide you with a job.
Spend some time learning about the organization and its place in the industry. Has it experienced rapid growth? Has it just launched a successful new product or app? Is it facing competitive challenges? The more you know about the company, the more you understand what value you would add and what contribution you would make to its success. At a minimum, recruiters expect you to have done this level of preparation.
Take a Crash Course on the Recruiter
If you know the name of your interviewer beforehand, identify that person’s role and background. Don’t know their name? Do everything you can to find it, including looking them up in the company directory and on LinkedIn.
In addition to knowing something about the interviewer’s job, do you see any areas of commonality? Maybe something between you and this person that might be a good ice breaker? Don’t get creepy, of course. There’s a difference between mentioning the big win on Saturday of their alma mater’s football team and telling them their new baby you saw in pictures on Facebook really has her mother’s eyes.
At all times, think “friendly common ground” versus “stalker.”
Understand the Job for Which You Are Applying
Marilyn Santiago, Director of Graduate Career Advancement at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, says candidates should “take the job description apart” in preparing for the interview. Analyze the requirements and highlight key words, such as strategy, collaboration, innovation, or teamwork.
Then be prepared to relate at least one example of how you performed those key attributes. And make sure to choose achievements that tie to the job requirements, the role and the mission of the organization.
Have Your Own Questions Ready
Want to really impress the recruiter? Have some good questions ready about the job, the team and the company.
Don’t ask self-serving questions about the company’s benefits or number of vacation days, of course. Ask about how your success will be measured on the job. Inquire about the interviewer’s definition of outstanding performance. Ask how you can exceed expectations.
Arrive Fully Prepared
The way a candidate looks at an interview is a measure of their professionalism. So work hard to create a strong and positive image with your appearance. Even if the company’s culture is business casual, show up dressed a notch or two above what might be expected. Unless someone told you ahead of time to dress casually, opt for the standard suit and tie for men. For women, go with a suit, business dress, or professional pants suit. Get a haircut if you need one. And if you have facial hair, make sure you look well-groomed and not scruffy. Also, please remember: your shoes speak volumes. They need to be clean and polished.
Give yourself extra time to get to your interview a few minutes early. And be sure to show respect and interest to everyone you encounter. From the gatekeeper at the reception desk to the person who will conduct the interview, everyone matters.
Manage Your Environment
Potential employers often check social media sites. Your latest party photo or ranting post may be hilarious to your friends. But the CFO of a major company may not find it amusing.
In addition, make sure your voicemail sounds professional. Loud music in the background or letting your five-year-old nephew record the greeting may seem like a good idea. But you won’t win any points with a busy executive. And your email address? That should be your name—period.
Manage Communication After the Interview
Want to get that first real job? After the interview, whether it seemed to go well or not, always send a prompt thank-you note.
Sending a thank-you note within 24 hours of your meeting will allow you to capture your enthusiasm. A handwritten note will impress an older or more traditional hiring manager. But at the very least, send a gracious email. Also, remember: your note may precede your knowing if you got the job. So restate your interest in the company, and reiterate the contribution you will make.
Before you can get your first real job offer, you must nail the job interview. So put these seven tips to work… so you can go to work.
About the Author: Beverly Langford is the author of The Etiquette Edge: Modern Manners for Business Success. She is also President of LMA Communication, a consulting, training, and coaching firm. Beverly works with organizations and individuals on strategic communication, message development, effective interpersonal communication skills, team building, and leadership development.