From classroom to boardroom, part two: The job interview

  • Preparation, punctuality, confidence, and observation can turn a good job interview into a great one for any job candidate.
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This post continues our "From Classroom to Boardroom" series. To read the first installment, click here.

Part 2: Nice to Meet You!

After weeks of job hunting, you have finally been invited for an interview. Congratulations! You are ready to meet the person you hope will be your future employer. Here are few tips to help you practice so you will be prepared:

  • First impressions count. Researchers have found that first impressions are formed within the first seven seconds of an encounter. While companies will evaluate your professional skills and potential, your overall image from the start is critical.
    • Punctuality: On time is late. Arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Unlike university, where showing up 10 minutes late to class may have little to no impact, arriving late for an interview could compromise your chances at getting the job.
    • Attire: It may seem obvious, but dress appropriately for the occasion. People will immediately notice how you look. Wear a suit, be tidy and pay attention to details (stains, missing buttons, rumpled shirt, etc.). Be prepared. For example, check the weather. If rain is possible, keep an umbrella handy. This will help you avoid arriving soaked to an interview. Trust me, I have been there!
    • Handshake: A proper handshake can make a difference. Avoid a super strong or a weak “limp fish” grip. A good handshake should be firm and accompanied by good eye contact, which conveys confidence.
    • Body language: Be mindful of your posture, attitude and gestures. Avoid slouching, frowning or crossing your arms. Stand and sit up straight, keep your hands folded on your lap and nod when appropriate to confirm you are listening to the person conducting the interview. Remember to smile.
    • Be you. Companies want to hire the real you, so let your personality shine!
  • Be prepared for anything. Many types of questions will be asked during an interview. Your future employer wants to get to know you and see how you may fit in the company. Of course, you will be asked general questions meant to assess motivation, experiences, industry knowledge and personality. You will also likely be asked “outside the box” questions. For example, an interviewer asked me to outline detailed steps I would take to resolve a conflict of interest between the company and the Minister of Foreign Affairs – in Spanish!  Think about how you would integrate into a team and how you would handle on-the-job challenges such as stress, conflicts, deadlines, etc. Practice responses to potential questions.
  • Respect everyone. There are many generations in the workplace. You may be greeted and interviewed by a baby boomer, Gen Xer or even a fellow millennial. There are perceptions about all generations. For example, millennials are stereotyped as entitled, lazy and impersonal; you may think older generations are boring, old-fashioned and technologically challenged. As a young candidate, keep this in mind and dispel any preconceived notions. Show the interviewer and potential colleagues you are goal-oriented, a great team player and ready to make a difference. 
  • Notice your surroundings. During the interview, take mental notes about the company location, tidiness, interviewer’s attitude and the way you are greeted upon arrival, as these can give you hints about the environment. Politely ask current employees about the work dynamic. Such details can tell you a lot about how the company values its employees. In one of my first interviews, every interviewer arrived 20 to 50 minutes late, and one of them seemed more interested in his phone and cigarette breaks than in what I had to say. This clearly communicated the company had little respect for its employees. Do not be afraid to pass on a job opportunity if the work environment has left you with an unpleasant feeling. Finding a job that balances a great environment with a motivating team is important.
  • Ask questions. Always prepare a few questions about the company and its people before your interview. This shows curiosity and your interest in learning more about your future workplace. Many times, companies will hire a curious, dynamic and motivated individual over someone who may have a better resume. Ask about your potential responsibilities, the company culture, management style and growth opportunities. This will help you make an informed decision when the offer comes through.

Remember, you will never get a second chance to make a great first impression. No matter the outcome of your interviews, stay positive, focus on your strengths and be ready to take on the amazing opportunities coming your way!