Interviewing is a skill that may come naturally to some; but for others, it must be learned through repetition. Nervousness and anxiety are to be expected. Learning to embrace the nervousness and having fun in the process are keys to a successful outcome.
This page includes information on preparing for your interview, including self assessment, what to bring, attire, and making a good first impression.
You will also want to look at the following resources:
- Interview Workshop (PDF)
- List of interview questions (and questions to ask the interviewer)
- Behavioral and case questions
- UCS resources
Preparing for your interview
Before your interview, it is important to get in the right mindset. To do this, think about the following:
Self assessment – The first task in finding the ideal job is developing an understanding about your work values and what is important to you in a job. Find a quiet space to think introspectively about who you are and what you enjoy. Begin asking yourself questions like,
- Is it important for me to work collaboratively or independently?
- Do I want to work for a large organization or a small organization?
- Do I want to be the person out in front or behind the scenes?
- Do I want to work in a large city or rural community?
- Is it important for the organization to have an international focus or not?
- Which skills would I like to use most on the job?
- After this position, what would be the ideal next step?
- How long would I like to be in this position?
- And so on…
Position description – Obtain a position description and identify the specific skills the organization is seeking. If you do not have a position description, think about the qualities and skills it would take to be the best possible candidate.
Researching the organization – Learn as much as you can about the organization. You should know the primary locations, the size, the products or services they offer, the benefits, their mission statement, and if applicable, information about their competitors and the market in which they operate. Read company literature on-line as well as request information directly from the company. If the company is publicly traded, read message boards about the company stock. When possible, use alumni connections to find out the inside scoop about the organization.
Review your resume – Study your resume and be familiar with the content you have included. Determine how it reflects the qualities the organization is seeking. Determine if there are any skills or qualities that your resume does not reflect that you would like to emphasize in the interview.
Relate experiences to position – For each quality or skill that you identified as important from the organization’s perspective, think of a specific example which demonstrates you have that quality or skill. For example, If they ask me about leadership, I’m going to talk about the time I was the project manager for the population study…
What to bring
- Be sure to bring several copies of your resume tucked away neatly in a portfolio.
- Reference sheet, typed on the same nice paper as your resume
- Nice pen and paper to make notes; although you do not want to be feverishly taking notes during the interview. Only make notes if the interviewer asks you to write something down
- Your personal calendar in case they want to make another appointment
- Bring toothpaste or mouthwash and floss to freshen up if needed; particularly if you are interviewing over lunch or dinner; breath mints at the very least
- Tissues, in case your nose begins to run
- Women may want to bring another pair of pantyhose
- Samples of projects or a small portfolio of your work
- An attitude that you are excited to be interviewing and enthusiastic about the company
What to wear
- Always err on the side of conservative and you will be safe
- Men should wear suits (preferred) or sport coats with a tie and a pressed white, light blue, or off white dress shirt
- Men should wear blue or black socks and their leg should not show if they cross one knee over the other
- Women should wear a suit or pantsuit with understated jewelry
- Shoes should be comfortable for walking, free of scuffs, and for the ladies, low heels
- Hair should be neat and combed; keep out of your eyes
- Do not use heavy perfume or aftershave
- Do not smoke before your interview
- Do not chew gum during your interview
- See also the UCS Pinterest site for additional ideas
One chance to make a good first impression
- Be on time; actually a little early, but not too early.
- Be polite to everyone you meet.
- Use body language to show that you are confident. Sit up straight and pay attention.
- Wait for the interviewer to extend their hand; make sure your hand shake is firm and that you look them in the eye.
- Wait for the interviewer to ask you to be seated.
- Remember the interviewers name; refer to them by last name i.e., Mr. or Ms. Surname; refer to them by their last name unless they invite you to use their first name.
- Show enthusiasm and confidence by smiling and using humor when appropriate.
Learn about the company
When applying for jobs or preparing for an interview, it is important to learn as much as possible about the company or organization of interest.
This information will help you to decide whether you might like to work for a potential employer. Also, you may be asked questions during an interview about how familiar you are with the company/organization, and why you are interested in a position there.
Start with the company/organization website
Find it through an internet search engine such as Google. Here are some points to focus on:
- Company history, vision, mission
- Explore the website–get a feel for the focus, direction, size, environment of the organization
- Available job opportunities (look for a link to Careers, Employment, “Join…”)
- Are there a lot of open positions in one area?
- What qualifications are normally desired?
- Any key contacts for networking?
You may also be interested in:
- Public or private ownership? Profit or not-for-profit?
- Publicly held companies have stock exchange ticker symbol.
- Example: search Yahoo! Finance, use ticker to search further
- If applicable, what is the source of funding?
- Impact of politics, policy, public opinion?
- Current issues facing the organization?
Some resources which can be helpful for researching this information include:
Vault: search for information, employee surveys, message boards on companies
National Center for Charitable Statistics: FAQs about non-profits in general
Google blog search
Google news: searches thousands of news resources