Earlier in the week I hosted an employer who came to the University to hold placement interviews with a number of my students. Interviews are usually held at the offices of the employer, so on occasions as rare as this, it is a good opportunity for me to develop the relationship with the hiring managers and gain an insight into their thinking when recruiting interns.
While it was good to catch up and find out how our interns-turned-grads are progressing with their careers in the company, it also provided a stark reminder of just how quickly a recruiter makes a decision about the students. Following the final interview, I was given instant feedback highlighting which candidates were likely to be made an offer, those who could be in the mix, while the others were already out of contention. All following just a 20-30 minute conversation.
Interviews are pressured environments and understandably many students can be affected by nerves, particularly if these are their first meaningful interviews. There are so many variables that cannot be controlled in the course of an interview, but with good preparation a student can make that all-important good first impression. Here are a few tips that I share with my students.
1. Always dress to impress. This is clearly a no-brainer but every year there is one student who does not get the message and turns up to an employer in their casuals. Funnily enough, I’ve not yet met an intern who got their job when interviewed in a hoody and baggy jeans. Suit up and look sharp.
2. Be assured, but not cocky. If you go into an interview thinking you know it all, the chances are that you don’t. Your interviewer is probably vastly experienced in their field and has substantially more knowledge than you. Be confident in what you know and don’t try to blag things that you don’t.
3. Know your CV. All that an employer will know about you before your interview is what you put into your application. Expect to be asked questions which probe a little deeper into your education, skills and experience. I’ve known students who have embellished the truth somewhat on their CV and then found themselves tripped up when asked questions about their artificial experiences.
4. Do your research. A very common question in interviews is ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ Cover all bases by looking into the company, both historically and what is currently in the news. Then go beyond the employer and look at their industry as a whole and their competitors. You can never go into an interview armed with too much background knowledge.
5. Give it your best shot. You probably only have one chance with each employer, so don’t prepare for the interview half-heartedly. If you honestly give it your all but miss out to a stronger candidate, you can have no regrets. But as the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, start preparing to fail.