Let’s just be blunt from the beginning – interviews suck. They’re nerve-wracking, uncomfortable and time-consuming. It was much better interviewing for those part-time jobs we all had throughout high school and college, but when interviewing for full-time employment or even an internship, you’re looking at two to three or even more interviews to get an offer. They usually begin with a phone screening where they get to know you a little bit, talk about the company and see if you’re a good potential fit. If you pass that, you go through a series of interviews where you meet with different people working for the company. Now, this is only my personal experience as a business major. It will absolutely vary between companies and by career path. Either way, I thought I would offer some advice, as I have already gone through the trying and frustrating process, so you can learn from me and my mistakes.
My first piece of advice is that LinkedIn can be your best friend. It is the most trustworthy and reliable resource for finding job postings. There are millions of job opportunities posted right at your fingertips. All you have to do is search what you are looking for, whether that be a specific company or specific job title, and you can also include a location you’re interested in working in. If you’re lucky enough to get the “Easy Apply” under the job opportunity you’re interested in, your life just became 10x easier. Another helpful tip when filling out applications: many will ask you to give a description of all the jobs you’ve worked, so save those descriptions in a document so you can just copy and paste the information from there and not have to retype it every. single. time. Trust me, it gets annoying really quick.
The second piece of advice I would offer is to dress up. Now, dressing up isn’t for everyone, as it really isn’t for me. If I know one thing, truth be told, if you look good you feel good. You will get a sense of confidence if you feel good about yourself and how you look. I always performed my best interviews when I felt better about myself. The days where I just threw my hair back, I felt a little insecure and that reflected in my performance.
This might be one of the most important pieces of advice: BE PREPARED! You have to understand who the company is and what they do. I would suggest browsing through their website for about an hour, pull out the key information and write it down. Most interviews these days are over Zoom so if you have to glance at your notes to remember everything – so be it! Speaking from experience, most of the interviews will ask you right off the bat, “So what do you know what the company?” One day, I had about 3 interviews scheduled between classes and in my very first one, she asked me this question. My stomach turned into a knot as I looked down at my notes and noticed I only recorded information about the job itself – not what the company did as a whole! I made up some answer and it’s safe to say I didn’t receive another interview. That’s the great thing about learning from your mistakes. When asked this question, it’s best to give a summary but the more you know, the more impressed they will be.
When it comes to the questions asked in an interview, it’s going to vary between companies. Because of that, you might get some questions that throw you off. For example, “What celebrity do you admire?” or a behavioral question like “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a manager?” The best way to answer these when you feel like a deer in headlights is to take a deep breath and speak whatever comes to your mind. Most importantly, be confident with that answer and don’t second guess yourself. While your answers matter, it is also important to appear confident and show great speaking ability.
However, after taking a few interviews you’ll notice many of the interviewers will ask repeated questions. The best way to prepare for these questions is to prepare an outline so you can nail the delivery. An example of these questions is “Give a brief introduction of yourself”, “What are you looking for in a career?”, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” If you just Google the most asked interview questions, you can practice them beforehand. This can help ease your nerves as well so you don’t feel like you’re headed into the unknown.
You have to remember it’s not all about the interviewer asking you questions. You have a right to interview them as well because this is your life and your career ahead of you. With that being said, have questions prepared! After looking through the company’s website, more often than not you’ll develop some questions. If they answer all of them throughout the interview or you just can’t think of anything to ask on the spot, have at least 3 questions prepared that you can fall back on. You can always ask the interviewer personal questions such as “What’s your favorite part about working here?”, “Why did you choose to work here?” and “What’s the company culture like from your perspective?” This is crucial because you’re showing the interviewer that you genuinely care and want to learn more about the job.
