5 min read

Making the Transition from College to Career

In last month’s installment of our monthly career prep series, we discussed eight things you should do to prepare for a job interview. Today, we’ll be discussing the interview itself.

9 Tips to Help You Ace Your Interview

You researched the company, know why you’re a good fit for the job, dressed the part, and arrived early. All your preparation comes down to this, but don’t sweat it. Here are nine tips to help you land the job.

1. Be Positive.

Few things can put a damper on a team’s morale like someone who is always negative. Whether you’re discussing a previous job or internship you didn’t like or just feeling a little frustrated you haven’t found a job yet, it’s important to keep it positive. Not only are hiring managers looking for employees who will bring positive energy to the job; positive people are just more likeable in general.

2. Believe in Yourself.

It’s perfectly valid to question your fit for a position before applying. After all, you don’t want to sell yourself short, but you also don’t want to find yourself in over your head should you wind up in a job for which you were woefully unqualified.

Now that you have the interview, the questioning has to stop. This is not the time to doubt yourself!

And why should you? You must have felt up to the task before, or else you wouldn’t have applied — and you got an interview, so someone obviously thinks you are right for the job, too.

3. Approach Your Interview as a Conversation.

How you frame the experience in your mind is crucial. While it may not calm your nerves completely, remember that an interview is not an interrogation (and if it is, you don’t want the job anyway). Rather, it’s an opportunity for an employer to get to know you … and for you to get to know them. Approach it as a dialogue. The next piece of advice can play an important role in making your interview a conversation.

4. Ask Questions … Just Nothing Weird.

Asking questions not only shows you’re thoughtful. It shows you are comfortable speaking up when you don’t understand something, and that’s a

particularly important trait in a new hire. It also helps foster a more conversational, back-and-forth dialogue, which can make the whole thing feel a lot less nerve-wracking.

As you go through your interview, write down any questions you have or points you want to revisit. Because you will be asked if you have any questions, and it looks good if you do. Just, please, don’t ask anything that will raise eyebrows, like “Will there be a drug test.”

Not sure what to ask? Here are a few questions that always work:
    • What will the onboarding process look like?
    • From your experience, about how long does it take to really learn the company?
    • What is the single most important trait that one needs to be successful in this role?
    • What do you think is the best thing about working at _________?
    • Can you walk me through an average day in this role?
    • What do you think is the biggest challenge this business faces?

5. Sell Yourself, But Don’t Overdo It.

For some of us, it’s a struggle to “sell” ourselves. For others, the challenge is in not overdoing it. Either can hurt your chances. Remember, interviewers aren’t just interested in your ability to do the work. They also want to know that you’re someone with whom people will want to work. Again, it’s important to be confident in yourself, but no one likes a brag.

6. Strike a Balance on Your Personal Life.

Companies don’t hire based on skills alone. They also want employees whose personalities will fit in with the company culture, making it not only acceptable to drop a few mentions of hobbies or other personal details, but also a solid strategy to show that you are unique or enthusiastic. And absent much work experience, you may even find it necessary to rely on personal anecdotes in those dreaded “Give me an example of a time …” questions.

Just be careful what you divulge. You may have played an epic role in diffusing a fight at a party — no doubt a testament to your ability to resolve differences — but that’s probably not the kind of example the interviewer was looking for. (Unless you’re interviewing to be a bouncer.)

7. Be Aware of the Your Body Language.

There’s a reason phone interviews almost always feel more relaxed. Meeting in person can add a whole new level of stress, which can be quite apparent in one’s manners. Interviewers pay attention to a lot more than just what you say.

And while the verdict may be out on whether handshaking is a good idea right now, it’s important to sit up straight and make good eye contact. You don’t need to be rigid, but you don’t want to slouch, either. Similarly, make every effort to avoid fidgeting.

8. Choose Your Words Wisely.

How you say things is often as important as what you say, making it important that you speak in clear, action-oriented terms. For example, say you’ve been asked whether you’d be comfortable doing some task you have zero experience with. Answering with “While I don’t have current experience with _____, I’m a fast learner,” sure sounds a lot better than “I wouldn’t be opposed to learning.” That’s good … I guess? (You might even inquire about some good resources to help you learn, as that’s sure to score you a few points.)

It also never hurts to throw in a few industry buzzwords, especially if your interviewer does. As irksome as they may be, a little industry jargon shows you can speak the corporate language.

And along these lines…

9. Be Courteous.

The business world is awash with stories of people who didn’t get the job because they were rude to someone in the elevator or another floor. Treat everyone you meet with the utmost courtesy. That means not just in the office, but the entire building … the parking lot, even.

This also means thanking everyone for their time, including the person at the front desk. It doesn’t hurt to send a quick email or card thanking them for their time. Just keep in mind that a physical thank you note might not get there before a decision is made.

Now Go Get It!

Don’t forget the company you applied to wants to interview you for the job. You have what it takes. With these nine tips, you’re sure to put your best foot forward. Good luck!