RESEARCH YOURSELF AND THE EMPLOYER - Know yourself thoroughly: your goals, your interests, your values, your strengths and your weaknesses. Employers will be asking you questions on all of these topics to see how well you fit with the position for which they are hiring. Take time and write out lists. Start by listing your long-term and your short-term goals. Where do you want to be in 3 to 5 years? Where do you want to be in 7 to 10 years? What are your interests? What knowledge do you have that you really want to apply? What are your greatest strengths? What are some of your weaknesses, and what are you doing to improve?
Know the employer thoroughly before your interview. Research as much as possible through the web and by visiting the job site and meeting with current employees to gather information about the available positions. You will want to know as much as you can about what specific expertise you will be using so you can go back and study notes from past classes and read current articles on industry related topics. You will want to study as if you are preparing for a final exam. Successful candidates have told me that they spend about 6 hours studying before an interview.
Now put together what you know about yourself and what you have learned about the employer and figure out how you fit the needs of the position and the organization. You will be asked questions like "Why are you interested in this position?" and "Why do you believe you would be successful in this position?"
Interviews are not really a mystery if you understand that employers are looking for a candidate that fits with their organization. They are going to ask you some standard questions. After a few interviews, you will quickly discover that they all ask pretty much the same questions. You can prepare for standard questions by reading a book that I recommend called "Knock 'em Dead" by Martin Yate. It has a great list of questions, and it includes some really good answers so you can see what makes for a good answer.
What happens during the interview
RELAX - Interviews are just like any conversation with a new person. Employers will size you up based on how relaxed you are, if you are dressed professionally, if you know how to shake hands and just how well you handle meeting new people for the first time. Little things like showing up a little early, smiling, being confident and being extremely well prepared make all the difference in the world. I recommend that you show up at least 20 minutes early to use the restroom, do breathing exercises and review your notes, your resume, and your portfolio before your interview.
You can expect that you may be interviewed by several people over the course of the day, so don't double schedule yourself. Share all information with enthusiasm with each person even if you end up saying the same thing seven or eight times.
My absolute best recommendation is to walk into every interview with the following thought on your mind... "If this job doesn't come through, something better will." That gives you confidence even when you have been interviewing for three months and you are just about panicked that you will never get a job. I promise you that you will get a job... Chances are that if you are reading this book you don't qualify to be permanently unemployed! It is just going to require that you find the right company and be extremely well prepared. It will happen.
What to do after an interview
DEBRIEF AND FOLLOW UP - After an interview you will want to sit in your car and scream or disintegrate into a little puddle. Resist the urge... Instead immediately write down everything you remember about the interview. This will help you prepare for your next interview by allowing you to analyze your performance and do better in your next interview or salvage the interview with a plan. What questions were you asked? What did you do well? What did you do poorly? What do you wish you had done or said that you did not?
Next, send a thank you note to each of the persons who interviewed you. Thank them for the time they spent interviewing you and tell them that you appreciated the opportunity to share your interests and career goals. Tell them that you would welcome an opportunity to work in their company and tell them why. If you feel you could have answered a question more effectively, tell them what your answer would be now that you have had time to think. Many people that I have helped over the years have told me that sending a thank you note was the thing that distinguished them from the other candidates and got them the job.
Always follow up after an interview with a phone call in 2 to 3 days. Tell them that you are “checking on the status of your application” and that you are very interested in the job. One employer told me that he waited for candidates to follow up with a phone call and did not hire anyone who did not call. Many people are afraid of being pesky. Very few of the people I work with are pesky. Technical people are much more likely to let the ball drop than to be pesky in this situation.
Luck has nothing to do with interviewing well. Preparation and planning are everything!