Whether it is for an internship, a summer job, or the beginning of a new career, the interview process can be a daunting obstacle for students who want to be sure to impress but are not quite sure how to prepare. Understanding basic interview etiquette as well as the expectations of employers can help alleviate some of the anxiety that often accompanies an interview.
In preparing for an interview, it is important to consider all aspects of the hiring process, from skill sets to dress code to personal grooming. The greater your understanding of your goals and skills, the company in question, and potential employer, the greater the success you will have with each interview.
Katrina Davy, a counselor at Pepperdine University’s Career Center, is one of many willing to offer help to students who desire to be comfortable with the interview process. She recommends first learning about what the company does, specifically the division you plan to apply for, how many people work there, and anything else that could contribute to your understanding of the company and its people. This, Davy says, should give you an idea of the atmosphere of the company.
Equally important is the preparation of your resume. Davy emphasizes that it is the only thing the employer knows about you, and you should be very comfortable discussing it in detail.
“You really should know your resume cold,” Davy says. “If you’ve chosen to use a profile at the top of your resume that uses key words such as ‘energetic’, ‘good communicator’, etc. you need to have examples that show that.”
Davy suggests using the Career Center’s STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Results, and entails describing an event in all four of these stages. This allows the employer to hear about a situation that exhibits work experience, what your specific actions were, and the result.
Teige Muhlfeld, a junior at Pepperdine University, makes a habit of researching every aspect of the job before she applies for it to ensure that she has the skills necessary for the position.
“I learn about whatever the organization is to help me prepare,” Teige says. “I try to tailor my resume and responses to what I know they will be looking for.
While the resume is extremely important, a student will likely not have as much experience as someone who has already entered the workforce. Peter Foy, Ventura County Supervisor and President of Foy & Associates Insurance, believes lack of experience is not necessarily an obstacle to the job you want.
“What I find with most employers is that they care that you can really do the job.” Foy says. “A degree means that have a tool in their tool bag, but most people are looking for experience they can translate into something they can hire.
Foy often questions potential employees about their childhood to gain a better understanding of the candidate. He looks for a pattern of leadership, teamwork, and other qualities that could serve his company that emerge from the candidate’s personal history.
When asked what most impresses him during an interview, Foy doesn’t hesitate. “Know yourself,” he says. “If you know that you would go nuts stuck in a cubical all day that is important. The worst thing you can do is take any job instead of the right job.”
Presumably, four years of college has at least taught you that lesson. But in case the years were spent more in pursuit of self-service than self-discovery, personality tests may provide some insight into your inherent qualities and interests. Foy relies on them as an integral part of his hiring process. After learning about yourself, the company, and the employer, conducting an interview may be no more daunting than a courteous chat.
Alicia Ruskin, a partner at the talent agency K.S. & A., however, warns against becoming too comfortable. While she too expects a knowledgeable background of the company and herself, she expects the interviewee’s deportment to be consistently professional. She advises that dress err on the conservative side, and to avoid revealing too much accidentally she suggests a “test” at home to see that everything stays put while sitting and standing. And she expects to see someone with a sense of style.
“I look to see that there is some taste involved,” Ruskin says. “It doesn’t have to be my taste, but if the earrings are too long or the nails are too long it does not send a professional message.”
And professionalism is key. Not only in terms of dress, but punctuality, clear and steady speech, and meticulous personal grooming all contribute to a sense of professionalism. Greater preparation will enhance this image, with two printed copies of your resume ready at the time of the interview rather than assuming the employer received an email attachment.
For Kapua Kauhane, a senior at Pepperdine, it is professionalism that shows how much the job is really desired.
“Try to find a connection [with the interviewer] if at all possible,” says Kapua. “But under no circumstances should you ever lose that professionalism.