The process of applying to jobs and internships is very daunting. After all of the time you spent editing your resume and cover letter over and over again, you get a call saying you’ve been called in for an interview. The feeling of being on top of the world sets in and lasts for a little while before you realized you’ve only fought half the battle.
Your world comes crashing down, but don’t fret–this is the part where you can make a difference. This is the opportunity to show your future employer what makes you great and even more spectacular than you seem on paper. Here are some tips to place you on the winning side after the interview:
1. Do your research and stay up-to-date on current events
Nothing is worse than getting the question “So why did you apply to this company?” and having your mind just freeze. Whether it is the company, their clientele, or anything in between, there had to be a specific reason, something unique, as to why you applied for a position there. Make sure to check out resources on the company’s website or social media accounts so you are prepared for this question. Also, since the PR world revolves around current events, make sure you know the top stories of the day. My personal favourite news source is theSkimm, a newsletter that sends out emails daily around 7 AM, that gives information on the top stories from the previous day. The main thing is to try to read material on current events from places other than your Twitter newsfeed.
2. Dress confident, feel confident
The popular saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has truth to it, but would you choose a ratty book over a brand new one with the same material? Exactly. First impressions are everything and they can only be made once so it’s important to do everything you can in order to make a positive mark. Invest in a nice blazer and a pair of dress pants to show the interviewer that you are serious about the position. Also, when you look great, you feel great. Before strutting into the interview, make one final outfit check and listen to some upbeat music (no song gets one more pumped up for a battle than Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”).
3. Don’t be afraid to have the final say
After confidently answering the interviewer’s questions, it’s time for the tables to turn and leave a lasting impression. It is important to show the interviewer that you have been listening to him while he’s been questioning you. Now is the time to ask questions about research that you did prior to the interview on the company’s goals and clientele. Ask questions pertaining to specific campaigns that the company has conducted as well as how each team is set up. Another popular question to ask the interviewer is to ask him or her the atmosphere and culture of the company. If you are hired, it is important to know how the office works so you know if you can envision yourself in that environment.
After the interview, make sure you thank the interviewer for taking the time out of his or her day to talk to you. Also make sure to send a follow-up email a few days later, saying thanks again. Try to find something new to add that refers to a topic you discussed in the interview. With these tips and a positive attitude, you will be able to take on any interview with ease.
Last semester, I wrote about taking the initiative to discover doors full of opportunities. I’ve applied that mantra to several aspects of my life since then and have discovered that mustering the courage to take that first step can lead to many directions. This semester I wanted to challenge myself by securing an internship, but I had no idea where to begin. I knew it would be difficult for a freshman to get an internship let alone an interview, but I took the initiative and not only have secured one, but two internships this semester.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Follow your passion: I live and breathe fashion on a daily basis. I’m no Eva Chen, but I keep track of trends and constantly read style articles. While I might not know how to write the perfect pitch letter, I knew my knowledge and interest in fashion would my biggest assets.
Save those Contacts: I save all of my contact information from networking on an Excel sheet with the person’s name, email address and a quick note about them such as where we met or something we had talked about. I saved the contact information from a speaker that I had met last September and wrote him an email about my interest in interning, which proved to be a smart move on my part.
Speak Up: The wonderful part about having friends is that they are always there to help. Speak up to your friends, professors and peers, asking if they have any ideas or contacts they may be able to share. I spent two weeks asking every person I know if they had any ideas—not one of them turned me down.
Do Your Homework: Before I went for an interview, I made sure to research the company to get a general understanding of its background, goals and reputation. Interning should be taken as seriously as working a job; it’s a big commitment and a lot of work. Also, it is useful to take the time to practice answers to questions before interviewing and have friends give feedback.
Believe in Yourself: Easier said than done, but do not sell yourself short. You might not have a lot of professional skills under your belt, especially if you are a freshman like me, but the skills and lessons you may have learned from sports, summer jobs or campus clubs can be used to your advantage. Make sure to include those activities on your resume.
You’re listening to your professor lecture at an hour so early you’re certain it should be illegal. This time, your mind isn’t wandering because the topic is painfully boring, but because you’re beyond worried about your impending schedule. Between class, homework/tests, work, and a social existence, it can be seem pretty tough to keep up with life itself. The good news is there are a few key tricks to getting through the weeks that feel like they could likely break you instead of make you.
