Career Planning: Part Four – Simple Things


It’s the simple things that can determine whether or not you do well in an interview or not. Similar to preparing for a career through choosing the best options for education, additional training, and volunteer opportunities, you have to prepare for specific moments in that quest for your career as if you were training for an Olympic event. The average Olympian trains anywhere from an hour to 5 hours/day 6 days per week, but of course these numbers are determined by the requirements of the sport, and just like preparing for a sport you have to train for your interview scenarios.

There are very few people who can walk into an interview without having done some prior research beforehand and get a job on shear personality alone. Employers want to know that they can rely on you to stand for the company and understand what they are trying to achieve. If you walk into an interview without any prior knowledge of the company’s mission, products, partners, etc., you will not be getting that job.

So here’s a few ideas to get you started about prepping for that all important interview:

  1. From the Beginning: It is immensely important that you know exactly where you are going to day of an interview. You should know the time it takes, where you are parking, any additional traveling you may have to do (subway, streetcar, etc.), and allow for the chance that there may be traffic at certain times during the day. You cannot arrive late to an interview. It makes you look dismissive and gives the employer the idea that you really don’t care about the position. You should arrive at least 10 minutes prior to an interview, introduce yourself to an assistant, receptionist, or the employer so that they know you have arrived, and of course…be polite and patient until you are called.
  2. Introductions: Most people don’t realize how within the first 10 seconds of meeting you a person can determine several biases that will remain in place until proven otherwise. For example, if you show up to an interview in sweat pants and a t-shirt an employer may make the assumption you are lazy and don’t care about the perceptions people develop about you which make look bad for the company in the long/short run. Make sure to always make a good first impression by dressing appropriately (business attire), introducing yourself and greeting the interviewer by their name and title (Mr., Mrs., Dr.), firmly shaking their hand when, and sitting only when a chair is offered.
  3. Avoid Presumption: During interviews it is critical to avoid terminology that can be offensive such as slang, profanity, and insults, however equally important but often forgotten is the use of space saving words or phrases such as ‘like’, ‘um’, ‘uh’, and ‘You know what I mean’. There is nothing more frustrating to an interviewer than asking a question and receiving a vague answer followed by ‘You know what I mean’. Never make the assumption that an interviewer will know what you’re talking about. Use terms that are expected in your field of study and always explain your answers thoroughly and succinctly. Also, a joke can be a lighthearted way to break tension at the beginning or end of an interview, but don’t try and be a comedian throughout the whole interview (unless that’s the job your applying for).
  4. Habits: Some people like to chew gum to keep their mouth from getting dry. Although helpful it is distracting during an interview and can be considered rude. Certain things such as leaving your phone, speaking only to one person, or frequent fidgeting exaggerate nervousness and make the employer feel as if you are uncomfortable in a role you may be placed in.
  5. Confidence: Nervousness is common in interviews so employers do give a little leeway when answers may come a bit stuttered or it takes a couple seconds to answer something in particular, but their is something to be said for the individuals who speak audibly, clearly, and with a little excitement. The employer wants to know you want the job and are excited about what you’ll be doing and who you’ll be working with. Try to make sure you maintain eye contact with the interviewer (if more than one speak to both), take your time with your answers, use pauses to emphasize points, and if you are excited about the role you’ll be filling explain why.
  6. Extra Steps: It isn’t required but sometimes that extra nudge can place you one step over another candidate. Write a thank you letter to the interviewer, take a business card, and ask what the next steps in the hiring process are. The more interested you are/seem the better. During the interview make sure to ask intelligent questions relating to the position, the staff you may be working with, any additional responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, etc. Interest is key. Above all else, practice for you interview and research the company.

That’s all folks: next week we touch on…duh, duh, duh – Resume writing. Fun! 🙂


Kelly Skidmore


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