Interview Prep: 7 Tips to Get You Through!

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Congratulations! You landed the interview! Now what?

Trying to prepare for an interview can be intimidating, overwhelming, nerve-racking, and whatever other –ing adjective you can think of. However, your feelings about it are totally justified, because this could potentially be the start of a new chapter in your life.  But, that doesn’t mean you need to freak out and lose focus either. Luckily, I have compiled a list of tips to keep you cool, calm, and collected so you can nail your interview.

1. Do your research

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Yes, you will be asked questions about your ability to do the job in question, but you will also be working for a company, organization, school, etc, and it’s important to learn everything you can about them before going in for your interview.  Print the job description, or take notes on it; use it to come up with questions to ask them.  Visit their website and click on every possible clickable thing on there. If anything seems significant to you, or stands out, write it down so you remember to mention it. Some employers like to ask what you know about their company, or why you want to work there, so having some background information on hand definitely helps. Always come up with at least two questions to ask them at the end. If you think of some during the interview, great, but have some back-up questions to ask too. Having questions for them shows you are genuinely interested in the position and you put effort into your preparation

2. Pick the right outfit.

This can be a little tricky. You want to be comfortable, so you don’t feel awkward or stiff sitting there, but look professional at the same time. As I mentioned in 7 Quick Tips for the Job Search, even if you read somewhere that a particular place has a “business casual” or casual dress code, always take it up another notch and dress professionally. If you’re on a budget and don’t have an actual suit, that’s okay. I personally have a few different jackets I wear with dress pants on interviews, and it still looks professional. Don’t wear sneakers.  Just don’t.  Also, don’t overload on cologne/perfume.  It might seem insignificant, but some people are really sensitive to smells. And while you may love whatever scent you have, others may not agree.

3. Always bring a copy of your resume.

Chances are, whomever you’re interviewing with has a copy of your resume right in front of them, but some like to ask to see if you’re prepared. Yes, I know, it’s tricky and slightly devious, but it happens.

4. Practice.

As silly as you might feel rehearsing answers in your bathroom mirror or in your car on the way there, I think it helps. By answering potential questions out loud, you can hear how it sounds and even get the awkward “uh’s”  and “um’s” out of the way.  Also, if you’re someone who blanks out when you’re nervous sometimes, practicing it ahead of time can really make it stick in your mind so you don’t forget.

5. Be polite to everyone you encounter.

Obviously, you would be polite and courteous to the people conducting the interview, but on interview days, your politeness should know no bounds. If you check in with a secretary or assistant, don’t just brush them off. These people are important, and will be even more so after you  get the job. The director of my school counseling program also told us that sometimes your interviewer will sit in the front office or wherever it is you check in, and observe before they start the interview. That has never happened to me, and I’m not sure how often that actually occurs, but you never know. They could really like Undercover Boss.

6. Thank-you’s, they go a long way.

Always, always, always send a thank-you after the interview. Whether you send an e-mail or a handwritten note, it could set you apart from other candidates.

7. Remember to breathe; they’re just people.

A while back I went on an interview for a Guidance Counselor position, and I was so nervous, I walked right by the front desk and got half lost. When I finally made it to the right place, the security officer stopped me and said, “Relax, okay? They’re just people.” This totally blew my mind, and it’s completely true. The person/people interviewing you have been in your shoes; they know you’re nervous.  If they are the ones making the hiring decisions, yes they are important, but they are truthfully, just people. They understand the effects nerves can have.

Interviews 4ff4469e48f65fa7078d38a42d64730acan be tough, but try to remember to relax a little. It’s part of the job search process, but it doesn’t have to be the most terrible. Try to be present in the moment and keep a clear mind. Obviously this list is not totally comprehensive, but hopefully it
still helps. Good luck, you’re going to nail it!

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Know Yourself First

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Exploration is how we learn, whether it’s exploring a new place, a new job/career, or even yourself. Yes, college is a stereotypical time for exploration, but it can happen at any point in your life.  Although college does offer the advantage of providing many different options and opportunities, there are still tools available to help you get to know yourself on another level. There are, of course, many different ways of doing this, and I am using this post to explore one that I have used myself, and also enjoy implementing  when working with students.

When looking for a new job or even when trying to settle into a current one, it’s important to know your personality and how you go about doing things.  There are quite a few personality tests and assessments out there, but my favorite, and also the most comprehensive (I have found), is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

To be brief, this assessment was created to better explain the theory of psychological types put forth by Carl Jung. The MBTI identifies your preferences for each of the four dichotomies in Jung’s theory, which in turn, results in one of the 16 personality types.

The Four Dichotomies:

  1. Extraversion(E) or Introversion (I): Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you get your energy from being around people (Extravert) or do you need time alone to recharge(Introvert)?
  2. Sensing (S) or Intuition(N): Do you pay more attention to information you gain from your five senses (Sensing), or do you pay more attention to patterns and possibilities that you see in information you receive (Intuition)?
  3. Thinking (T) or Feeling (F): When making decisions, do you value facts and objective principles (Thinking), or do you focus more on personal concerns and the people involved (Feeling)?
  4. Judging (J) or Perceiving (P): Do you prefer a more structured, decided lifestyle (Judging), or are you more flexible and adaptable (Perceiving)?

The 16 Personality Types:

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As I said, I’m being very brief with this; this is possibly my favorite thing I have learned since I decided to major in Psychology when I started college, so I could talk about it forever. For more detailed descriptions of the four dichotomies, as well as more general information  I recommend visiting The Myers & Briggs Foundation. I have taken the actual assessment while in school, but there are quite a few free ones out there as well. I personally recommend this one: Human Metrics. It’s pretty comprehensive and also gives you a few different resources in your results, including your personality type (obviously), learning styles, and different career options that work well with the type you scored.

I personally scored as an INFJ. Education and counseling are high on the list for career choices, so in that sense I’m pretty on track. However, this knowledge of myself became more useful while I was still looking for a job. It allowed me to get to know my tendencies better and rework my thoughts to help myself stay positive. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to control your potentially negative thoughts when you know how your mind works. But for those still exploring different career options, assessments like the MBTI could help you weed out jobs that may not be best for you.  I find these tests to be extremely accurate, but like with everything else, they might not be the best tool for everyone.  The reason I share it and recommend it, is because I want to emphasize how important it is to be self-aware.

Be aware of how you make decisions, how you see the world, how you organize your thoughts, and how your process information; knowing this about yourself can help immensely in the job search and in life in general.  It allows you to think more clearly about what you want to do and where you want go, which coincidentally, is a common interview question. Funny how that works, huh?

know yourself