Don’t force your brain to do all the work. I used to feel overwhelmed when I made a mental to-do list, mainly because as the day goes on, all those mental notes add up. It leaves you feeling stressed when you’re assuming you have a lot to tackle because you have a lot to remember. Writing notes down as soon as you think of a task allows you to see what you have to do, and you’ll probably feel a lot more capable of finishing your work load when you see exactly what it consists of. Even if it’s something as simple as a reminder to meet with a friend for coffee, write it down. Sticky notes, or a good, old-fashioned agenda book, are great tools to keep handy for this purpose. For instant gratification (and saving the trip to CVS), download a notepad app on your phone or computer. The best part? The electronic options are free, unless you opt for a fancier choice. If you don’t own a smart phone, most phones come with calendars that you can add events into, equipped with a reminder alarm.
When in doubt, plan it out. In that same thread, if you know ahead of time that you have an exorbitant amount of work to do for the upcoming week, make a schedule for each day with exact time blocks for each task. For example, if you know you have an exam and a paper coming up, but you still have work and you also want to do something for yourself such as go to the gym, create a chart. Detail your day down to the minute, including breaks for meals or just relaxation. Also, leave longer amounts of time for assignments you know will require more attention, and be specific with the goals for your time blocks. Write out how much of it you’re going to finish in the allotted time period (“From 2:00-3:45, write pages 1-3 in essay”). Knowing exactly when to stop and go is an excellent way to ensure you get things done, but don’t lose your mind in the process. More importantly, STICK TO THE PLAN! Even if you aren’t finished with your task, when the time comes to start the other one, do so. It may seem counterintuitive, but I’ve found it’s better to get a start on a little of everything and revisit it later for completion than have everything done for one class and nothing done for another.
Be realistic about your plans. In that same thread, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that your goals are attainable and that you are not setting yourself up for failure by default. A common scenario is one pulled from the book of bad luck – you have multiple exams and a paper due in the same week. It may seem impossible to prepare for all of them adequately, but the good news is that stranger things have been done. Up typing your fifteen pages the night before until 3 a.m.? Don’t expect to wake up to study for your midterm at 7 a.m. Know yourself enough to know what can and can’t be done with the amount of time you have. In the wise words of a friend of mine, “Productivity should be measured by quality and organized by quantity.”
The final and most important tip is to be as proactive as possible. Even though we know better but generally do worse, procrastination is something that should be used sparingly. Above all, remember the quote, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Well said, Malcolm X.
“The way we dress affects the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act, and the way others react to us,” said image consultant Judith Rasbond. In a job interview, the clothes that one wears is the first thing that interviewers see, and analyze, which is why it is crucial to give off a great first impression with how you dress. Everyone has their own personal style, but in interviews the main thing you should focus on showing is professionalism.
The way you dress is a factor that can set you apart from other applicants. If you arrive dressed professionally and ready to work, you’ll be a much more appealing choice than someone who showed up to the interview in jeans and a t-shirt. Professional clothing is simply another component that conveys how much this potential job means to you.
For men, a solid dark-colored suit with a long sleeve buttoned shirt, a tie, nice leather shoes and a neat hairstyle makes a great first impression. However, for women, it is slightly more difficult to pick the perfect outfit. A dark solid covered suit is also expected, but women must also consider how it fits. If one is wearing a suit with a skirt, the length of the skirt should be around knee-length. The blouse should be light-colored, and either cotton or silk. Women should also wear closed toe, dark-colored heels to make a good first impression, as long as the heels are not too high. Usually around two inches is a good heel height.
However, the battle doesn’t end with what you wear. You may have done all of your research on the company, prepared impressive answers to common interview questions and have a list of great questions to ask the interviewer once the interview is over. Even though you may say all the right things, it is also important to be aware of your body language, because after all, most of what we say is not coming out of our mouths. An interviewer can tell what you’re thinking about and when you’re nervous just by looking at you, which he or she will be doing throughout the entire interview. You might dish out the most flattering compliment about the company or boast about your unique skills, but if you are playing with your hair while you speak or looking everywhere around the room but at the interviewer, it shows a lack of confidence.
If you are one to show nervousness with lack of eye contact, or a distracting habit, try practicing in front of the mirror or friends. As a public relations professional, it is expected that one can communicate well in every way. So when your first job interview approaches, know that what you wear and how you act during the interview is just as important as what you say.