Interviews are stressful. And awkward. And intimidating. They also happen to be that one thing standing between you and your dream internship or job.
The trick to having an amazing interview is all about preparation. Sure, you should know the job description before heading into that office, but you should also know yourself.
No matter how many interviews you have, those nerves will always be there. But with a little preparation and these tips from some interview experts, you can leave that interview knowing you did the absolute best you could.
1. Research the Company
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but to really set yourself apart from all those other candidates, you need to do more than just surf around the company's website. Look at their most recent press releases, their annual report and any social media accounts that they use. All of these aspects will give you an idea of what the company's mission is and how they interact with their customers. Gary Miller, assistant director of UNC-Chapel Hill's Career Services, suggests doing "a news search to see if there are current events that involve them or the industry. If you have time, try to find someone within the organization to talk to about the company."
Many universities also have business databases available to students for no charge. Check with your school's library to see what resources they may have. LexisNexis and Hoovers are both great ways to learn about different industries.
No matter how much you do, "Don't even begin to think you know it all -- you don't, and you can't," Rick Gillis reminds us. All you can do is be as prepared as possible.
2. Research the Job
No excuses: Know the job description backwards and forwards. What skills are they looking for? What experience do you have that you can apply to the position? For each qualification listed, you should be able to explain why you have the skills that they are looking for. My favorite way to prepare stories for an interview is to pick apart the job description and make lists. Take a sheet of paper and list every quality, trait or skill that is mentioned, and then list the corresponding experience that you have for each.
By jotting everything down in a notebook, you'll have everything organized and you won't drive yourself crazy trying to remember everything!
3. Research the Interviewer
Put those well-honed Facebooking skills to good use! Almost everyone in the professional world has a LinkedIn profile (and you should too if you don't already!). Look up anyone with whom in the company you've had contact with, or whose name you've heard mentioned. According to Northeastern University's Career Services office, "It is completely appropriate to ask, 'with whom will I be meeting?'"
If you've never used LinkedIn, there are a few main points to look for in any profile that you're viewing:
* The information at the top of each profile will tell you current and past work experience, as well as their education history (maybe they're even an alum of your school!).
* Some profiles will have websites listed as well--sometimes there will even be portfolios, Twitter accounts and personal blogs linked.
* At the very bottom you may be able to see what year they graduated college as well, and with what degree(s).
Being able to walk into interview knowing the age, education and job history of the person you're meeting with will really help calm your nerves -- and also allow you to prepare accordingly!
4. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Miller suggests not only reflecting on your professional strengths and weaknesses, but also preparing to talk about them. "If you go into an interview without having reflected on your experiences and made connections between those experiences and your skill sets, you'll struggle more when prompted with an interview question. So know those stories!"
Are you more analytical or creative? Do you work better independently or in teams? It's important to relay to the interviewer exactly what you can bring to the position. "The days of "I am seeking a rewarding and challenging career" are over. Instead use 'I am capable of _____________' and fill in the blank. Make yourself compelling and memorable by speaking to the company's needs--not yours. By doing so, the rest will work itself out," advises Gillis.
5. "Pick Three"
Although there is never a way to predict or control an interview completely, Laura Lane, another member of UNC-Chapel Hill's Career Services, suggests having a few points prepared that you make sure to talk about. "Always have three points or strengths about yourself to convey to the employer, no matter how the interview goes." These "three" can be anything from a club that you're in charge of at school, a big project that you worked on at your last internship or even a study abroad trip. Have a few stories rehearsed that really show why you're unique and would be a great asset to their team.
By having a few major strengths rehearsed, along with stories to illustrate them, you won't leave the interview wishing that you had said more. If there is no convenient time to share your main points during the interview, they can be a perfect way to wrap up the interview and impress the interviewer.
The only other "must" is to ask for a business card before you leave. You should always send a thank-you email or handwritten letter after an interview to the people whom you met with, and you'll need their business cards to ensure that you have all of their contact information correct. As the interview nears an end, you'll get that flood of relief and be anxious to kick off your shoes -- but don't let that get the best of you. Always, always, always ask for a business card.