We’ve heard this advice before: Smile. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Be on time. Sit up straight. But beyond all that, what can you—and should you—do to make the best impression? Here are four things to consider that go beyond the basics:
1) Know as much as you can about your prospective employer. Learn about more than just their core business. Read their web site, including press releases, services, products and customers’ testimonials. Also check out “contact us” to see where else they’re located (besides where you’ll be interviewed). Consult Google to see what other information there is out there on them. (Especially resourceful candidates would go so far as to consult a library and, if you’re an English major, you should be relatively comfortable doing so, no?)
2) Don’t overstate your experience and credentials. No one expects someone with fewer than five years of experience to compete with candidates for strategic planning or middle management jobs, yet I’ve heard many hiring managers comment remark about the ridiculous exaggerations they’ve seen on entry-level applications.
You probably have some worthy credentials and some useful knowledge. As you tell others about those qualifications, do so in a way that is grateful, not boastful. “I was fortunate to attend a university with courses in business writing, and I took the whole series of classes. I’d like to bring what I learned there into your environment.” That makes you the lucky recipient of good information, rather than a cocky expert.
3) Keep the conversation focused on them, not on you. In other words, what does the prospective employer need? What are their most pressing concerns? Then quickly size up and offer one way in which you may be able to help them. Their job is to learn about you. Your job is to help them understand how you will benefit their organization.
4) Listen to your “little voice.” Approach an interview knowing that you’re as much deciding whether you want to work there as they are deciding whether they want you to work there. Does the environment feel right? Do you like the people you’ve met? If you had a peer interview, how were the people on the team? Too quiet? A bit unfriendly? Or open and pleasant? If your “little voice”—that inner rudder we all have—is screaming “No, don’t go to work here!” don’t ignore it.
Questions? Drop me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment. I want to help more literate English majors make their way to leadership positions in businesses!