Article originally published on SharpHeels
For many of us, college was our first experience as adults. We lived away from home and took care of our own schoolwork, schedules, and responsibilities. College is a time of constant transition and learning, but there is one thing that students might not learn during their college career: how to ace the employment interview.
While many college campuses across the country offer classes focused on career preparedness and interviewing strategies, these courses are usually not required to graduate. Knowing what’s really important when it comes to interviewing will help you successfully transition from student to working professional. Here are three key tips:
1. Don’t go in blind or empty-handed.
Reading a company’s mission statement and scanning a few pages on its website won’t necessarily arm you with the information you’ll need to ace an interview. Instead, spend your time learning about the values that are important to the company. Make sure you read through employee bios to get a feel for who the staff is, and take note of any similarities in your own personality or of anything that makes you feel as though you would be a good asset to the team. These are the things you should know before going to the interview.
Additionally, educate yourself on the company’s culture. Employees who fit in with the company’s culture make a work environment successful, so employers look for applicants who share the company’s vision, values, and norms. Show your interviewers that their beliefs and values are important to you by highlighting aspects of your personality and work ethic that align with them. This will differentiate you from other candidates vying for the same position, and help your interviewers to visualize you working in the office alongside them.
It is not recommended to show up for an interview empty-handed, but the traditional notion of bringing paper and pen to take notes is outdated and not useful anymore. You need to portray yourself as a professional, not a student, and engage with your interviewer rather than sit and listen while taking notes. Bring things that show your talents and skills; for example, class projects that show potential employers what you’re capable of.
2. Dress comfortably and appropriately for the environment.
Keep your outfit polished and professional. Don’t wear anything that is too tight or revealing. Many companies have adopted casual dress codes, so it can be difficult to decide what to wear, but something between business casual and business professional is always a safe bet. Most importantly, make sure that you are comfortable in what you are wearing.
The first key to comfort is wearing shoes you can easily walk in. Companies in metropolitan areas often do not have parking that leads to the front door. You don’t want to show up to an interview with blisters forming on your feet because you wore shoes that weren’t easy to walk in.
It’s also a good idea to opt for pants rather than a skirt, because you don’t know what kind of environment you’ll be interviewing in. Having a wardrobe that works in a variety of settings and that you are comfortable and self-assured in will eliminate some of your pre-interview stress.
3. Be confident in your strengths and honest about your weaknesses.
While confidence is the key to making a good impression, over-exaggerating your capabilities is not a good tactic. In the moment, you may feel like playing up your skills and overstating your strengths might increase your chances of landing the job, but if you do, in fact, land the job, your employer will expect you to deliver on whatever you promised in your interview. If you claimed to know something that you don’t actually know, it won’t matter how poised or personable you were in the interview, or how much you connected with your interviewers; your credibility with the person who hired you and the people you are working with will be ruined. This kind of mistrust can possibly lead to your termination from the position.
It’s important to remember that someone running a business will appreciate your honesty when it comes to your skills. As long as you can show a potential employer that you are aware of weak spots and are actively working to improve, you should not be afraid of being truthful. Your interviewer will appreciate you even more for your candor, and it may position you as an even better fit for the company than he or she may have originally thought. Stay confident and be honest in how you represent yourself and your abilities.
The more you interview, the more things you will learn and the better able you will be to develop your own unique style, but these tips are a good starting point to help you showcase your personality, honesty, and work ethic. Don’t be intimidated by the transition from student to working professional. Embrace it, and remember that you have skills and talents to offer. Let those shine through and you’ll find success.
Have questions about interviewing, or your own tips for new grads? We want to hear them! Comment below or contact one of our expert recruiters today! Find the closest CFS location to you here.