Job interviews are never easy. The idea of presenting our best selves during a 15 minute conversation makes even the most confident person nervous - especially if it's a young adult who is fairly new at the interviewing process. As newly-minted graduates begin their job hunts, it's important to keep in mind a few essentials that will make the interview process successful.
Don't Be Late
If there is the least bit concerned about traffic, trains running on time, getting an Uber or taxi or any other issues, it's a good idea to leave for the interview at least a half an hour early, if not more.
Chances are there's a Starbucks or other place to wait for a little while until it's time for the appointment - but go easy on the coffee! Having a few minutes to get composed and go over meeting notes (more about that later) can be calming.
Be Nice to Everyone
From the security guard to the receptionist, the assistant to the CEO, treat everyone you meet at a prospective job with courtesy and respect. You can never be sure who listens to whose opinions.
Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Most first interviews are made up of fairly straightforward and universal questions. It's always a good idea to be ready for anything, especially when interviewing with companies that are not traditionally structured such as small start ups and creative environments. According to Forbes.com, the airline company Jet Blue once asked a prospective Pricing/Revenue Management Analyst:
"How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?"
This is a question to assess not the knowledge of the candidate, but the thought processes and confidence of him or her. If faced with a question like this, stay composed and answer not the specifics, but the general topic - in this case, knowledge of mathematical equations and numbers.
The interviewer will have already read your resume, but it never hurts to bring hard copies to the appointment.
Along with resumes, a list of questions for the interviewer is a good idea to have handy in case of nerves or a blank moment - which is very possible during a high stress experience like a job interview. It's also helpful to have a pen handy - you never know when you might need to write something down.
When in Doubt, Overdress
Even if you know for certain that everyone in the office comes to work in jeans and flip flops, do not dress that way for the interview. For women, a simple dress or black slacks and a nice top are good choices, along with closed-toed shoes. Go easy on the makeup and keep your hair simple and neat. For men, a pair of slacks, an open-neck dress shirt and a sport coat are good options. No sneakers - invest in a pair of decent shoes - you'll need them again, that's for sure. And shave that 3 day stubble. You can always grow it back once you are hired.
Turn Off Your Phone
Do not forget to do this.
Be Confident But Not Arrogant
This can be a tricky one. Projecting confidence means promoting yourself, but sometimes self-promotion seems arrogant. The key here is to relate your talents to other experiences you've had. Rather than proclaiming "I was the best intern at company ABC," tell the interviewer why you were the best with an example of a project in which you participated and contributed a substantial amount.
In other words, tell the story of your greatness.
Follow Up Right Away
Whether you want the job or aren't at all interested, or whether you sensed it was a success or that it didn't go as well as you had hoped, a thank you follow-up email is a requirement, not an option. You are creating a professional profile of yourself that will follow you everywhere you go, and if this job wasn't particularly good for you, you never know when another opportunity might come along.