Sure, you might be able to bang out a cover letter in your pajamas at three in the morning, but there’s no place to hide during an interview. Interviews are perhaps the most nerve-wracking part of the job or internship application process because you have come across as sophisticated, eloquent and, well, an adult, to hiring managers and prospective bosses. While we admittedly can’t teach you how to temporarily disable the sweat glands in your palms, we here at Spectrum have some tips to help you ace your next interview.
1. Do your research beforehand.
An interview is like a first date. Though you and your partner (the company that you’re applying to) already have some basic familiarity with each other, the interview is where you solidify that you’re a good match. So get to know the other party, and also have ready a concise yet thorough overview of yourself. This means being familiar with your resume, the position and company that you’re applying to, and having answers to common interview questions such as these. If you’re applying to an industry with its own standardized interview process (e.g., banking), it’s good to also familiarize yourself with answers to any technical questions that might pop up. Though you certainly don’t need to memorize any answers, we do suggest jotting down some talking points for commonly asked questions. Since interviewers often conclude by asking if you have any questions for them, it’s also smart to have a list of questions ready beforehand.
2. Bring a copy of your resume, cover letter, and references.
Though your interviewer most likely already has a copy of your resume and cover letter by the time the interview rolls around, it never hurts to bring extras, especially since you’ll often be interviewed by more than one person. Other materials that are good to have ready are a list of references and a portfolio with samples of your work, if relevant.
3. Dress for success.
Coming across as professional is integral to landing a position, so make sure to dress for success! This means a dress or blouse with a blazer or suit for women, and a suit, shirt, and tie for men. Don’t worry if you don’t have these items in your closet: You can borrow suits from Beyond Barnard and Center for Career Education. You do have a bit of wiggle room—if the interview is for a startup, or on campus in the middle of the class day, business casual should be sufficient, though we always recommend erring on the more formal side if you’re not entirely sure.
4. Project confidence through nonverbal communication.
Though interview prep is usually centered around predicting questions and preparing answers, oftentimes how you act during an interview is just as important as what you say. Make sure to arrive between 10 and 20 minutes early, take out your headphones in the waiting room, and be kind and professional to anyone you meet in the office before your interview, such as a receptionist. No matter how nervous you feel, try your best to project confidence: A nice, firm handshake; good posture; and steady eye contact go a long way.
5. Schedule a mock interview.
We’ve given you all the tips, and now it’s time to put them into practice—quite literally. No matter whether you tend to say “like” between every other word when you’re nervous, or if you’re unsure if you can still sit up straight for half an hour after 20 years of slouching, practice can go a long way: Set up a video camera in your room and rehearse answers to common interview questions. Alternatively, schedule a mock interview through Columbia’s and Barnard’s practice interview programs.