[This is #3 of Get Your Dream Job series.]
Whether it be for admission into your dream university or for a summer job, having polished interview skills are a must for any successful student. It’s completely normal and often expected that you’re nervous. However, it’s also important to realize that the ability to ace an interview comes with both confidence and practice. Nonetheless, there are always some precautionary steps you can take to make sure all goes well.
Here are a few things to think about before your big day.
The Night Before
Dress to Impress
No matter what sort of interview you’re going to, keep in mind that it is always better to be overdressed than under-dressed. Planning what you wear ahead of time is a crucial aspect to create the best first impression. It’s also the first and simplest way to show that you care. Moreover, a lot of younger students overlook this part of an interview, so dressing up will make you stand out from the other applicants.
Consider adding a fitted blazer, a collared button-down shirt, and black pants to your wardrobe- it will come in handy for almost any formal occasion.
Think about what you’re applying for and write down a couple of traits you imagine your interviewer would find valuable in a candidate. Every opportunity is different, so focus on individual qualities for that specific opportunity. For example, if you’re applying to work part-time at a fast food chain, employers want to see that you work well under stress and strive in a team setting. Or if you’re looking to become a camp counsellor for a children’s day program, emphasize your leadership skills and responsibility. The night before, write down these specific skills and characteristics, as well as ways to prove your capabilities. Using extra-curricular or volunteering experiences is great for showcasing your potential. Having these prepared beforehand will help to prevent awkward silences and make your responses more fluid and coherent.
Doing your research is important too! Interviewers prefer candidates who are well-informed about their commitments, so make sure you’ve done your research for what you’re applying to. Know the basic history and missions of the company, school, or program. It is also ideal that you write down a list of questions you might want to ask the interviewer. It’s practically guaranteed that by the end of the interview, you will be asked if you, yourself, have any questions. Actually having questions will show a sense of genuine interest, so have these on you beforehand!
There are tons of online resources that list out the most common interview questions, as well as the best ways to answer them, and it is obviously recommended that you take a look. Do yourself one better and prepare your answers, and out loud if possible. For instance, know that when you’re asked for your biggest weakness, you respond with something that can be easily improved and that isn’t directly related to what you will be doing in the position you’re applying for. Simple tricks like these will ensure that you’re ready for any questions they may throw at you.
Double check yourself! Is your shirt tucked in? Is your hair brushed? Fingernails neat and trimmed? If so, your next step is to remember that eye contact and a firm handshake are the two things that you should set on getting done the second you walk into the room (however, also be accommodating of a situation where an interviewer refuses a handshake as this does happen). Instantly after, you should introduce yourself and ask how the interviewer is doing or how their day is going. The interview will get rolling after that, but these are the small details that really help to solidify the impression you have on others, and how they choose to remember you.
Smiling is an essential. It will make you seem friendly and open, which is a plus for any position you may be applying to. This may be due to the placebo effect, but smiling throughout will also make the whole situation a little less intimidating.
You have time to think in between your responses, so take advantage of it! Obviously, don’t draw long pauses to rethink every word you’re about to say, but often times, time seems to be speeding up for us as we repetitively ask ourselves when it’ll be over. Truth be told, you actually have more time than you think! Taking a breath and a few seconds to think and phrase your answers is helpful in avoiding answering too quickly and those “why didn’t I say that?” moments.
As the interview is coming to an end, make sure you pay attention to the following details:
- How and when they will contact you about your application status
- The interviewer’s name
- Any additional steps you may have to follow through with (personal documents, signatures, etc.)
As a bonus, ask for the interviewer’s business card or contact information. It’s customary and always polite to send a “thank you for the interview” email, thanking the interviewer for taking time to interview and consider you.
Give yourself a pat on the back! You’re done! Don’t stress over the little mistakes you may have made (which are always inevitable) and try to accept that what is done is done and over with. Send that thank-you email, and take the day to distract yourself from over-worrying.
And that’s that! Interviews may seem daunting at first, but the more you go through, the more you discover how fun it can be to have a reason to brag about your accomplishments.
All jokes aside, best of luck to all of you reading who have interviews coming up! Or for those of you who don’t, it’s never too early to start preparing!
Make sure to also stay tuned as there will be more posts coming up in our Get Your Dream Job series! In case you have missed the previous posts of the series, here are the links: