Preparing for the Interview Process
- Before the Interview
- Day of the Interview
- During the Interview
- After the Interview
- Guidelines for Handling Expenses
Learn as much as you can about the company and position you are applying for. You should have a basic understanding of who the company is, kinds of services and/or products they provide, dress code, culture, and any other points of interest. Much of this information can be found by researching the company’s web site, networking with contacts within the company and researching employer databases such as Hoovers.com or Vault.com. It is also important to have a complete job description prior to the interview in order to understand the full spectrum of duties and requirements. If you are unable to obtain a complete job description prior to the interview, the next best thing would be to research the position and industry. Check out the Online Resources for Exploring Careers section for some websites that may be helpful in your research.
Conduct practice interviews with the CCO staff, friends, family members or yourself. Practicing the interview before hand will allow you the opportunity to pinpoint areas you need improvement on such as communication, posture, dress code, etc. Contact the CCO at firstname.lastname@example.org or (5740 284-4775 to set up a time to practice and get feedback.
Be prepared to answer questions by employers and be prepared to ask questions as well. Evaluating and having a thorough understanding of your interests, skills and abilities as they relate to the position will help you in answering questions. Although you want to be prepared with answers to questions employers may have, you also want to sound genuine and sincere in your answers. It’s best to have a general idea of the types of questions they will ask and be able to communicate your answers in a precise way, while allowing yourself freedom to change gears if asked a question outside of what you are prepared to answer. Check out the Interview Questions section for the types of questions that may be asked during an interview.
In addition to knowing what questions they may ask and asking them questions, you should be aware of legal and illegal questions.
Dress the part. You will need to identify proper interview attire including outfit, accessories and appearance prior to the interview. If you are concerned about what this may entail for a particular employer, be sure to contact them and simply ask. Listed below are some interview attire guidelines for women:
- Solid black, gray or navy blue suit with a knee-length skirt or dress slacks
- Tailored blouse
- Pumps or dress shoes
- Portfolio or briefcase instead of a bulky purse
- Use makeup conservatively
- No runs in stockings
You should also:
- Have neatly trimmed hair and be well groomed
- Use perfume in moderation
- Wear modest jewelry and accessories (no eccentric piercings!)
- Have polished shoes
- No missing buttons, lint or loose threads
Prepare an interview package to take with you. It’s always best to be well-prepared and make a checklist of items you will need to bring with you when you attend an interview. Your list can include:
- Extra clean copies of your résumé
- Copies of your references
- Portfolio, if requested or needed
- List of skills and abilities for your own reference
- Complete job description
- Names of interviewers
- Paper and pen to take notes
- Breath mints (no gum!)
- Flight or hotel accommodations (if needed), maps and directions
- Briefcase or portfolio to hold items
Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview. Before the interview, you should know where you are going and it’s best to arrive between 15-20 minutes before the interview. This will allow yourself time to get adjusted and prepare for the interview while indicating to the employer your commitment and promptness. You NEVER want to arrive late to or miss an interview. If you plan arrive any later than 10 minutes to the interview, call ahead and indicate so. Although employers do not look lightly upon tardy interviewees, they will appreciate your consideration in calling them to indicate your lateness.
Don’t forget to bring your interview package. If you take the time to prepare an interview package or file to bring with you, be sure to actually bring it! Make sure you have all your items in the package and keep it near the door or in your car, so you will not forget it. You will appear to be and feel much more confident about yourself.
Take time to relax before the interview. If you are like most job seekers, you may have some anxiety and nervousness associated with interviewing, which is normal. If you start to feel nervous the day of the interview, practicing some relaxation techniques may help. Also, keep in mind that the interviewer may be just as nervous as you are because as stated earlier, this is not only an opportunity for them to evaluate you but for you to evaluate them as well.
Be sure to greet and shake hands with each individual you meet. It is common to always shake hands when you meet someone new or are seeing someone again. Women should also shake hands and it is acceptable to extend your hand first. Practice your handshake as it should be firm, not the “dead fish” handshake in which you keep your hand limp. Before shaking hands, be sure they are clean and not sweating, clammy or cold because this may not be the impression you wish to make.
Pay attention to the atmosphere and culture of the company. Do the people seem happy? Are they helpful? Are they enthusiastic about their work? Do you feel welcome? Do you like the people? Does this seem like a good place to work?
Pay close attention to the non-verbal cues. Pay attention to yours as well as those already working at the company or organization. These can include but are not limited to body posture, facial expressions, gesturing of hands and eye contact. Non-verbal cues help us in evaluating situations and determining our effect on others.
Don’t find yourself trapped in salary negotiations. Salary negotiations should only be discussed after you have received a job offer.
Ask when a hiring decision will be made about the position. This will give you an approximate date by which you can expect to receive a telephone call or e-mail in the hiring status.
Get business cards from all the interviewers. The business cards you collect will come in handy later when writing thank you letters or notes and when following-up after the interview. In addition, the business cards should be kept in a network file for later use.
Be sure to follow-up with a thank you letter or note. It is a rarity for employers to receive a thank you letter or note thanking them for their time in interviewing. A thank you letter or note not only shows your gratitude for the interview, but may also help you stand out from other candidates.
Be sure to follow-up within one to two weeks after the interview. If the employer has given you a deadline for making a hiring decision, don’t be afraid to contact them by either telephone or e-mail if you do not hear from them by the deadline date. This will allow you to determine the status of the hiring process and whether or not you have a likely chance of being offered the position. Depending on the outcome, you can continue to focus your energy on your job search or accepting/rejecting a job offer.
If offered the job, be sure to follow-up with an acceptance or rejection letter. An acceptance or rejection letter will serve a formal means of concluding the interview process. It is important to objectively weigh the pros and cons of each job offer and make a sound decision based upon your individual needs. See the “Correspondence” section for help writing these letters.
- Companies are not obligated to pay your expenses for the interviewing process. Most employers outside of the business sector DO NOT pay for your expenses. If a company is asking you to come to their office for an interview and will not be covering expenses, you must make the decision about investing in the interview. Try to think long-range.
- Paying your own expenses now for an interview may be well worth it in the long run.
- Ask for reimbursement only for the expenses of your trip, not extras like entertainment or tips.
- Get receipts for all your expenses. Records of your expenses are usually required before employers will reimburse you. If you drive, record your route and the round trip mileage.
- Always be prudent. How you spend an organization’s money on an interviewing trip is a good indication of how you might spend their money as an employee. Reimbursement policies vary among organizations. Some set fixed-dollar rates for expenses; others simply ask the candidate to use her own judgment. Be reasonable.
- If you visit other organizations on the same trip, pro-rate your expenses for each. When you meet with your Human Resources Department host at the end of your visit, you will usually be required to fill out an expense report. You may be reimbursed on the spot, but your check probably will be mailed to you from one to four weeks after your visit.