In order to land that job or internship, you have to nail the interview. Interviews can be intimidating, nerve-wracking and scary, but they don’t have to be if you prepare! Here are some dos and don’ts help you have a great interview for a job or internship:
THE DOs OF INTERVIEWING:
DO: Prepare before the interview
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but believe me when I say preparation is key. It is important to do some basic research so you know what the position is, what is expected, what the organization does, and if you really want to blow them away, brush up on any recent news, projects or successes the company has had.
One question commonly heard in interviews is, “What do you know about us?” You don’t want to be caught off guard and look like you walked into this interview on a whim. So make a visit to the organization’s website. You don’t need to spend hours researching, but remember that it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
DO: Dress professionally
The rule of thumb is that you should dress one level up from the company’s typical attire. For example, if you are interviewing at a company where the environment is more relaxed and everyone usually wears business casual clothing, you should dress business professional for the interview. If the employees seem to wear professional clothing but not full suits, you should consider wearing a suit to your interview.
However, if the employees dress full business professional, that does not mean you need to go to the extreme and wear a tuxedo or evening gown! In that case, just match their level of attire and wear business professional clothing.
When in doubt, it is usually better to dress more professionally. You’ll be more embarrassed if you are less professional-looking than more professional-looking to your interviewer.
DO: Think before you answer questions
It is perfectly okay to pause before answering a question. It is better to show you think before you speak and answer a question wisely than to talk immediately just to fill the silence.
One way you can let your interviewer know you are taking time to think is to paraphrase the question back and then pause. For example, if an employer asks what your biggest weakness is, you may respond with: “My biggest weakness…” then pause to think. Then, when you have an answer say: “I would say my biggest weakness is…” and answer the question
It is important to note there is a balance between not taking enough time and taking too much time to think. You don’t want to jump in with an answer you are unprepared to give, but you also should not take more than a minute to think about an answer to their question.
Another way you can avoid taking too much time to think is to prepare for questions that are typical to hear in interviews. You can check out our How to Interview guide on our career booklets page for information about this!
DO: Ask questions
At the end of the interview, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions. The worst response is “no.” Saying “no” tells the interviewer that you have not taken the time to come prepared with thoughtful questions or are uninterested in the position or company. Come with questions prepared. Questions about the position, expectations of the position, the work environment, etc. are good to ask. Even a simple question like “What is your favorite part about working here?” will help you stand out.
DO: Be gracious
Mind your P’s and Q’s. Be polite to all people you come in contact with at the organization — from the secretary you meet when you walk in, to the person you interview with. Sometimes the interviewer will ask other employees what their impression of you was. Make it a good one!
While in the interview, being pleasant and polite will go far. Don’t interrupt the interviewer as he/she is asking you a question, don’t make inappropriate jokes/comments, don’t bad mouth a previous employer, and at the end, thank the interviewer for his or her time. And no matter how the interview goes, be polite as you are leaving, too.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of sending a brief thank-you note or email shortly after the interview to show the employer you appreciated their time and the opportunity to speak with them.
THE DON’Ts OF INTERVIEWING:
DON’T: Seem uninterested
One of the things that will hurt your chances the most is if the interviewer feels you are not actually interested in the position. When asked why one student wanted to work at an organization, the student replied, “Well, I need a job.” You never want to respond to this question like that! Even if the position isn’t your ideal job, show the interviewer that you are interested in this particular position at this specific organization. Thinking about it from their perspective, would you want to hire someone just because he/she needed a job?
One mistake in interviews (or resumes) is to over-exaggerate what your past job/internship experiences have been like and what skills you possess. Never lie about or over-exaggerate the skills you have. Those skills may be a huge part of the position and if you get hired, it will be a rude awakening when your employer realizes you weren’t completely honest and cannot complete the tasks you said you could.
For example, if the interview asks if you are an expert using Adobe Creative Suite software, don’t say yes if you’ve only used it once before in a class. It’s okay to be honest, saying something like: “I used Photoshop and InDesign for a few course projects, so I am familiar with the basics of the software. I would love the opportunity this position gives to use these programs so I can learn more.” This tells the employer that you may not be an expert, but are willing to build on what you already know to become the expert they’re looking for.
DON’T: Use cliches
Cliches are answers to standard interview questions that have become so overused and can negatively impact the interviewer’s impression of you. One of the biggest cliches is the answer to the question “What is your biggest weakness?” Never say “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” This is no longer a clever answer and your interviewer will know you have not truly considered the question.
The biggest weakness question is just one of many questions that are used to see how you can handle stress. The best way to go about answering this question is to be honest, but do not give a weakness that is essential for the position. You should also follow your weakness up by explaining what steps you take to overcome that weakness.
For example, if the position description requires making a lot of phone calls, you would not want to say your biggest weakness is talking on the phone. However, you may say that your biggest weakness is making group presentations because you are more comfortable with one-on-one interactions, but when you are responsible for a presentation, you make sure to prepare your outline well in advance and practice multiple times to make yourself more comfortable. This kind of response will show your employer that you can acknowledge a weakness and also work to improve it.
DON’T: Ask about money
At least not during the first interview. This discussion usually happens during the second interview or if they make you an offer. For internships, a good time to ask about compensation (if unclear in the position description) is if they offer you the position. For example, if the interviewer calls you to offer you the position, you may respond with, “Thank you for the offer! Just for my own clarification, is this position for experience, credit or pay?” If you don’t get the answer you want, be gracious if you know you want to decline, or ask for a deadline to respond by if you want more time to think about it.
Though interviews can be nerve-wracking, most importantly, take a deep breath and be yourself. Use an interview as an opportunity to engage the interviewer and help them understand your passion and qualifications for the position.
And remember, sometimes interviews do not go well even though you are well prepared – that’s okay! Not every position is right for you, and it is perfectly fine to find that out in an interview. You may not want every position or be offered every position you interview for. However, keep preparing and giving your best in interviews and you will eventually get the position you want!
For more information of how to interview, check out our How To Interview guide on our website!