12 Basic Interview Tips

Originally published Thursday, 10 October 2013.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared at Words By Mara. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Well, I’ve finally mustered the courage to share tips for professional interviews. This is a small portion of what I’d like to include in my “career tips for college students” book; which is still in the works.

As I mentioned in my article on iBelieve.com… I’ve gone through several phone and in-person interviews. I’ve interviewed with banks, large corporations, start-up businesses, non-profits and more. Here is a bit of what I’ve learned in the process…

No interview is the same.  Each interview is unique to the company, hiring manager, and team of individuals.  The best way to prepare yourself for a general interview is to go in with an open mind and ability to adapt to any situation.

Though it should be common knowledge, it is abundantly important to conduct research on the company or organization of interest.  This does not mean just reading the “About Us” section on their website.

Are they on social network sites?  Who do they follow on Twitter?  Who is their competition?  Who is the CEO and what was his/her previous position?  What direction is the company heading in?  What are the successes?  What are the challenges?  If you can’t find some of these answers, then be prepared to ask them at the right time.

Basic Tips for the Interview

1. Bring extras.  Always come prepared with extra copies of your resume (on resume paper, of course) and references.

2. Dress professional.  Yes, more than a polo shirt with khakis.

3. Check your clothing for lint, hairs, stains or dandruff.  The last thing you want is something on your clothing taking the attention away from you.

4. Use eye contact when speaking to the interviewer.  Talk to everyone in the room and make eye contact if there is more than one persons present.

5. Do not give a wimpy or aggressive handshake.  A firm handshake suggests a lot about you as a person.  Work on that.

6. Stand up to greet anyone new that enters the room.  Shake their hand and smile.  This is not old-fashioned… these are manners.

7. Be prepared to answer questions about previous work history.  Try to give plenty of examples from ALL previous employers, not just one (additionally, if you’ve only had one employer than consider discussing volunteer or college experiences).

8. Do not demand anything.  If they offer a timeline on when the position will be decided, then accept it and ask if you may contact them directly.  If they do not offer a timeline on the decision, then politely ask for a date and whom would be the best point of contact.  They might say that they’ll be contacting you – ask them for a business card but wait at least 3-5 days to follow up.

9. Don’t chew gum.  That’s just common sense.

10. Speak with confidence and poise.  If you fumble on words, ask for a minute to collect your thoughts.  It’s perfectly natural.

11. Use excellent communication skills.  Avoid slang or negative jargon.

12. Leave mom and dad at home. As a working professional, I thought this was common sense but I’ve been surprised to hear of this latest trend. The company is interviewing you for the position. Do not ever ask or bring parents with you. Ever. Ever.

It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous before an interview. Something that I like to suggest is treating the interview like a conversation with a friend. This should allow you to feel more comfortable.

I’ve always had a difficult time talking about myself and essentially describing my professional successes thus far. But when it comes to interviews, this might be the ONE and only chance to market yourself and let your light shine.

I believe there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Do not doubt yourself. Remember all the positives. You can do it! Believe in yourself.

Please feel free to email me for any other tips. If I can’t offer the advice your looking for, the least I can do is pray.  :)  wordsbymara@gmail.com

* Image courtesy of Hubspot. Edited by Mara Rose.