In some interviews, they will ask you the dreadful, awkward question: “How much are you looking to be compensated?” You don’t necessarily have to answer this. It’s best to give an industry average based on the job you’re applying for or if you do give them a straight answer, don’t lowball yourself. REMEMBER, you don’t have to give them more information than they need to know. Tell them what they want to hear. More than likely, if they offer you the job, they’ll offer you a salary even lower than the amount you requested. You can also give them a ballpark figure if you aren’t comfortable giving an exact number. Many jobs are unfortunately not very upfront when it comes to telling interviewees what the compensation looks like for that job. They are usually more fixated on ensuring you’re a good fit for that specific position and their company’s culture. It’s really awkward asking them what the compensation is when you don’t want to seem all about the money. But remember, you deserve to know!
This leads me to my next piece of advice: make sure you understand the ins and outs of a job. Unfortunately, some company’s hiring teams will hide information from you. It’s usually information that makes the job seem unattractive. If they say some of their top employees make $100,000/year, ask how many years they’ve been there, what percent make that much and how many hours are they working. Don’t let them try to trick you by allowing them to market their job to you. From my experience, I interviewed for a sales job and they told me I would be meeting with clients. So I asked, “Where would I be meeting with the clients? Their offices?” They replied, “No, at their houses where they feel most comfortable.” So basically, this was door-to-door selling that they were trying to disguise. So, I really stress trying to look at the job details from an outside perspective or ask to shadow someone in the position you’re applying for. If you get the offer, make sure they send you an offer letter and it has all the information you need to make an educated decision. Don’t be afraid to question everything, this is your career and you have every right to make the best, informed decision.
Now, I probably interviewed over 50 times for jobs before I accepted an offer. I started getting offers when I got pretty good at nailing interviews. This is because I never turned down an interview, I took as many interviews as I could get. The more experience you have interviewing, the better you will get at performing and the more comfortable you will feel. Don’t forget, you also get to make connections with professionals. Even if it’s a job you don’t think you want, take it anyway. You might get a question that you didn’t answer the best and you can take note after on how to answer it better. Also, you never know what you might like or dislike until you start looking. The dream job you think you have might sound totally awful after listening to someones day-to-day responsibilities.
When it comes to taking multiple interviews, scheduling is important because it can often get messy. It’s best to have a planner where you can write down the dates and times of the different interviews. It’s also a good idea to put those dates and times into your calendar on your phone. It’s really easy to forget about an interview when you schedule it a couple of weeks in advance. Especially if you’re interviewing between classes, it’s hard to squeeze interviews into your schedule. Be honest with the recruiter if you feel as if you don’t have time to interview a certain day because of school or work – they understand! Oh, and when you’re scheduling, don’t forget about time zones. Even if you’re just interviewing for a job in the nearby state of Indiana, they are an hour ahead of us. You might hop on your Zoom call at 11:00 am CST when the interview was really at 11:00 am EST (10:00 am CST). I’m definitely not speaking from experience. Luckily, many recruiters will be understanding and allow you to reschedule.
After each interview, it’s important to thank the interviewer for their time and then follow up with them through an email expressing how much you enjoyed speaking with them and how thankful you are to receive the opportunity to speak with them. Also, if you haven’t heard back from them in a while about whether you’re moving to the next round of interviews, email them! This shows the recruiter that you are genuinely interested in this job and you deserve to be informed about their decisions.
This might be the hardest piece of advice to take: It’s okay to get rejected! I received several emails right after applying that said “Sorry, we don’t think you’re a good fit!” or “We choose another candidate”. This can really sting at first, especially if it’s a job you really wanted. This is not a reflection of who you are or your education. The important thing to do at that moment is not to give up and keep trying. It’s not supposed to be an easy process, but you will eventually find something that works out and you’ll be thankful another job didn’t work out. This is definitely a timely process so the sooner you start before your graduation day, the better.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be yourself! Laugh, smile and throw in some humor throughout the interview. It makes everyone feel more comfortable. If the recruiter doesn’t enjoy that about you, then it isn’t the job for you anyways. It’s best to be your authentic self so if you are to get the job, they know who you are and what to expect.