Job interviews can be pretty intimidating, especially if you’ve never done one before. It can be even worse if you’re interviewing for your dream job, or even a graduate program. But there are ways to lessen the pain, make it more bearable, and even ace that interview. If you make the most of the Summer Job and Career Fair on February 2, you may wind up with a full schedule of interviews coming your way, so now’s the time to get prepared!
Know your resume and cover letter
Your potential boss is going to have them on the table, so you can bet they’re going to ask you questions about them. Make sure you know the details of what’s on them and be prepared to talk about your work/education/volunteering history.
Know the company or organization
It’s important to know what the organization and company does, who the key players are, and if it’s been in the news lately. You’ll likely be asked:
- What do you know about this organization?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
It’s important to research the organization and come prepared with as much information about it as possible. It’s also good to come up with good questions to ask the interviewer about the organization and their role in it.
Know the dress code
You can always look online at the organization’s website to get a sense of the typical attire in the office/place of work. Or, when in doubt, dress in (clean, ironed) business casual clothes. Here are a couple of ideas:
- A button-up shirt with a collar and nice pants. If you want to take it up a notch, add a blazer or sports jacket. Tie is optional, depending on the type of job you’re applying for.
- Plain dress pants or a nice (not too short) black skirt, with a button-up shirt or a blouse. Top it off with a nice jacket if you want.
You want to be about 5–10 minutes early for the interview. If you’re any earlier, you should wait outside. If you go 20 minutes early and check in, it may rush the interviewer which could start you off on the wrong foot. Make sure you know how long it takes to get there because you definitely don’t want to misjudge it and show up late. It’s just as bad to show up 5 minutes late as it is 20 minutes.
When you arrive, greet the interviewers with a solid, firm handshake and say something like, “It’s great to me you. Thank you very much for meeting with me.”
How to answer some typical questions
- “Tell me about yourself”: Talk about your personal attributes or experience that match what they’re looking for. Talk about things that interest you that relate to the job. Talk about things you’re passionate about and try to make them fit into the job criteria. They’re looking to see if you’re right for the job—and the organization—not get details on how you binge-watch Netflix on the weekends.
- “Why should we hire you?”: Tell them about the skills that make you right for the job. They also want to know what your personality is like to see if you’re a good fit. Don’t brag or fake—be real and humble.
- “What are your strengths?”: Be careful with this one: you don’t want to seem over confident. Be honest and focus on one or two strengths and how they relate to the job.
- “What are your weaknesses?”: Don’t say things like, “I work too hard.” They don’t want to hear that. Be honest. If you’re not great with written communication, tell them so and how you plan to improve that weakness. You can use past experience of a time when you improved a weakness to show them that you have room to improve and are capable of change.
- Trick questions like, “What spirit animal would you be?”: Be honest and true to yourself, but make sure the qualities relate to the skills you need for the job. Tell them why and relate it back to the job. A little humour never hurts, but just make sure you know your audience!
For behaviour-based questions, like ones that ask you to talk about an experience you’ve had that required you to use a certain skill, you can use the P-A-R technique:
- P – problem: Identify the problem or situation and relate it to the question that was asked.
- A – action: Describe the actions you took in detail to deal with the problem.
- R – result: Tell them about how the problem panned out—make sure it was a positive result or draw upon a difference experience.
Watch your body language
Body language can make or break your interview. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Keep your chin up
- Look engaged by leaning forward (but not so much that you’re in the interviewer’s face)
- Move your hands throughout—use them to emphasize points when you’re speaking
- Maintain eye contact
- Look over-confident—make sure you look humble and appreciative to be in the interview
- Don’t cross your legs
- Don’t cross your arms
- Don’t play with or look at your phone—in fact, turn it off and keep it in your jacket pocket or bag
- Don’t lean back into the chair—sit upright
- Don’t fiddle with pens or sheets of paper in your lap—leave your lands in your lap or on the table (when you’re not using them to emphasize your points)
- Don’t look down or up when answering a question—make eye contact! If you have an interview with more than one person, make eye contact with everyone
Ask them questions
It’s intimidating to ask your potential employers questions at the end of the interview. But it’s always best to have some questions prepared. Avoid ones about the salary and benefits that come with the job—you may come off as wanting the job for those main reasons. Ask questions that show your interest in the job or company.
When researching the organization, find information about interesting things it has done recently (has it been in the news for any good reasons?) and ask about them. Ask how the job may relate to these new developments, or even to things it’s done in the past.
Ask about the culture at the organization. Does the staff socialize outside the office? Is there a company softball team? Ask questions that show you want more than a job, you want to be a part of the organization.
End the interview graciously
Always end by thanking them for their time and the opportunity to meet with them, and finish with a good firm handshake. Always bring your list of references in case they ask for them. It’s also good to send a thank-you email or card to thank them again. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way, and it helps keep your name on their mind.
Visit Dal’s career support resources
In Halifax, the Career and Leadership Development Centre (CLDC) on the 4th floor of the SUB can help prepare you for many professional opportunities. They offer things like mock interviews, and help review your resumes and cover letters. There are also workshops offered in preparation for the Summer Job and Career Fair—find out more about how to prepare for the fair, and learn from employers about how to make an impression! If you’re on the Agricultural Campus, get in touch with the Student Success Centre in the Dairy Building for help honing those interview skills. You can also check with your academic department about support resources in the faculty that can help with career-related issues.
Kauri’s first job interview was for this job.