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The Job Interview: Your Big Chance to Impress

The Job Interview: Your Big Chance to Impress

Interviewing for a job is one of the most anxiety- causing events a person can endure. In fact, recent studies show that a whopping 93 percent of candidates experience some sort of anxiety when facing an interview. We’ve all heard horror stories of interviews gone wrong – the guy who tossed his beer can in the lobby trash container before walking in to meet the CEO, the guy who brought his dog in a duffle bag in hopes of some moral support, or the girl who wore dirty sweatpants to an engineering job interview, coolly telling the employer “I’m here to program, not audition to be a fashion model!” Yikes! Most likely, none of these people will ever be you! But chances are you might find yourself in that 93 percent, facing some sort of jitters when the big day arrives. Job interviews can certainly be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. With the right tips and tricks, you can learn how to land an interview and make a lasting impression from the moment you walk in the door.

So just where did the idea of the job interview come from? Several years ago, before LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster were around, job seekers scoured the classified section in the local newspaper. Classified ads used to indicate special requirements, such as if the job was meant for a man or woman, single or married, etc. Candidates could be selected for the job based on appearance, religious affiliation, and age. Those of color, foreign accents and physical disabilities were unfavorably classified from securing a job. Thankfully, officials began passing federal laws in the 1960s, outlawing hiring practices based on color, national origin, religion, and gender. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 provided monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination. Today, it would be nearly unheard of for someone to be discriminated against because of nationality or race.

While LinkedIn remains one of the top ways people land interviews, it is often a personal introduction that does the trick. As one employer pointed out, “If we have to post a job listing on LinkedIn or Indeed, this means we have run through the list of all potential internal candidates as well as any personal referrals.” Word of mouth often comes in handy. In other words, it’s all about who you know. This is why it is so crucial to spend your college years networking with professionals through internships, volunteering, or other opportunities.

Things have changed quite a bit in the professional world in the last few years, particularly post-pandemic. Here are a few recent statistics you may find surprising:

*69 % of employers now use video calls to conduct the first interview

*The average candidate goes through 2-3 interviews before landing a job offer

*The average time from the interview to a job offer is approximately 24 business days

*The average job posting gets over 200 resumes in response

*Of those 200 plus resumes, only 20 percent usually receive a response and a chance at an interview

*The average first interview lasts only 15 minutes, while a second interview may last 45 minutes or longer

If this sounds daunting, take heart. Landing an interview means you’ve managed to stand out above the rest. You’ve already done the hard part! If you get a phone call or email, this means your resume or work has impressed your future employer in some way, and they want to know more! Instead of thinking of the interview as a frightening process, think of it instead as a “get to know you more.” The employer has seen you on paper, and now they want to meet you in person to see if you might be a good fit. If you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve done something right!

So just what do employers look for during that first interview? How can you make sure you make a lasting impression that will ultimately land you the job? Here a few simple DOs and DON’Ts:

*DO attempt to make a good first impression from the moment you walk in the door. Statistics show that the average employer sizes up a future candidate in just seven seconds. Give a firm handshake (if they extend one first) and make sure you’re properly dressed. Nothing screams “I’m not interested” more than inappropriate attire. In fact, one in four recruiters say they would pass on a candidate who was not dressed right for the job.  If dealing with a recruiter, it’s perfectly okay to ask what sort of attire an employer prefers. If the company is more high-end, for example, a full business suit might be best. If the company is more laid back, business casual might do the trick. As a general rule, it’s always best to be overdressed rather than underdressed.

*DON’T be late! A whopping 84% of employers said someone showing up late for an interview was an almost guaranteed disqualifier. If you genuinely run into a dilemma before the interview and know you’ll be running late, it’s best practice to contact them as soon as possible to let them know. Even then, it might still be a turn off. So make sure to leave plenty of time to drive and park. Check traffic before you leave. Lay out your clothes the night before and do anything else you might need to do ahead of time to avoid last-minute issues.

*DON’T appear arrogant. Seventy-six percent of recruiters say they would reject a candidate who appears arrogant either on a resume, in person or over the phone. Note that there is a big difference between arrogance and confidence. Confidence is an essential quality in a candidate, and it’s certainly okay to boast about your skills. But doing so in an arrogant way won’t get you far.

*DO your research. Nearly half of candidates are rejected because they didn’t know much about the company. Doing your research shows you are intelligent, informed, and enthusiastic. Nothing says “I don’t want the job” like scratching your head and coming up blank when an employer asks why you want to work for them.

*DO make eye contact. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to make eye contact 60 to 70% of the time during the interview. Body language tells a lot about a person, and if your eyes are downcast the whole time, an employer may sense you lack confidence. Try to smile, even if your nerves get the best of you. Employers know you’re anxious, and most want to put you at ease. If you feel your hands shaking, try clasping them in your lap. And avoid tapping your feet or shifting in your chair if possible.

*Do be prepared to discuss your soft skills. 78 % of employers consider soft skills important and will want to ask you about them. Essentially, soft skills show what sort of employee and team player you will be. You might have mad computer skills, but if you are uptight and can’t get along with others, an employer will likely pass.

*Lastly, DO be yourself. This might sound cliché, but it’s highly important. Despite the nerves, try to relax and speak from the heart. If the setting feels appropriate, you might even offer a little humor to lighten things up. Take cues from the employer; if they make a joke, don’t be afraid to laugh in return. While, as a general rule, it’s usually not a good idea to disclose much personal information during a job interview, it’s okay to share a bit when asked. If an employer mentions his love of dogs, you might jump in and mention your poodle at home. Again, follow the cues. And don’t forget to smile!

For more on the job interview, order your copy of College to Career today!


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