Interview hints from an interviewee

Andrew George

Interviews are one of life’s necessary evils: they can be stressful and preparation is often difficult. But to get that position as president of your favorite organization or to get that internship that you’re gung-ho about, interviewing has to be done.

I have run through a gamut of eight interviews over the last two weeks for the spring accounting internship program run by Dr. James Emig and the College of Commerce and Finance, and I would like to pass along some advice.

The first step for a successful interview is to do your homework on the company or organization for which you are interviewing. An interviewer will not be impressed if you meet with him or her and know nothing about the position you deserve. A great resource for information about companies is the Internet. Many websites for companies include pages with the history of the firm, the current services or products that they offer or produce and some listing of recent publications or press releases concerning the company. Prepare a quick facts sheet to take with you so you can refer to specific items when talking with the interviewer.

Next, prepare some questions to ask during or at the end of the interview. The questions can be general or specific, anything from the company in general to the interviewer’s opinion about your qualifications. Do not be too shy to ask about anything that is unclear. Interviewers typically are more impressed when there is a two-way discussion than when they have to drag the interview along themselves. Heed one caution when asking questions: only ask about pay if an appropriate occasion arises. The interviewer can take these questions in the wrong context even if asked innocently. Add your questions to your quick facts sheet so all your information and questions for the interview is in the same place.

Feel free to bring other materials to the interview that you feel will highlight your qualifications for the position. During my interviews, I brought along a job description from my summer job along with a project from my accounting class last semester. It cannot hurt to bring along a copy of your resume and a list of references with you. With these things, you will be well prepared to answer questions and emphasize your strengths.

Also, remember to dress for success. Dressing for a job or internship interview is very different from dressing for college formals. It is the interviewee’s job to make the best possible impression.

Sun dresses and Snoopy ties are just not appropriate attire for an interview. It is a good rule of thumb to keep your dress conservative for job interviews. Save your flair for later.

Plan to arrive at the interview five to 10 minutes early. Allowing this extra time gives you some space to breathe if you hit delays. Also, if any paperwork needs to be filled out you have some time in which to do it. Finally, use the extra time before the interview to take a few deep breaths and make sure that you have all your material for the interview with you and have put your thoughts in order.

When you meet your interviewer, be sure to give a firm handshake. Speak clearly and with varied volume. I wasn’t impressed with one interviewer who stumbled over reading questions and droned along throughout the entire interview. Make sure this is not you.

Do not hurry over responses to questions, but don’t take five minutes to think either. Interviewers are human and they will understand if you have to think of an answer for a question or two. Ask for a business card if the interviewer does not automatically give you one.

Typically, the end of the interview is when you will be prompted to ask any questions you have. At this point, feel free to look at your info sheet and ask any of your questions. Throughout my two weeks of interviews, I found some of the questions that I prepared were answered during the interview so to keep things moving I asked for clarification on subjects that were covered during the interview.

Follow up the interview with a thank you letter to your interviewer within a day or two. In the letter, display your continued interest in the position. Include any questions that you thought of after the interview. Relate your best traits and qualifications to the position for which you are applying. Thank them for interviewing you.

For very serious positions, a follow-up phone call along with the thank you letter is also acceptable and shows your enthusiasm for the company.

For more on interviews visit Career Services in Corr Hall.