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Interview Prep 101

Your step-by-step guide to interview success starts here.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Know as much as you can about the company you are interviewing with. Go beyond the “basics” by researching the following:

  • trends
  • mission
  • culture

Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice
Just because you are a “people person” doesn’t mean you’ll automatically ace the interview. Be familiar with talking about yourself, your goals, activities, projects, employment, etc., through a practice interview - an important step in preparing yourself for the real thing. You are encouraged to use Big Interview to practice your interviewing online.

Step 3: Be on Time and Be Polite
Make sure you know where the interview is taking place in advance. Plan your route and method of travel early and keep things like traffic and delays in mind.

Step 4: Dress and Act Appropriately
Wear a suit; first impressions last! Make sure you maintain a neat, clean, professional appearance. High profile industries, especially, will expect a polished presentation that includes a suit even though you’re still a student. Have a firm hand shake, and maintain eye contact and a straight posture and SMILE. Avoid perfume and cologne and wear simple jewelry. Avoid slang and overly familiar language. Avoid “filler language” such as “like” or “ummm.” Keep everything positive. Speak about yourself, even your weaknesses, in a positive light of growth and curiosity. SELL yourself and your skills!

Dress for Success

Step 5: Organize Your Thoughts
Your answers should be concise but also complete. Make sure you begin with the answer to their question and then follow up with examples and additional information. The more you practice and become familiar with questions that could potentially be asked, the more comfortable and organized you will be.

Step 6: Be Specific
This is one of the most important points. Don’t just tell an interviewer that you’re great – tell them WHY you are great for them! In other words, “sell, don’t tell.” Not only what did you do, but why is that significant? What are your top three strengths? How have you proven that throughout your college experience (an internship, project, activity, leadership position etc.)?  If you cannot back something up do not talk about it in an interview. These things are what make you memorable. Set yourself apart from the other candidates interviewing for the same position.

Step 7: Make a Bridge Between You and the Employer
Again, this is one of the most important points. What are they looking for and how do YOU CONNECT with that? What types of things are mentioned in their job description? How have you demonstrated those skills? Those are huge indicators in terms of the things you want to highlight in the interview.

Step 8: Ask Questions
Prove that you have been thoughtful about the process of interviewing by asking questions that reflect your knowledge of the field and/or position. Do NOT ask questions that raise “red flags” such as salary, vacation etc. The company should bring up salary first. Also avoid questions that can be easily answered by the organization’s webpage.

Step 9: Send a Thank You Note
Send either a typed or emailed thank you note to all individuals you interviewed with. Ask for business cards while at the interview. Whether you type and mail your thank you note or email it is up to you but sending it immediately is imperative. Mention something that struck you from the interview (i.e., that was particularly interesting or that you learned). Personalizing thank you notes goes a long way. Feel free to follow up with any questions or information you did not feel you answered sufficiently.

Step 10: Evaluate
Is this a place you think you would enjoy working? Do you feel comfortable in the environment? Remember, part of an interview is also deciding if this is the type of position you would accept. Prove that you have been thoughtful about the process of interviewing by asking questions that reflect your knowledge of the field and position.

Tips for Phone Interviews

Phone interviews can be awkward, but they are a useful tool for an employer hoping to narrow down a large pool of applicants, simplify the recruiting process for an out-of-town candidate, or minimize expenses for their organization. Your goal, simply put, is to convince the employer that you are a candidate worth advancing to the next round. 

Before the scheduled phone interview

Research the company and the position. Make sure you can expertly respond to the question, “why are you interested in my company and why this position.”  Take a test run! Have a friend, family member, or an advisor within our office conduct a mock interview over the phone. This small bit of preparation can go a long way to helping you enhance your phone interview. Clear your area of any distractions; this means your friends, loud music, TV, etc. Pour yourself a glass of water to keep nearby in case your mouth gets dry.

During the Phone Interview

Don’t worry if, at times, the conversation feels awkward or a bit stilted. This is to be expected and the recruiter certainly understands the complexities involved with a phone interview. It is not uncommon for both parties to begin speaking at the same time. If this happens, simply say excuse me and invite the interviewer to continue. Be enthusiastic. You cannot use your expressions, body language, or eye contact to show your interest, you will have to do this through your words.  Sometimes, the simple act of standing up during your conversation can be extremely helpful.  Don’t ramble! The conversation should feel like a dialogue with you, the interviewee, speaking slightly more than the interviewer. Try to avoid words like um, uh, like and okay.

