Basic Interview Guide: How to Score Your Ideal Job or Internship

Being well prepared for interviews can put you well on your way to landing that dream job or internship. (Credit: bpsusf)

Being well prepared for interviews can put you well on your way to landing that dream job or internship. (Credit: bpsusf)

These days, getting an interview is a feat upon itself. Competition for jobs and even internships can be fierce, so it’s important to put time and energy into preparing for the interview process in order to score your ideal job. While you may still be in college mode, keep in mind that approaching an interview is a far cry from visiting a professor during office hours. In a job interview everything from how you’re dressed, to your presentation and demeanor can come into play. It’s important to put your best foot forward by following this basic interview how-to guide and demonstrate that you have what it takes to do not only do the job, but also to excel at it.

Step 1: Hygiene counts

When scheduling your interview, make sure you give yourself enough time to shower, get ready and arrive at the interview location on time. The last thing you want to do is arrive disheveled looking like you just ran a half marathon. Before heading to your interview, stay calm and collected and avoid the following:

  • Don’t go to the gym just before an interview (read: don’t arrive to the interview with damp hair like you just got out of the shower, or worse, not showered at all).
  • Don’t stop by your favorite food truck and eat heavy foods (especially with onion or garlic) just before the interview or on your way to the interview – need I say more?
  • Have your GPS programmed or a map printed out of the location of the interview along with a traffic update in order to ensure that you arrive on time.
  • Get rid of any gum you may be chewing before you walk through the door.
  • Take your sunglasses off and put them in your bag when you arrive for your appointment – not on your head!

Step 2: Prepare a portfolio

Depending on the profession you are embarking on, bring examples of your work or studies that support your candidacy for the position. A portfolio is a visual tool and professional way of demonstrating your experience that can distinguish you from other candidates. Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask you to bring one, always be prepared and bring one anyway. Have it on hand in case she asks – or you can politely offer to show it to her. And, of course, always bring a copy of your resume with you as well. A portfolio can include:

  • Writing samples.
  • Pie charts, graphs, and spreadsheets showing your accomplishments or studies that have had measurable results.
  • Videos of projects you have worked on or led (keep these short under five minutes, unless otherwise requested).

Step 3: Common interview questions

Interviews get easier with practice. Don’t worry if the first one doesn’t work out. Instead, take a mental note of the questions you are asked. Kendall Bitonte in her January 6, 2012 post to USA Today titled “Three interview tips every college student needs to know,” advises college students on techniques for how to convince employers they should be the number one choice for the job.

When it comes to interviewing, some questions will stump you, but more likely than not there will be at least a handful of standard questions, or variations thereof, that you can prepare responses for in advance. Examples include:

  • What would you say are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why did you apply to our organization/company?
  • What are some of the skills you think could be useful here?
  • Give me an example of a challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Step 4: Prepare questions and do your research

Questions aren’t just for interviewers. The interview is also prime time for you to ask questions you might have about the job, the company and the responsibilities of the position. Companies want to know that you are serious about the job, that you’re sincerely interested in working for them and not just the paycheck. For an entertaining read, check out Brazen Life’s March 13, 2012 post on Business Insider, “5 Ways You Should Be Using Pinterest To Attract Employers.” The post highlights several innovative uses of the Web-based bulletin board for career-seeking purposes.

Remember, in searching for a job or internship, like a term paper or any other thesis, you need to do your homework. Research the organization on the Internet, compile as much information as you can and formulate questions from there. Engaged, thoughtful questions can go a long way in the interview process and could score you the job.

  • Ask about the company’s culture and how the interviewer perceives the culture contributing to the company’s goals.
  • Find out what the interviewer thinks a successful year looks like for the position.
  • Identify specific projects that the company is working on (that you’ve identified through your research), and ask what the objectives are for the person in the position to fulfill those objectives.
  • Ask if there are specific challenges in the position and try to address how you would handle them given your own personal experience.

Step 5: How to look the part

How you dress for the interview says a lot about how seriously you take not only the interview, but a job or internship in general. While a maxi dress might be cute and trendy, it has casual written all over it and would not be acceptable attire at most standard companies. Stay on the conservative side so your qualifications shine through. That means:

  • Wear a suit: matching pants and jacket for men, skirt or pants and matching jacket for women
  • Button down, collared shirt
  • Tie for men, minimal accessories for women
  • Polished, closed-toed shoes

What other tips do you recommend following to ensure you land that dream job or internship? Share with us in the comments!

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