Workplace Primer for College Students (part II)
In part I of the Workplace Primer for College Students, we detailed the importance of tailoring the job search and preparing a flawless cover letter or resume. Part II focuses on the interview, specifically what collegiate job seekers should do before, during, and after the meeting with prospective employers.
Prepare for the interview
Your cover letter and resume have passed muster and the company you eagerly want to work for has contacted you for an interview. There are several tips to help you prepare for the face-to-face meeting (or telephone screening, as is the trend these days). From selecting an appropriate wardrobe to asking a potential employer the right questions, interview preparation requires a lot of thought – and action.
Look the part: It is essential to select appropriate attire for the interview; and, the accessories that make the outfit, which complete your overall appearance. Ultimately, the interview wardrobe should be professional, and make you blend in, rather than stand out, from the company employees. The reality is that companies want new employees who reflect the current corporate culture, and that includes attire.
Men should wear slacks, a crisp shirt, and matching blazer. Of course, the tie completes the look – not a clip on! Freshly shined shoes and simple accoutrements, such as a watch, sans bling, and conservative cuff links complete the professional look. Interviewees can look stylish, no matter the budget constraints.
Women do not have to sacrifice style when preparing for the interview. A modest length and well-fitting (not too tight) skirt or dress is appropriate, with a conservative shirt and blazer. If suiting seems a bit boring, or if the industry has a more relaxed approach to dressing in the workplace, it is okay to pair trousers or a skirt with a cardigan set. Moderate heels or sling backs should be clean and not scuffed. Understated jewelry rounds out the interview outfit.
Even if the industry usually calls for khakis in the workplace (think technology), you can wear the corporate style once you land the job. For your interview, avoid the casual Friday look.
Research the audience: Knowing one’s audience is imperative. Conduct research about the company in advance, including reviewing the corporate website, Facebook fan page, and Twitter account. Being armed with information about the company helps during the interview. Potential employers will appreciate the initiative, and will view the well-informed candidate as one who possesses a can-do attitude.
Before the interview, practice responses to potential questions that may be asked. Ask a trusted mentor, friend, or family member to conduct a mock interview, and assess your performance. Pay particular attention to the use of fillers when responding to questions (um, ah, and you know), so that you can avoid them. Record the mock interview, and look at it a few times to improve your delivery. Doing so will help nervous candidates ace the interview by being ready to talk about tasks undertaken in the current job, or skill sets and special talents that can translate to the job being applied for at the company.
Arrive early for the interview: One of the most important aspects of the interview is arriving on time to the meeting. Even if you’re familiar with the geographic area of the company, identify a preferred and alternate route to get to the interview. If there is an accident, detour, or water main break, taking an alternate route may be the difference between getting to the interview on time, or missing out on the opportunity by being an hour late. Drive to the location, if possible, the same day of the week and time the interview is scheduled, beforehand.
Arrive early (not more than 30 minutes ahead of time), or on time, but never late. Companies often ask candidates to complete applications prior to the interview. Remember, the interview actually begins as soon as you arrive at the location. Be pleasant when speaking to or interacting with anyone in the office. Do not be haughty, put off, overly friendly, or flirt with the staff. By the way, waiting patiently until called in for the interview means no texting, listening to your iPod, or talking on your cell phone with or without your Bluetooth.
Ask the right questions: Be sure to ask at least one question during the interview. It should be one that is of genuine interest and not something that the interviewer has already covered. After the meeting is over, send a thank you note. Conventional thought is that a handwritten note to the interviewer is the way to go, it is also okay to send a brief, error free email thank you note.
Once the company has offered you the job, there are a number of questions to ask, not just those related to salary. Detailed questions include those related to annual and sick leave, retirement contributions by the employer, corporate culture, employee expectations, and other details about the position that may not have come up during the interview (i.e. the position’s funding is contingent upon grant money received).
Next: Part III (final) of the Workplace Primer for College Students
© Copyright 2012 Ask The Strategist™
DISCLAIMER: ASK THE STRATEGIST is a blog that addresses business, career, workplace and etiquette issues. Any advice dispensed by Ask The Strategist is purely for informational and entertainment purposes. Take the advice and opinions at your own risk – and betterment! Follow @KesiStribling or @CareerConnectDC on Twitter. Post your questions/email your conundrum/send your question via video to email@example.com. All submissions become the property of Ask The Strategist. Names and other identifying information may be changed to protect the person asking for advice.
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