Surveys from the National Association of Colleges and Employers show that employers seek candidates with the following skills:
- Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell or influence others
Before the Interview
Interview preparation begins long before you meet a company representative. In many ways, you have been preparing all your life by developing communication skills. The ability to communicate, to sell, and to market yourself are critical to getting the job offer, the primary purpose of a job interview.
Know What You're Selling
Remember, in a job search, you are the only product. You are what you are selling. It is important that you:
- Know yourself, your likes and dislikes
- Know your own unique skills and abilities
- Know your goals and objectives
- Know your direction in life, for the short term
You will be unable to answer questions about these areas if you haven't taken time to know yourself. It doesn't matter what your degree or major is, these job questions will still need to be answered, even if your answer is that you are still figuring something out. Try not to be tentative or uncertain.
Researching an Employer
To have a successful interview, you must learn as much as you can beforehand about the employer and the opportunities being offered. You may want to research the following topics to become more familiar with the company:
- Company age, ownership, and locations
- Organizational structure; i.e. parent company and/or subsidiaries
- Sales/Financial picture of organization
- Product lines or services, major competitors, and the organizations place among them
- Career opportunities and paths available
During the Interview
Expect questions that require thought on your part. Questions that start with how, what, or why such as:
- How do you feel about...?
- What do you think about...?
- Why did you choose to...?
- Tell me more about...?
And, of course, everyone's favorite opener, “Tell me a little about yourself.”
Remember to look closely at your résumé. Listen to your own answers. The employer has the right to question you about anything you have said or written. You must be able to defend, justify or explain anything you say or write, so be honest. You should practice your answers. Any preparation is good preparation!
Asking Your Own Questions
An employer will typically end an interview by asking you, "Do you have any questions for me?" You are still being interviewed; the questions you ask will reflect on your professionalism. It is always a good idea to prepare specific questions in advance.
After the Interview
Immediately take time to evaluate your own performance. Did you present yourself well? What would you do differently if you had another chance? What questions did you have difficulty answering? Write these down and prepare answers for when it comes up again.
Remember to write a short thank you note to the interviewer within 24 hours of the interview. Do so even if you have decided that you are no longer interested in the company. If any additional information is required of you, include it with the letter.