You know that presenting your best possible self in an interview requires both professional and personal preparation. But you also have to keep track of logistical details and much more. The following information will help you keep track of all those logistical details.
One to Two Weeks Before
- Practice interviewing by role playing — a great tool. Talk aloud about your skills and accomplishments as well as your possible responses to behavioral-type questions. Have a friend — preferably someone who’s been through the process—ask you questions and listen to your answers. If possible, have someone videotape a practice interview and critique it. You can also practice in front of a mirror.
- Request from the company any forms you can fill out in advance. Take your time to review and fill them out neatly and completely, without having to rush while on-site.
- Request a copy of the agenda for the interview. This should list the people you will be talking to as well as how long you’ll be meeting with each of them. Learn about their research, their publications and any patents or other professional accomplishments they have—it will make your meeting with them more productive.
- Study your résumé — and make sure it’s the version you sent to that employer. No matter how many times you’ve read it before, read it again. Dates and achievements must be fresh in your mind so you can be ready to tell the interviewer all about them and how they match the organization’s needs.
- If your interview is out of town, confirm all transportation and lodging arrangements. Ask about procedures for submitting your expenses. Check the outfit you plan to wear, and make sure it’s dry-cleaned or neatly pressed. If it’s a brand-new outfit, make sure to wear it at least once before the interview. For more advice about clothing, ask at a reputable clothing store or consult a placement office counselor at your college or university.
- Prepare your list of job-related questions, conducting extensive research into the organization.
- Fine-tune your presentation and materials.
The Day Before
- Verify the meeting details. Who will be there? When will it start? How long will the meeting last? Where will it be held?
- Confirm the directions. Make sure you know how long it will take you to get there and what time you’ll have to leave, allowing for traffic. Jot down the time and place (including floor and suite number) so, even if you’re a little nervous, you will still arrive at the right place at the right time. Make a note of the interviewer’s phone number so you can call if you’re delayed.
- Pack the essentials. In your briefcase or folder, place the information you’ve assembled about the organization, the questions you have prepared, extra copies of your résumé, your publication list, a list of references, a pad of paper, and a couple of pens or pencils. Make sure you have your presentation, as well as a backup. Bring enough change for subway fare, parking, tolls, and telephone calls, and don’t forget chargers for phones and laptops. Listen to the weather forecast to determine whether you need an umbrella or raincoat.
- Get a good night’s sleep – after setting the alarm to leave you plenty of time to get ready.
A Good First Impression
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so get it right. Arrive on time; there are no acceptable excuses for being late to an interview. It’s better to sit in your car in the parking lot for a few minutes than to arrive late, so always err on the side of allowing extra time.
What you wear is part of how you sell yourself to an employer; those who pay attention to how they dress are perceived as more professional. Even though you don’t need to spend more than you can afford on business attire, dress appropriately. It’s better to err on the side of being overdressed than underdressed.
Before you step through the door at the interview facility, take a moment to turn off or silence your cell phone. Texting or talking on a cell phone during or between interviews will likely be interpreted unfavorably by an interviewer.
The first few minutes of the interview are the most important; that’s when your interviewer will form a lasting impression of you. How you look and behave will set the tone for the rest of your meeting. If you’ve adequately prepared for the interview, you should do well. The more interviews you have, the more comfortable you will feel with the process. Your goal is to sell yourself to a prospective employer by demonstrating belief and confidence in your work, sincerity in your purpose, courtesy in your dealings with others, and tact in difficult situations.
After the Interview
During the wrap-up discussion, ask when you can expect to hear back from the company. There are several ways to stay on the company’s radar screen:
- Follow-up phone calls
- Personalized thank you notes
- Ask when a decision will be made and call back on the agreed-upon day
- Updating your network on your progress
Send thank-you notes to those with whom you spoke as soon as you get home. What you say and how you say it are perhaps more important than whether you send it by e-mail or through the postal service. Your letter could break the tie between you and the other candidates, so put some thought into what you say.
A standard thank-you note should be very brief, and can include:
- Thank the person for the opportunity to interview.
- Recap some of the conversational highlights.
- Clarify any information you needed to check on for the interviewer.
- Reiterate your enthusiasm about this opportunity.
If you conclude that you are not really interested in the position, send a thank-you letter anyway. You want to leave a good impression; in the future you may want to apply for another job with the same organization or you may end up working for another company that does business with this organization.
If your interview was out of town and the organization is covering your expenses, be sure to submit your expense account and receipts separately from your thank-you letter, and promptly. Keep copies of receipts for your own records.