The interview is the most important step in the job search process. To interview effectively, you need to obtain information about the employer, the kind of position you want, and an understanding of your career interests and aspirations. Being able to answer questions with supportive details and in a conversational manner is very important. Hence, thorough preparation is essential. All interviewers have two major questions in mind:
- How well suited are you for the job?
- Are you genuinely interested in the employer and the position?
They are trying to get enough information about your background, strengths, and level of interest to answer these questions. In addition, as a prospective employee, you need to be learning as much as you can about the position and work place so you can decide if they are what you want. Our Career Services staff is here to help. Here is what you need to do:
Create Your Gameplan
Create your personal game plan to put your "best self" forward at an interview. Print this checklist to be sure you are on track before your next interview.
Looking for more interviewing tips and tricks? Check out our PSU videos on Candid Career
What to Wear
Although business attire may vary by industry or company, you typically cannot go wrong with a professional business suit. Here are the guidelines.
- Suit - dark blue, grey, black, or brown
- Dress shirt (long-sleeved) - white or coordinating light color
- Tie (conservative in color/pattern)
- Dress socks - dark color
- Dress shoes - black or brown (polished)
- Jewelry - limit to one ring and watch
- Suit - dark blue, grey, black or brown (skirt or slacks)
- Skirt - knee length; Slacks - not tight
- Blouse with collar - white or coordinating light color
- Hosiery (a must!) - natural color
- Dress shoes - black, brown, dark blue, grey (polished); closed toe, low to moderate heel
- Jewelry - limit to one set of earrings, a watch, two rings, a small necklace
- Have your suit fitted properly
- Refrain from wearing too much jewelry or anything distracting
- Refrain from wearing strong cologne, perfume or other strong scents
- Use good hygiene including well-groomed nails and hair
Identify Your Direction and Purpose.
Employers seek candidates with direction and purpose. Be prepared to discuss your skills and experience as they relate to the employer's needs.
Why did you choose to pursue this career/job?
What interests you about this field? This is a very common question among employers. They want to know why you are interested in working for them. They are also looking to see that you are interested and enthusiastic about your chosen career field.
What kinds of things have you done to explore this career area and learn more about it?
Employers are looking for demonstrated commitment, interest, and enthusiasm. The best way to show this is by sharing your past experiences related to your chosen career area. Be prepared to describe your internship, volunteer, or work experience that may have helped you to learn more about the industry. You can also share what you learned from your own research or informational interviews with current professionals or alumni in the industry/profession.
What are your immediate and long-term career goals?
No one expects you to know for certain where you will be or what you will be doing five years from now, but it is a good idea to have a plan for how you intend to reach your career goals. Employers may inquire about your career goals for a variety of reasons. If you consider this ahead of time, you won't be "stumped" during the interview.
Why do you believe you will be a good fit for this position and company?
Consider what interested you about the position in the first place. Does it include using skills you enjoy? Does the company philosophy match with your values? Will you be able to work with a certain population of interest to you - or does it provide you the autonomy you crave? Make your case to the employer. Explain why you are the best candidate for this job.
Identify Your Skills and Experience
Evaluate current and previous work, volunteer, or project experience.
What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Did you work with particular groups of people, departments, equipment, staff, outside vendors, etc? What challenges did you experience and how did you handle them? What would you do differently? What experiences brought you the most satisfaction or enjoyment? What did you enjoy the least? Answering these questions before the interview will make it easier for you to discuss your experience with an employer during the interview.
Identify your strengths, as well as areas in which you need improvement.
Have honest discussions with friends, family, or your professors or advisors. What do they think your strengths are, and what could you improve upon? What will you do to work on these areas? Knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths when it comes to the interviewing process.
Skills most often sought by employers:
Problem Solving/Reasoning, Communication/Listening, Interpersonal Communication/Relationship Building, Teamwork/Collaboration, Technical Proficiency (basic computer skills and/or additional technical skills which may be required for the profession)
Personal qualities desired by employers:
Positive Attitude, Honesty/Integrity, Energy/Enthusiasm, Strong Work Ethic/Dedication to Company, Flexibility/Adaptability to Change, Punctuality/Reliability, Willingness to Learn/Stay Current on Skills (embrace new processes, policies, and technology).
Know the Employer
Impress employers with your knowledge of the organization and industry.
- Start with the website. Review the history, client list/product line, values/vision statement/philosophy, structure, and anything else that will help you to become more familiar with the employer.
- Use the internet to expand your search. Try keywords, industry terms, or the position title used on the company's site and review the results. Read the latest press releases and financial reports for the employer. Check out industry competitors as well. You may be surprised at what you learn!
- Professional Organizations. Most professions and industries have organizations associated with them. These organization websites are goldmines of information targeted to your career area. A quick internet search should reveal the most popular/common professional organizations for your career field. Examples include the American Psychological Association (APA), American Marketing Association (AMA), Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and the International Communication Association (ICA).
- Use database and search tools. Vault, Hoovers, and WetFeet are great places to start, but your campus library may have access to additional databases with company profile information.
- Locate alumni. One of the best ways to find out what it's like to work for a company/organization is to talk to someone who works there. Visit http://www.psualumcareer.com/ - a networking program to help students and alumni make connections for occupational information and professional contacts.