If you are a job-seeking student in high school or college, you may not have a ton of experience with job interviews. The last step in getting a job is successfully nailing your interview. Here are tips and suggestions (tailored for students) to help you prepare, go-on, and complete a job interview, either in person or virtually, as many employers now conduct their interviews online via video link.
Before the Interview
Dress for Success
If you don't own any professional clothing (jeans and t-shirts usually do not fall into this category), then it's time to invest in some grown-up clothing. While some companies, especially start-ups, are a little less buttoned-up than, say, a bank or legal firm, it may be useful to discern your potential company's dress code before your interview.
If your job interview is online via Zoom or a similar platform, make sure to avoid strong patterns that might be distracting on video and keep your outfit professional—even if you don't think they will see what you are wearing from head-to-toe.
If you not sure where the interview location is, go there before the day of the interview, find your parking options, and make sure you know where to go. On the day of the interview, make sure you leave in plenty of time to get there, not just on time but early.
Make Sure Your Computer Is Properly Set Up
If your interview is a virtual one, you want to spare yourself (and the interviewer) any technical headaches and hiccups, so make sure you arrive at your computer early too. Do a thorough check of your speakers, camera, and don't forget to ensure the distance to the camera and angle (eye-level) are fine. Download in advance any app (like Zoom) you may need for the call and right before the interview. Check yourself on the app by testing the video and audio levels one last time before the interview begins.
- Whether you are interviewing in-person or online, do your research on the company ahead of time and be prepared to speak confidently about why you are a good fit for the job.
- Practice for your interview with a friend, mentor, professor, or family member. If you have a virtual interview, practice using an online tool to get comfortable with a video format.
- Always write a follow-up thank you email or card after your interview.
- If you are asked to conduct a virtual interview, make sure you are set up for a smooth technical experience. Check your camera and audio before the interview begins.
- Even if you don't get the job, a great interview and a well-written thank-you note may impress the interviewer, who may consider you for other jobs in the future.
Research the Company
Whether you interview in-person or not, you need to do your research. Most companies have a website with plenty of background information about the founders, company history, company mission statement, and so on.
Spend an hour reading through the company website and search for press releases, news items, and articles related to the business. Try to figure out where you would fit into the company and what skills you should highlight. Being able to talk confidently about the company and your potential role is a good way to show the interviewer that you want to work for them.
Research Potential Questions They May Ask You
Once you do your research on the company you want to work at, do some research into the potential questions they may ask you during the interview. Use Glassdoor.com to help you. The website allows you to type the name of your potential company and find questions asked to other candidates who have gone through the interview process. You can even see the outcome of their interviews.
Remember Your Resume
Even if you snagged the job interview via your LinkedIn profile, bring a hard copy of your resume, just in case someone asks for it. Make sure it is up-to-date, polished, and easy to read. If no one asks for it, ask the interviewer if they would like a copy of it at the end of the interview.
Write Your Pitch and Practice Sharing It
A classic elevator pitch is a 30-second blurb about you: who you are, what you offer, what you can bring to the business. Yes, it's self-promotional, You can do it, though, and you should do it. It helps you to focus on your strengths and skills, which is essential.
Have a friend, mentor, or parent sit down with you for a practice interview and offer your best elevator pitch. Have them ask you some typical interview questions and give your best answer. You can ask for feedback, but it's more important that you practice the process of interviewing so that you are more comfortable with it.
During the Interview
Unless you are asked to use their first names, address your interviewer with their last name. Don't interrupt. Shake hands. Pull out those manners and use them, including maintaining good posture and positive body language. Stand up straight, walk tall and sit up straight in your chair.
If you are on a virtual interview, make sure to keep your backdrop professional, clear off any clutter in the way of the video, and don't eat or drink during it.
Make sure not to overshare in an interview and never speak badly of a former colleague, professor, or teacher.
Always Tell the Truth
Never lie during a job interview. Even if something is embarrassing or potentially problematic, when asked, you should answer honestly. But make sure not to share more than necessary. A few personal comments are OK, but they want to know if you can do the job and be a safer, better choice than the other students.
Be an Interview Extrovert
Even if you're an introvert, pretend to be an extrovert and adopt an extrovert persona for an hour or talk about yourself comfortably. Likewise, if you're an extrovert, don't overshare. Keep it professional.
Make Eye Contact
Making good eye contact is a skill, and sometimes it is difficult for young people to do it with confidence. Eye contact shows an employer that you are sincere, confident, and trustworthy. As a student interviewing for a job, you may not bring years of experience to the table. Still, you bring ambition, fresh perspective, willingness to work hard, and plenty of other valuable assets. Keep that in mind, and you can handle yourself with both courtesy and confidence.
After the Interview
Send a thank-you email right away after the interview. Keep it short and sincere and grammatically correct. Thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate that you are interested in the opportunity. You might not have felt it, but you were also evaluating the company and interviewing them, so let them know you are still interested. If you are worried about what to write in your email, try using a follow-up email template and get advice on writing it from experts at Indeed or Glassdoor to help you craft your follow-up email.
The Bottom Line
Being a recent grad or student in any job market can be daunting, especially if you've never had to give an in-person or virtual interview. Practicing and polishing your interview skills is a great way to ensure you are prepared when you are asked to interview for a job.
And even if you don't get the specific job you interview for, a great interview may mean the interviewer will keep you in mind for other positions down the line.