For those that don't already know, I have a background in Human Resources Management, specifically in Recruiting. I absolutely loved working in HR and coaching new and existing employees on the importance of professional image and etiquette as it pertained to preparing for an interview. So it's no surprise that even almost three years after leaving Corporate America, I've continued to train high school and college students in this area by way of workshops, panel discussions and presentations.
I've presented for organizations such as the WEEN Academy, Dress for Success, Elizabeth Seton High School, and Marymount University. I love being able to teach most of these workshops with my sidekick, The Style Medic. We are definitely not your typical powerhouse duo. We deliver this info in a fun and engaging manner that the students can actually relate to. We know how to get the message across without putting any of the students to sleep in the process. And we may or may not break out into a random dance here and there.
Most recently, we had the pleasure of returning to Elizabeth Seton High School (whom we love and adore!) where we spoke to the senior class about preparing for their college interviews. So while it's a bit different preparing for a college, versus a job interview, just about all of the information is universal and will still apply down the road when applying for internships and employment during and after college.
So here are a few easy tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview (college, internship, employment, etc.):
Always do your research. Even if you’re being forced to go to a particular school, or to apply for a job by your parents, don’t let that show through during your interview. On the flip side, even if you feel like you know everything about that school or company, there's always more to learn. Find out more about the person who is interviewing you, and ask whether or not you will meeting with just them, or additional faculty or staff members. You don't want to show up thinking you're meeting a Recruiter, when you are actually meeting with a Director or VP.
Preparation is key. This falls in line with doing your research. Trying to “wing it” for an interview is probably not going to win you any brownie points. Preparation involves making sure you have clothes that fit, mapping out the location for your interview, doing your research on both the company and the person interviewing you. It means that you've researched enough to prepare questions that show you really care and want to be there. Preparation means that you understand the company culture before you get to the interview. It also means you understand the job that you’re applying for, and can ask specific questions related to that job.
Clean up your cyber image. I took the initiative to introduce social media recruiting at my last place of employment (Facebook and LinkedIn, in addition to utilizing Skype for phone interviews), and it has definitely grown over the years. According to Kaplan Test Prep, far more common than the use of social media to evaluate applicants, is its use in recruiting potential students. They found that 87% of colleges use Facebook for this purpose (up from 82% two years ago); 76% use Twitter (up from 56%); and 73% use YouTube (up from 56%). According to a survey conducted by NACE, half of employers (50 percent) are using Facebook in their hiring process. A majority (54 percent) of those already using the social network anticipate Facebook becoming a more important part of the talent acquisition process in the near future.
So if you don’t want a potential school or employer to know about that brash alter ego or your brawl at the club last night, then don’t post it. It’s called the “world wide web” for a reason! So be smart about what you post. Don't post anything online that you wouldn't want posted on the front page of the newspaper. And this holds true even if you're enrolled in your college of choice or employed at your dream job. Most schools and employers have guidelines around using social media, so you don't want to run the risk of being kicked out or fired.
BONUS: E-mail is FREE! Please create a professional one to use on all applications. And no, SexualChocolate007@hotmail.com is NOT professional (this is definitely the PG13 version of what I’ve seen and heard come across Recruiters’ desks) .
Dress for success. No, jeans are not acceptable for an interview (college or otherwise), unless you are specifically told to wear them. Clothes shouldn’t be too tight that it makes it hard for the person interviewing YOU to breath, or too loose that they are falling off of you. They shouldn't look like you just pulled them out of a hamper either, or like you’re going to work the streets after the interview (I’ve seen it all). You can be professional and comfortable at the same time. You also don’t want people to smell you before they can see you (no…seriously). So don’t forget to take a bath, but don’t take a bath in your favorite cologne or perfume. I’ve had to leave my door open a number of times or cut the interview short for this very reason. Keep in mind that nowadays people have fragrance allergies as well.
Practice makes confidence. No matter how many times you practice, there will always be times you walk out of an interview and think about something that you should’ve said, or something you forgot to mention. However, the more you practice, the more confident you are. The more confident you are, the easier it is to relax and connect with the person who is interviewing you. I can’t tell you the number of times I hired the person with no experience but great attitude and lots of confidence, over the person with good experience and a lack of confidence or poor attitude. It makes a huge difference!
What interview prep tips can you add? Or what interview horror stories have you lived through?