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Job Search Skills: Expanded Information

Basics of Interviewing Etiquette

Dress for success
  • Better over than underdressed
    • If you show up with a tie and you don't need it, you can always take it off, but if you don't have one in the first place figuring out a solution will take a little more ingenuity. A general guideline for interview dress is to dress as if you were interviewing for a position one level higher than what you are actually interviewing for.
    • Know your industry - the dress codes for different organizations will vary and you will be able to vary your interviewing wardrobe accordingly. For example, when interviewing for a position within the finance industry, it will likely require a more conservative approach to your dress, while those interviewing for positions in software development might find that they can wear something in the more business casual range.
    • For men the standard attire for an interview that will require business attire, is a suit and tie. Also, if your shoes need it, be sure to shine them.
    • For women the standard attire would also be a suit, with either pants or a skirt. It is up to you to choose which you would like to wear, keep in mind that, depending on the industry, a skirt may be a safer choice. Skirts should be at or below the knees, shirts should not be low cut, and shoes should have closed toe. Long hair should be pulled back.
    • For both men and women, grey, navy, and other similar colors make good choices for an interview suit.
    • Finding the money to buy clothes for interviewing (and to start your first job) can be expensive. However, ebay, Goodwill, and resale shops are all great places to look for bargains. Good quality business clothing can often be found in these locations for a fraction what they would cost in a department store, even when adding in the potential costs of tailoring and dry cleaning.
    • Things to avoid when getting ready for your interview include:
      • jewelry that may distract you or the interviewer - if you have a tendency to fidget with it, leave it at home. Also, you and your friends may love your piercing and work place attitude toward piercings varies, but for your interview it would be safer to leave them at home.
      • applying fragrances too heavily - smelling nice is important to all of us, but applying something with too heavy a hand before an interview can be distracting in a small interview room.
Your Grand Entrance
  • Leave your cell phone behind, or at the very least, turn it off. Nothing will be as distracting as a ringing cell phone. If it does ring, apologize and turn it off quickly. Whatever you do, do not answer it! Answering your cell phone during an interview demonstrates a lack of interest in the organization.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early - Before the interview, take the time to figure out how to get to the location and how long it takes. Then include enough travel time to get there 10 minutes early. If you are going to be late, of course for reasons beyond your control, call your interviewer and let him or her know. Hiring managers are usually very, very busy so be considerate of their time.
  • Be polite to everyone - Consider everyone you meet from the moment you step on to the grounds of the organization to be a participant in your interview. If you are rude to the receptionist, she or he will let the hiring manager know.
  • Shake hands with all those to whom you are introduced - Body language (more about that later) plays a crucial role in other's evaluation of you. Your handshake should be firm and it should be palm to palm (not palm to fingers).
  • When the interviewer brings you to location in which the interview will take place, wait for him or her to indicate where you should sit.
  • Follow-up with a thank-you note - Thank-you notes are a great way to demonstrate that you appreciated the interviewer taking the time to speak with you, as well as an opportunity to reiterate a point from the interview. Thank-you notes should be sent within 24 hours and can be emailed, typed, or handwritten. Knowing which option to choose depends on you and your knowledge of the industry to which you are applying.
Interview Format

In general, interviews include:
  • An Opening
    • Interviewer introduces him or herself, talks about the organization
    • Interviewee introduces him or herself - be prepared for "Tell me about yourself" or "Why are you interested in this organization?"
    • Small Talk -
      • Read the paper prior to going into your interview.
      • Common small talk topics include information about the location, current events etc. In general, avoid topics about which people have strong opinions, such as politics.
  • A Middle
    • This will be the time in which the interviewer will ask you a series of questions related to your backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and abilities
    • Typical types of interviews are:
      • Behavioral - with this type of question, the interviewer tries to get a better idea of how you would act when you are employed by his or her organization by getting an idea of how you have handled past situations. Typical questions include "Tell me about your greatest strength" or "Tell me about a time you made a mistake." With behavioral questions, it is important to always share an example with the interviewer that illustrates whatever skill or personal quality that you are discussing. Almost all interviews will include at least a few behavioral questions.
      • Situational - similar to the behavioral, but posed as a hypothetical. "What would you do if...." It may still be important to use examples from past experience to illustrate that you possess the qualities that you say you would use when dealing with the hypothetical situation presented.
      • Case - Also known as "brainteasers" this type of interview question is an attempt to better understand how you think and problem solve. Keep in mind when answering this type of question it is the process that you use to solve the problem, not the solution, that is most important. An example of a case question is "How many gas stations are there in the US?" Answering case questions requires practice - great resources include the Vault Guide to Case Interviewing and Case Questions .
      • Traditional - These questions are straightforward questions about your background, usually based on your resume. So know your resume well and be ready to explain anything on it!
  • Closing
    • In this part of the interview, you will have a chance to ask questions of the interviewer. Always, always have questions. Questions display an interest in the organization as well as help you to know if this is the right company for you. Think about what qualities, such as type of work, duties, or environment, will be most important to you (Would you like to work on a team or individually? Do you like structured tasks?) and then ask away. Avoid questions regarding compensation until you have reached the offer stage of the interviewing process.
    • Ask when you should hear from the organization or what the next steps will be
    • Request a card for contact information so that you can send a thank-you note or follow-up as appropriate.