I just finished my first interview!
I got the interview request a few days ago, and after weeks of stress-induced quesadilla dinners and panic, this was a huge reassurance. Someone somewhere thinks I’m doing something right! (If you need to catch up, here’s how I started my search and what I’ve been doing since.)
After finishing my celebratory happy dance, I got down to work. Here’s how I prepared and how I think you can make it through your interview with minimal stress.
Remind yourself why you’re a great fit for the position.
- Back to basics. Re-familiarize yourself with the job description, the application materials you sent, and the organization’s website (specifically the role you’re hoping for and how it ties to their mission).
- Anticipate questions and get specific with your answers. Avoid awkward pauses or grasping at straws. List out the reasons—with specific examples—why your past experience makes you a great fit for the position. Review common interview questions that you may be asked and make sure your responses are clear. Don’t leave the critical thinking for interview day.
Now that you have those talking points, learn them. Make flashcards, invent a color scheme, or cover yourself in sticky notes. Whatever it takes, know the key points that you want to cover.
Get comfortable and be confident.
- Go to your happy place. If you have a phone interview like I did, a happy place is both mental and physical. I squirreled away into an empty back conference room with a notebook, pen, bottle of water, the cover letter and resume I submitted, and a print-out of the job description. If your cell phone is as temperamental as mine, try to get to a land line. Get comfortable – if you are more assertive in a suit, wear one. Personally? I rid myself of the jitters by interviewing in flip-flops and blasting Eminem a few minutes before I knew the phone would ring. Oh, and did you remember to go tinkle? Do it.
- If you have an in-person interview, look professional and approachable. If you’re not sure of the dress code, aim to be over- rather than under-dressed (but this does not necessarily mean wearing a suit). And bring a copy of your resume and a way to take notes, even if you don’t end up needing either.
- Pump yourself up, do a mirror check, and review your notes, but do it all before you get there. Arrive a little early, walk through the doors on time, and be nice to the person who greets you. First impressions are crucial. When you step foot in the building, you’re on.
The hiring committee is looking for a good fit for the position and their office culture; you are looking for a position where you’ll contribute and thrive. All of this preparation is so that everyone can find out if it’s a good match. Take a deep breath and be yourself.
This is obviously a well worn topic. Here are some resources that I consulted while preparing for my interview:
- Idealist.org’s Career Center – We offer a rundown on how to prepare, what questions to ask, and even what to pack for your big day.
- AskaManager.org – Alison Green’s wildly helpful site, written from the point of view of a hiring manager. You’ll want to look specifically at her interview and phone interview posts.
- Theemployable.com – Tips on how to answer questions, what your body language is saying to the hiring manager, and mistakes to avoid. Thanks to Catherine R. of our LinkedIn group for the tip.
- Glassdoor.com – Browse interview reviews from previous candidates to get an inside view of a company’s interview process.
Happy dances all around
We’re getting there! Congrats on any progress you’ve made this week. As always, feel free to share your experiences, horror stories, and funny anecdotes with me in the comments or at diana [at] idealist [dot] org. I’m cheering you on!