10 Easy Interview Tips for Interns and New College Graduates Looking for Work
In my job as a hiring manager at a major semiconductor company, I have had the pleasure (and sometimes horror) of interviewing a variety of candidates for various engineering internship or new hire positions for my group. Oftentimes it was the small things that would make me more inclined to give one candidate the job over another. I have listed 10 simple tips that, in my experience, can help to boost your interview impression from average to amazing.
1. Know your resume.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Your resume is often the only impression interviewers have of you prior to meeting you in person. They most likely will ask you questions about the courses and work experience you have listed. Even behavioral questions may be tailored based on the contents of your resume. It get extremely frustrated when I ask students to describe a work experience cited on their resumes, only to receive a roundabout response that shows me they clearly have no clue what they're talking about. It's your resume. Take responsibility for it!
2. Make your resume eye-catching.
Hiring managers sometimes go through hundreds of resumes when looking to fill a spot. After a while the same black text on 8.5 x 11" printer paper gets old. As I alluded to in the previous tip, your resume is like an extension of yourself when making an impression on a future employer. I once went through three weeks straight of interviewing two candidates per day, and at the end of it all, the only person whose name I could clearly remember was the one who presented us his resume on high quality gold paper in a matching gold envelope with a self-made business card. Although many of the candidates had great technical and personal qualities, he went that extra mile to make a favorable impression, and ultimately, got the job over other candidates with slightly better GPA's.
3. Prepare visual aids to speak to.
It's one thing to see a candidate's credentials on paper and hear him talk about it. It's an entirely different level when the candidate has a well-planned presentation or portfolio prepared on himself, complete with examples of work he's done either in school or as a hobby. If you have pictures of school projects you've completed, volunteer activities listed on your resume, or hobbies related to the job, print them out and collect them into a nice binder, folder, or slideshow you can present during your interview. It gives the interviewer a deeper snapshot into who you are and what you can tangibly add to the team.
4. Do your research about the company and/or position.
HR always instructs you to ask the interviewers questions after the interview is over. I have had kids who performed wonderfully in the interview then proceed to ask me questions about work completely unrelated to the company. Why would I want to hire someone who obviously isn't interested enough in the position or the company to do a few minutes of basic research into what the company does or what the job might be about?
5. Be polite.
Usually this is a no-brainer. I have had a few candidates though, who have had previous internships within the company and expected to be shoo-ins for another internship term or a full-time position. The entire interview panel was so put off by their negligent attitude and arrogance throughout the interview process that they unanimously refused to consider any future internship opportunities for those candidates. Never assume that you automatically have the position. Always treat the interviewers with respect. Nobody wants to work with a jerk.
6. Choose a distraction-free environment.
Nowadays, we are doing more and more webcam-based phone interviews with students. Choose a quiet spot without a lot of background noise and minimal background clutter. I really don't want to see your roommate walk by without his shirt on wolfing down a frito pie, or hearing your sister on the phone nearby arguing with her boyfriend. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself - would I be comfortable with the interviewer coming here to interview me in person and seeing everything around me?
7. Wear a suit.
I don't care if everyone in the company is wearing jeans and a polo shirt to work. If two candidates have exactly the same credentials and great personalities, but one is wearing a suit and the other is wearing business casual, more often than not, I'm going to pick the guy I think is taking our company and the job more seriously. Even if you won't ever wear a suit again after getting the job, it's still always better to dress up than down, if only to make a better impression than "the other guy".
8. Be Personable!
The interview is not only about your technical credentials. It's also about whether or not you'd be a good fit in the team. You could be the smartest person in your class, but if it's hard for the interviewers to interact with you, or the team thinks it would be hard to work with you, you're not getting the job. If you are an extreme introvert, small actions still make great impressions. Make eye contact with whoever you are speaking to. Give your interviewer a firm handshake. Be sure to smile and speak clearly and articulately.
9. Send a follow-up e-mail.
A way to make sure the interviewer doesn't forget you is to send a follow-up thank you e-mail approximately 1-2 weeks after the interview. With so many other candidates to interview as well as their usual full-time workload, it is easy for hiring managers to only have vague impressions of the candidates after some time. By sending a brief thank you e-mail with your thanks and contact information, you remind them of who you are and put yourself in a more favorable light as they come closer to making their final decision about who to hire.
10. Research the City the Job is Located In.
When doing your research on the company and the job, please also do your research on the city you could potentially be moving to. Don't waste both your time and my time going through multiple rounds of interviews only to find that you hate the city. It leaves a horrible impression on the hiring team when we hire you only to have you reject the interview because you hate the city. This is something that should have been considered prior to even accepting the interview. I have had two cases where the company flew the candidates down to our office in Houston for interviews only to have the candidates turn down our offers because they hated the city. It had nothing to do with having another job offer with another company or not liking the position and everything to do with not doing proper research ahead of time. Needless to say, the company will not be looking at these candidates again in the future.
Companies interview hundreds of candidates in any given year. Once you get your foot in the door with an interview on-site with a hiring manager, sometimes all it takes is a few simple tweaks here and there to make a positive lasting impression that will get you the job! Best of luck to you!