Quick and Easy Interview Tips for Young Professionals

During my stint at a startup which happened to be located in a college town, I spent a considerable amount of time screening candidates for internships and part-time positions. As you can imagine, we had plenty of college students seek us out for openings. Most majors required students to have an internship to graduate.

Over time I came to realize that more and more students seek to acquire internships, even if its not a requirement, because it’s becoming more difficult to attain an entry-level position without previous work experience.

I learned a lot about today’s college students from these interviews and from the ensuing conversations with those we chose to hire. Among the main things I learned was even if certain majors require internships, they may not always prepare students for the interview process. I can only speak to Auburn University, but, based on observation, it seemed that Liberal Arts majors had much less career support than say the students in the College of Business.

It is important to take advantage of all the career prep opportunities available to you while in undergraduate or graduate school. This is also the case once you land that first job. Always look for career development opportunities and see if your employer will help supplement the costs.

Below I’d like to present some quick and easy interviewing tips for young professionals. There are may things to practice before that first interview, but sticking to these tenants will help ensure you’re the candidate that gets consideration.

  1. If you’re “on time” you’re late — I operate by this mantra perpetually. Nothing annoys me worse than people who are late to an appointment. It tends to show that you or the reason for your appointment isn’t a priority to the other person. My “on time” is to arrive no later than five minutes before the scheduled start time. Most times I find myself arriving around 10 minutes early. You will never lose points for being punctual!
  2. Always over dress — I’d like to think that if you’re going to the interview for a position that you really hope to land, you’d dress for that job. As they saying goes, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. For guys, always wear a suit and tie. For girls, a nice blouse paired with slacks or a knee length skirt, with closed toed shoes is best. Always over dress. It’s one less thing to worry about.
  3. Do your homework — It is a must that you research the company with which you are applying and interviewing. Don’t ever enter an interview unprepared. Those interviewing you will notice and notice early on. In fact, the question “Why us?” may be one of the first questions asked. You won’t get away with having a generic answer. You’ll need to have a knowledgeable answer, one that shows you’ve done your homework. Working in “when I was doing my research” or “I saw on your website” into other answers will further show how you prepared for the interview.
  4. Finish your sentences — One of my biggest pet peeves during interviews is when candidates don’t finish their sentences. Instead they trail off with a “so…” I mean, come on. Practice your talking points and what you might say. Always speak in concise sentences and full thoughts. Even if you feel like you’re rambling, or not exactly sure how you’re going to answer a particular question, still make an effort to speak in full sentences. It is OK to ask for a moment to compose yourself or to gather your thoughts. This won’t lose you any points, but consistently trailing off at the end of your sentences will.
  5. Send thank you notes — This tip is one that may not win you that job, but it sure as hell will lose it for you. ALWAYS send a thank you note following any interview. Make sure to note all the people you speak or interact with. Every individual that meets those prior two qualifiers should get a prompt email “Thank You” and also a handwritten thank you note. Not sending a note will definitely cost you. At both of my two previous employers, candidates who didn’t send thank you notes were never considered a serious candidate. This extra step also goes a long way in terms of networking. So many people don’t write letters anymore, the fact you followed up with an extra personal note will carry some weight. It also helps demonstrate your work ethic and will leave a positive impression that may lead to future opportunities. Trust me, following up with sincere “Thank You” notes is a must!

I don’t claim to be an HR expert, but I can say with confidence after years of both participating in and conducting interviews that following the tips above will give you a good chance to land your next big opportunity. Not following them can surely lower your chances at your next big career move. Take it from me, combine the easy steps above with your industry knowledge, tactical skill set and confidence and you will be well on your way to landing the job you want.

 

Career Advice, Uncategorized