The interview process begins at your placement office. To maximize your employment prospects, begin to become familiar with companies, preferably during your junior year of college.
Follow these guidelines:
- Register with your placement office at the end of your sophomore year.
- Become familiar with the placement office’s function and role.
- Determine when on-campus interviews are held.
- Determine when interview schedules are posted and refer to them frequently.
- Sign up early for interviews.
- Talk to as many firms as possible.
- Read employer literature.
- Keep your placement records up to date.
- Prepare a systematic job search plan.
- Get the best advice and assistance you can. Talk to faculty, employers and placement office staff if you have any questions.
- Become familiar with the recruiter’s name and interview location.
- Speak with recent graduates who have been through the process.
- Visit various firm websites.
In today’s job market, securing a job is a highly competitive activity. Employers seek the best qualified candidates for their limited number of openings. But being the best qualified is not enough. You must have the skills to communicate that effectively to the employer. Unfortunately, these two qualities do not automatically go hand in hand.
The job interview is the means by which you, the job applicant, and the employer come together and communicate to determine common interests. It also might be the first time you come into direct contact with each other. For these reasons the first interview is the most critical and should be the focal point of your job search.
To some extent, the format of an interview is the creation of the interviewer. No two interviews are the same. Individual personalities are bound to influence the conduct of an interview. Also, since there is a great deal of mutuality in an interview, you may directly or indirectly influence its course. The basic structure of a job interview is quite standard. A typical interview has four parts:
1. Introduction – Establish rapport.
2. Background – Yours. The what, why, where, when.
3. Discussion – Matching needs. Yours and the employer’s.
4. Close – Final questions and instructions.
During the introduction, the interviewer notes his or her first impressions of you and makes initial judgments about your:
- Professional appearance
- Communication skills
This is when the interviewer determines your basic qualifications for the job. He or she will try to determine if you meet or exceed the company’s job requirements. While you are listening or responding to questions, the interviewer will note how you handle yourself, evaluate your qualifications and suitability for employment, and revise (or confirm) the initial judgment made during the introduction. You may have to provide answers to questions such as:
- Why would you like to work for our company?
- What are your career ambitions?
- Tell me about your work experiences. What did you gain from them?
- How did you like your university courses?
- Tell me about your extracurricular activities.
- What made you choose your major?
- What makes you think you could be successful in this job?
- What leadership experience do you have?
- What courses did you like best? Least? Why?
- What are your geographic preferences?
- How do your work experiences relate to our job opening?
- What made you choose this university?
- What do you know about our company?
- Do you plan to go to graduate school?
- What in your opinion are the personal characteristics necessary for success in your field?
- What do you want to be doing five years from now?
- What two or three things are most important to you for an initial job assignment?
- What criteria are you using to interview employers?
- What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
- How do you get along with fellow students?
- They may not ask, “Why should we hire you?” but you should be able to answer this question before the interview.
The interviewer also evaluates your ability to communicate in a clear and logical manner. He or she is also seeking clues to measure and evaluate your:
- Ability to relate to others
- Level of motivation
- Short- and long-term goals
Also under review are your statements about career ambitions. Are they balanced with your past academic performance, work experience, extracurricular activities and other interests? A good self-assessment can make you more articulate and help direct your thinking in responding to such questions.
Don’t shortchange yourself when talking about work experiences. All your work background is important, whether or not it relates to the job you seek. This includes part-time, full-time, volunteer, intern and co-op experience.
Evaluate your work experiences in terms of attributes and skills you expect to bring to your new career. Relate them in a positive manner. Remember, employers want employees who are:
- Eager to work
- Team players
The discussion is a critical part of any interview. It is here that the interviewer tries to match your qualifications and career interests with the opportunities available at a company. Having read the company’s literature and conducted other research on the company and the type of jobs you qualify for and are interested in, you should now be able to enter a constructive dialogue about how you can fit into and be profitable to the company. Sell your product yourself.
Here you have the opportunity to ask questions, covering new information and clarifying previous points, such as:
- How long is the training program? Can an individual go through it in a shorter time? At his or her own pace? When does it begin?
- How much travel is involved?
- What are the duties and responsibilities of this job?
- What would a typical day be like?
- How often are performance evaluations conducted?
- How much contact is there with management?
- Where are the job openings located?
- What is the housing market like in the city?
- Is this job the result of expansion or new growth?
- What diversity programs does the employer have?
It’s best to avoid asking questions that can be answered by reading the company’s literature. Finally, if comments on salary are to be included in the interviews, it will generally be in the discussion phase. Let the interviewer mention salary first. You should have some idea of current salary levels from discussions with placement office representatives and faculty before the interview, so the importance of salary will be minimized at this stage. The discussion is also a chance for you to point out important qualifications that the employer may have left out or passed over lightly. Do not be afraid to point them out. You may not get another chance.
This is the wrap-up. If the interviewer is really excited about you, you could get a last minute “selling job” on the company. Also, ask any final questions you might have. You will get instructions about what will happen next, such as:
- Being told when you will receive a decision
- Being requested to supply additional information.
- Being invited for an office visit
- Suggesting another meeting
- Expressing no further interest