The first interview is a key exchange of information between the employer and the applicant. The employer’s main purpose is to determine if your education, experience, and personal attributes fit the organization’s needs. Your main purpose is to emphasize your ability and interest in the job and the employer and make it to the second round.
Common Types of Interviews
Virtual/Telephone Interviews—Some employers screen candidates using video conferencing or telephone before a face-to-face interview. Some tips include:
- Set the Stage: Find an appropriate place to be seen, with a clean background, proper lighting, and minimal distractions/noise.
- Internet Connection: Ensure you have a stable connection. Consider wired over wireless.
- Install & Test: Set up and practice with the software (i.e., Skype) beforehand, especially if it’s your first time using that tool to avoid technical glitches during the interview.
- Focus Your Attention: Keep all other programs/windows closed to maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Look at the webcam and not at yourself.
- Dress the Part: Dress the same way you would for an in-person interview to achieve the right state of mind needed for the opportunity.
- Be Prepared: Have a copy of your resume, cover letter, job description, and other important information with you for easy access.
- Listen then Talk: Without visual cues to avoid talking over each other, be patient and let the interviewer speak before answering.
- These types of interviews are based on the concept of using past behavior as a way of predicting future performance.
- The interviewer will ask for specific examples of how a skill has been demonstrated in the past. See the next section for more details on Behavioral Interviewing.
- Designed to see how you relate to different personalities. Be sure to communicate with each interviewer during the process.
- A common interview format with consulting firms, this type of interview involves describing the steps to take in solving a specific problem.
Interview Success Strategies
Preparing for the Interview
- Research the employer to obtain as much information as possible including the organization’s mission statement, values, products and services, structure and competitors. Use various resources such as the employer’s website, glassdoor.com, Vault’s Career Insider, and LinkedIn.
- Research the position and be able to discuss the skills and qualities you possess that make you a good candidate for the job.
- Review your background including coursework, academic/research projects, activities, internship and work experience. Provide examples of the skills and qualities you have developed that are relevant to the position. Employers are seeking candidates who can communicate effectively, have the ability to work in a team, and possess analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Practice interviewing. Attend a Career Exploration and Success interview seminar or schedule an appointment with a career advisor for a mock interview. Also, use InterviewStream, an online resource in Rutgers Handshake.
- Check your appearance and grooming because it makes an important first impression. Dress appropriately for all interviews (see page 28 of the Career & Internship Guide for professional attire guidelines).
- Make sure you bring extra copies of your resume in a portfolio.
- Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
- Relax and collect your thoughts.
During the Interview
- Greet the interviewer(s) with a firm handshake and smile while making good eye contact. Refer to the interviewer using Mr., Ms., or Dr. unless you are invited to use the first name.
- If your religion or culture does not allow you to shake hands, you can place your hand over your heart and say “I’m sorry, but my religion does not allow me to shake your hand. Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today.”
- Be yourself. Display energy, confidence, and a positive attitude. Demonstrate enthusiasm and sincere interest.
- Listen closely and answer the questions with relevant information.
- Provide specific and detailed examples of how you have demonstrated key strengths and skills including the ability to learn quickly, communicate effectively, analyze and solve problems, work in a team, and others.
- Ask good questions, which are relevant to the position and employer.
- Be prepared to discuss everything on your resume in depth. Emphasize your strengths. Do not be defensive or apologetic for lack of experience.
- Be aware of your non-verbal communication, especially your posture. Don’t appear too rigid or overly relaxed. Don’t fidget. Maintain eye contact.
- Watch your grammar. Interviewers are impressed by articulate candidates. Use pauses rather than “ums” and “uhs.”
- Stay positive. Never criticize an employer, teacher, friend, colleague, or school.
- Never mention salary or benefits in an interview. Let the employer bring up these topics. Research the career field and industry and be prepared to discuss your salary requirements. Be realistic and have an accurate salary range in mind. Emphasize that your salary requirements are flexible.
- At the close of the interview, take these steps to leave the employer with a positive impression:
- Ask for a business card.
- Ask about the next step in the process and a time frame that you can expect to hear from the employer.
- Emphasize your interest in the position and the organization.
- Thank the interviewer(s).
Interview Knockout Factors
- Being late.
- Unprepared for the interview. Lack of knowledge about the employer.
- Inability to express ideas clearly; poor communication skills.
- Poorly defined career goals; little or no career direction.
- Limited interest in the employer.
- Negative attitude toward former jobs, supervisors, or colleagues.
- Not answering the interview questions directly; making excuses during the interview.
- Not asking questions about the job or employer or asking inappropriate questions.
- Lack of confidence/poise; poor body language/eye contact; weak handshake.
- Only interested in salary and benefits.
After the Interview
- Write down pertinent facts from the interview (names of interviewers, important discussion points).
- Within 24 hours, write a short thank you letter or email message to the interviewer(s) emphasizing your key qualifications and interest in the position/organization.