Wednesday, February 8, 2012

5 interview tips from employers

Whether you are looking for your first job or preparing for a career change, the best way to ace the interview is to practice, practice, practice. Peirce’s Career Development Services team recently hosted an Interview Boot Camp that gave students and alumni a chance to practice their interview skills with real employers.

Participants came out in their best business attire and armed with their resumes to participate in 15-minute speed interviews. They received honest feedback on everything from the content of their resumes and appropriateness of their professional attire to how they presented themselves. Participants walked away with both advice and tools. Employers shared tips on how to best stand out in the interview process and CDS provided a useful packet of 64 tough interview questions to practice interviewing skills. By the way, if you’re interested in that packet, stop by the CDS Center or email us. We have copies we are happy to share.

Even better, this event was a great opportunity to do a knowledge “dump” with employers. We asked them to unload their best interview advice. I’ve collected their recommendations and distilled them for you here. Read on for tips from employers about how to prepare for an interview to ensure you give yourself the best shot at getting the job.
  1. Align your skills with the job criteria. During an interview, always find a way to tie your skills back to the criteria of the job. Show alignment between what you bring to the table and what the employer is looking for. Many candidates tend to get nervous and rattle off a laundry list of tasks rather than focus on the skills required to do that particular job. Think about how your experience and abilities can help the employer and the company, and demonstrate that in your answers.
  2. Do your homework. The interviewer will be able to tell if you aren’t adequately prepared. Research the company in advance to make sure you understand its business, its culture, and its competitors. Preparation shines through, and from an employer’s perspective, it shows you are taking the company and the opportunity seriously.
  3. Put forth a professional image. This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Put your best foot forward by dressing the part and portraying a professional image. When in doubt, go with a suit. What matters most isn’t that you have the most expensive designer clothes, but that you’re well-groomed and professional. Wear something that forces the interviewer to focus on the content of what you’re saying, not your outfit, accessories, or hairstyle. Remember, if you need interview attire, we have partnerships with local organizations (Career Wardrobe for women and Menzfit for men) that can help you.
  4. Think before you speak. It’s not just how you communicate, but what you communicate. It’s natural to be nervous, but make an effort to pace yourself and stay focused. Collect yourself and think before you answer each question so that you can best articulate your response. And no matter what, stay positive! Don’t speak negatively about past employers or previous jobs, as that will only reflect poorly on you. Focus on what you can contribute and why you will be a great match.
  5. Make sure your resume is error-free. Having a clean, well-written resume is one element of the interview process that you have full control over, so take advantage of it! Go to someone you trust for assistance, reviews, and edits to make sure your resume and cover letter are as close to perfect as they can be. That way, the content can speak for itself, without the distraction of a glaring typo! Resumes can be difficult to write, which is why we place such a focus on the document with events like our virtual Resume Boot Camp. We’re always here if you want to set up a one-on-one appointment to go over your resume.

Thank you to all of our employer interviewers for the great advice! Participants walked away with valuable insight on their strengths and weaknesses that will help them fine tune their interview skills. In fact, one student came out to prepare for an upcoming interview, and we already found out that she did quite well! Another participant hadn’t interviewed in over 20 years, and she left feeling more confident in her ability to interview in today’s job environment. Several other interviewees walked away with plans to change the content of their resumes to better market themselves.

Want more advice on how to navigate the interview process? Then make sure you join us for our Human Resource Panel Discussion coming up on March 29. We’ll have a panel of HR recruiters on hand to answer all of your interview questions -- no matter what your program of study. We’ll be posting more information about this event on our blog, but in the meantime, you can reserve your spot now!

And a special thank you to Career Counselor Robyn Dizes, who was instrumental in planning and pulling off a spectacular event!