You've been notified in Handshake that you are invited to interview! Now what? Interviews are top of mind right now, which means it's a good time to lay out your steps to successful interviews.
If you are selected to interview — you must interview. It is EXTREMELY unprofessional to decline an interview that you applied for, so don't burn a bridge!
Monitor Handshake for Interview Notifications & Choose Your Time ASAP
Some of us are early birds, others are not fully awake until noon. Knowing the time of day that you are at the top of your game will lead you to select the interview time that is most conducive to you "bringing it." Timeslots can get snatched up pretty quickly after firms make their interview selections, so know the date that you'll be hearing back from them (HINT: the signup start date), and pounce on your ideal timeslot then. Once you sign-up for your time, add it to your planner (or phone, whatever you use to stay organized) so you won't forget. Interview no shows (or late shows) are a guaranteed BUST!
Research the Employer
You've probably done some preliminary research on the employer for your Meet the Firms plan of attack - now it's time to dig deeper. Click around on the employer's website and look for things that stand out to you, or that you want to know more about (great material for the Q&A portion of the interview). If you know an "insider" with that employer (e.g. MAcc student or young professional), pick their brain on things that might come up in the interview. There are a couple of reasons why doing this research NOW is going to pay off. First, the more you know about the employer in an interview, the more you appear interested and prepared. Second, there may not be much time for you to do this critical research between the interview date and offer communication. Don't you want to have all of your ducks in a row before you make any decisions?
Take an Inventory of Your Résumé
When I say "inventory," I mean, know what you have on that one page of paper! Go through each line of your résumé and have a mini "elevator speech" about your experience with that line item. For example, you may get a question about your hometown (How did you end up at Auburn?), your GPA (Why is your overall GPA so much lower than your accounting GPA?), or work experience (I'm not familiar with X company — can you tell me more about it?). Interviews can consist of a lot of "surface" questions during the first few minutes, just so the interviewer can get to know you better (and identify areas that are worthy of behavioral questions). Having a brief overview of each thing you list on your résumé will ensure you get off to a great start in the interview.
After the interviewer gets a sense of where you've had the most experience, they will start to ask more probing questions about those experiences. Alternatively, they may take a general approach and ask questions that are not targeting a specific experience but allow you to choose the experience that fits the scenario. Either way, you should be prepared for BEHAVIORAL interview questions, which predict future behavior based on past behavior. Your role is to choose a recent (i.e. college), specific example, and recall details about your role in the situation (how you handled it). I personally recommend avoiding classroom situations (we've all been in a group project that had a deadbeat group member), and focus on things that relate to your extracurricular or employment activities. The key is for you to be MEMORABLE, so choose situations that are unique and not easily confused with another student. To be on the safe side, I'd brainstorm 5-6 scenarios that you can use to answer various behavioral questions. Find a list of 100 possible behavioral interview questions HERE. Reading through these will help you identify the examples you'll keep on hand to answer the deeper questions you get.
Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you know the things you want to highlight about yourself, practice your responses! The best way to practice for an interview is to do a mock interview with a complete stranger. When you do a dry run, you should prepare for interview questions just like you would for the real thing, and also look the part (i.e. don't wear class clothes). You'll receive valuable feedback in a safe environment that will allow you to tweak your techniques for interview day. To make an appointment for a mock interview, click the Appointments menu in Handshake. Alternatively, you can practice with a friend or in front of a mirror. The main AU Career Center offers a neat program called Interview Stream that utilizes your web cam to allow you to see that you have a weird twitch when answering a question.
Know Your Interviewer
This could be accomplished by a couple of strategies. Many firms will host a pre-interview dinner or social the evening before the big day, so if you are invited to something like this, GO! The purpose of these events is for you to meet your interviewer in advance of the interview day, which puts you more at ease for the next day. If a firm is not hosting a social the night before, find out the name of your interviewer in advance. You can ask the recruiter if they have a bio for that person (most partners and managers already have them prepared), and if not, find them on LinkedIn. Knowing basic things about them, like where they went to school and where they may have worked in the past, can help you establish rapport in the interview (see below). People love to talk about themselves, so having a lead-in to get to know them better (e.g. "I hear that you are an Auburn grad — War Eagle! Have you gone to any games this season?") makes the rest of the interview much less intimidating.
Dress for Success
Same deal as my Meet the Firms Crash Course in a previous blog post — WEAR BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL TO INTERVIEWS! Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
Arrive Early (but not too early)
You should aim to arrive 5-10 minutes early for your interviews, but not earlier! You hanging around the waiting area for more than 15 minutes can look a little too anxious for the interviewers' liking. If you arrive early, find a place in Lowder to chill until it's time to make your way to the OPCD. Don't be THAT guy that lingers and lurks for too long, making everyone uncomfortable.
Don't Come Empty-Handed
Remember that résumé and padfolio that you took to Meet the Firms? Resurrect it for the interview. Ask the interviewer if they need a fresh copy of your résumé (this is great if you've made further changes to the document since you applied in Handshake), and keep your legal pad out to reference the questions you've prepared and take notes on interesting things you learn. I know first-hand that interviewers can get peeved when you have literally nothing but the suit on your back. Having all of these things with you signals preparedness.
At the beginning of the interview, it's common for the interviewer to make small talk to put you at ease and set the stage. It's best for you to be prepared for some small talk (e.g. "Where are you from originally?"), to go with the flow. If you know your interviewer (or just a few things about him/her), small talk is that much easier.
Ask Your Interviewer Questions
You should ALWAYS have questions prepared for your interviews. No questions = lack of interest in the eyes of the interviewer. Please consult this blog post for ways to craft memorable questions that are customized to the various employers interviewing you (your website research will help with this). Additionally, one of our faculty members sent me this article that contains some good questions to keep in your back pocket.
Say Thank You!
After an interview, I think email is the best way to convey your thanks to your recruiter and interviewers. It's instantaneous, so you know your gratitude is known when they're making decisions (and for firms, these are made within a day). HOWEVER, I have known students to write hand-written notes the same day of their interview, and drop them off in the OPCD for their interviewers before they leave for the day. That is speedy, and a hand-delivered thank you is pretty impressive (but by no means expected)!
Know the Next Steps
I always receive questions about the "next step," and that answer varies by firm. Don't leave your interview without asking the interviewer or recruiter about how they handle offer decisions — is the next step an office visit (i.e. 2nd round interview), or do they go ahead and make offers? In addition, I also have received questions about how many students are given offers, and that number is a moving target. Rather than asking your interviewer this question, I encourage everyone to put their blinders on and do the best YOU can in the interview. Your performance is the only thing you have a direct impact on, so don't worry yourself with the competition.