Recently, I was chatting with a friend that was gearing up for a big job interview (a “dream job” interview if you will). I’m not at the point in my degree where a dream job interview will happen just yet, but it really got me thinking about what one would do to prepare for a really important job interview, one you really, really, really, wanted (or really even any job interview)! I did some internet browsing, colleague asking and even a bit of soul searching to attempt to capture just that.
One great piece of advice from a colleague was “don’t get caught off guard”. Often interviewers ask about skills, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Make a list of these qualities before you go into the interview and become very familiar with them. Target jobs suggests you should also be prepared to show your range of abilities, have some examples of strengths and weaknesses prepared from outside of your related past work experience, whether it be from volunteer positions, extracurricular activities or just personal experiences.
Prepare some questions to ask. This one, I remember from Grade 10 Careers class, but SO many people I have interviewed and perhaps even a few times when I was being interviewed, no questions were asked. A personal friend and local business owner said “a potential employee asking questions lets the employer know that you’re genuinely interested in the job, have thought about what is expected of you and are considering this position as a real possibility”.
Know what the employer wants. Go look at their website. If they have career profiles, even better. Check their mission statement, anything that gives you a hint at what type of employees they might be looking for. Tailor your entire application and some of your interview answers to that. Don’t recite the mandate word for word (unless they ask of course) but just keep their goals and values in mind throughout the interview.
Nothing is a secret these days, and I have known some employers personally that would check social media sites before an interview just to get a feel for that person. Also, as a grad student especially be aware that potential employers might Google your name to find publications, blog posts, etc. and might come across any social media accounts you have in the process. An article in the Guardian mentioned the need to ‘clean up your online profile`. Watch privacy settings on personal social networking sites and consider what people browsing you are able to see. I`m not saying you should change your cover photo on Facebook to a logo of the company you`re applying to, just be aware, that’s all! Also starting a professional digital footprint (for example using Linkedin) is a very positive thing to do before a job interview (or application). Queen`s Career Services and the Expanding Horizons series both offer workshops which help you learn to use Linkedin effectively and create a positive, professional online profile.
Last but not least, one of the simplest and obvious things- be professional, but also be you. Shake everyone’s hands, dress for the occasion, but don’t be afraid to let a little personality shine through. This is a great way to get a feel for the company’s atmosphere and to gauge how well you would fit in.
To those of you that might be gearing up for a big interview sometime soon, best of luck! And for those of you, like me, who aren’t at this step yet, just keep that big day in mind and keep on keeping on!