Interviews: Before and After

As a recently graduated (and subsequently hired!) information science student, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tips and resources that I found most useful in my job search. If you have any advice you’d like to share based on your job search, please post it in the comments!

-Preparing for an Interview:

  • Research not only the position and the department the position is in, but also the institution as a whole. This will likely come up (“Why do you want to work for this institution?”) and helps you develop questions for the interviewers (because they will ask).
  • Download or copy and paste the job description into a document you can save. There can be a time lag between sending a cover letter and getting an interview, and you want to refresh your memory about the specific position before you interview.
  • Prepare a soundbite or elevator speech on who you are, your skill set, and why they should hire you. A one minute soundbite on you should focus on your top five skills, experiences, etc. and can act as a very effective set of bookends for your interview. I prepared an elevator speech that I used both to introduce myself and recap why I was a good fit at the end of the interview – and if you start to flounder or lose focus at any time during the interview, remembering the points in this soundbite can help you get back on track.
  • In general you want to dress conservatively and one step above how people in the department where you are interviewing dress. Be aware of any messages your jewelry, makeup, nails, etc. might send (a religious necklace, for instance, might communicate more about your beliefs than you realize). As long as you are aware of any possible messages, however, don’t let it inhibit you. I have a lip piercing, and I made the conscious decision to not remove it for interviews – it’s an aspect of my appearance that I really enjoy and I didn’t want to work someplace that would not allow me to wear it.

-Virtual Interviews:
For Skype interviews (and to a lesser extent, phone) make sure that you:

  • have a professional screenname (mine is first.lastname)
  • test the technology ahead of time (do you remember your password, does your laptop’s microphone work, etc.)
  • ensure that you have a neutral/professional background behind you (a blank wall or something similar – set this up ahead of time, and take a picture of yourself with your laptop’s camera to make sure no piles of stuff, etc. show up in the background)
  • set up a quiet environment (for me, this meant closing my cats in another room so that no meowing or cats trying to climb onto my lap interrupted the interview)
  • plug your laptop into a wall outlet (you don’t want to rely on battery power)
  • figure out how to take notes during the interview (if you type, they’ll hear the keys clicking so you probably want to have a pen and paper handy)
  • finally – write down people’s names!! (you will need this information to send thank you notes, and it’s easy to forget if you don’t record it)

After the Interview:
Send a thank you note within 24 hours (if you send a note via snail mail, send them an email within 24 hours as well thanking them and letting them know a handwritten note is on the way). Mention the interviewer(s) by name and thank them for their time. This is your opportunity to clear up any questions that you feel you could have answered better, as well as emphasize why you believe you are a good fit for the position.

Hopefully these suggestions are helpful for you; if you have other tips or any questions, post in the comments!

Up next: Common Interview Questions

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