Take Notes: Have a pen and paper handy to take notes. Information to gather might be: skills or attributes the company is seeking, a more detailed job description, and training and development programs. If your call-waiting should beep during the conversation, do not answer it. Just as you would in a face-to-face interview, be sure to ask approximately two or three thoughtful questions at the end of the conversation. Upon completion of the conversation, thank the interviewer for his or her time and reiterate your interest in the position. Make sure you have acquired the name (along with proper spelling), title and email of the interviewer so that you may later send a timely thank you note. Be sure that you are clear on what happens next. This can be as simple as your inquiring, “Can you please let me know what the next steps in the process will be?”

After the Interview

Once the interview is finished, take notes about what you were asked and your various responses. This will give you a chance to refine and practice your answers for future interviews. Follow up with an email thank you note (grammatically correct and absent of any misspellings) reiterating your interest in the job along with some of your key qualities.

Tips for Skype Interviews

The Bentley University Recruiting Office offers Skype interviews for Bentley students who are studying abroad. If you are selected to interview with a company, you will receive an email from the Recruiting Office with instructions to sign up for an interview time on our Handshake portal and to provide our office with your Skype ID. Once we receive your Skype ID, we will provide this to the employer on the day of the interview.

In addition, we have compiled some helpful tips for students who will be participating in a Skype interview. If you have previously experienced Skype connection difficulties, our office is willing to conduct a connection test with you before your scheduled Skype interview day. While mastering the interview is a common practice, etiquette surrounding a Skype interview is different from both in-person and phone interviews.

 

Look at the camera, not the screen 

It is very tempting to watch yourself or your interviewer during a Skype session, but looking directly at the video camera is the only way to maintain direct eye contact with your interviewer.

Dress the part

When it comes to what you wear, treat your Skype interview like an in-person interview and dress professionally from head to toe (or at least from head to waist!). A professional dress code with video interviews is expected.

Prepare your surroundings

Pick a quiet place to interview without an elaborate backdrop so that you can be the focal point on the screen. Remove anything distracting behind you and keep it neutral.

Practice

Doing a run through interview with a friend beforehand is helpful because your first few Skype calls are likely to feel awkward, especially if you have to retrain yourself to watch the camera and not the screen. Play around with everything beforehand so that when it's interview time, you can shine without being distracted by the program.

Use notes

A benefit of having a Skype interview is that you can have a cheat sheet in front of you so that you don't have to memorize everything you want to mention. Just make sure your notes are easily scannable so that you use them as quick reminders, not a script. While having notes is certainly a plus, relying too heavily on them can cause awkward pauses during your interview. An interviewer won't be impressed if they only see the top of your head during the interview, so while having notes is good, be sure to use them sparingly.

Avoid interruptions

If you are interviewing in a house with multiple people or pets, be sure to let everyone in the house know ahead of time that you will be in an interview while securing any animals away from your interview space. Nothing is less professional than having to tell your potential employer to hang on while you shoo your dog away from the camera.

Keep your profile professional

Unlike an in-person or phone interview, your first impression during a Skype interview doesn't actually involve you. The first thing your interviewer will see is your Skype username and picture, so double check that they are both interview appropriate (or create a professional Skype account — after all, they're free!)

Watch your body language

Not all physical cues translate from in-person interviews to Skype interviews, which make the ones that do even more important. Be sure to have good posture and relax your shoulders to avoid stiffness.

Avoid a "Can you hear me now?" situation

Nothing is more frustrating than only catching every other word a person is saying, so be sure to tweak the Skype audio ahead of time to make sure you can both hear and be heard without difficulty.

Close other programs on your computer

Getting Facebook notifications during your interview is distracting and unprofessional. Before your interview, make sure all other windows on your computer are closed (especially if they make noise). 

Follow up

A thank-you letter is just as important after a Skype interview as it is in an in-person interview. Avoid following up on Skype, though, unless the interviewer requests it!