Ask The HR Expert: Resume and Interviewing Tips for Recent Grads: Part 2

Part 2: The Interview

Dress the part: What is the old saying? You never get another chance to make a first impression. Well, it’s true! Wear clean and neat business attire. If you are not sure of the attire for that particular office or industry, do some research. In the end, opt to over, rather than underdress.

Prepare! Sounds too obvious to even mention, but many interviewees don’t prepare! Research the company. Know something about its key executives, its products, its competition. Have several copies of your resume with you. Know, in advance, where you are interviewing and with whom. Get the pronunciations right. I once had a recent college grad come to me all fired up to work for a magazine. Too bad. The job was clearly for the Internet side of the house.

Arriving: Your interview starts at the lobby with the security folks and/or reception so be polite and engaging. Don’t forget this! Plan on arriving fifteen minutes early or so for the appointment. There may be paperwork to complete. Don’t arrive too early though—it puts undue pressure on the people with whom you are meeting. And, it goes without saying—DO NOT EVER BE LATE. Hang out at the drug store or coffee shop around the corner if you are super early, but get there on time!

Manners and Behavior: You’re ‘on’! Always stand up when someone walks towards you to greet you. Always look people in the eye and deliver a firm handshake. Always remove your hat when you enter a building. Remove gloves (during the winter months) when shaking hands to meet someone. Chances are rare you will have a mealtime interview, but, follow the interviewer’s lead on ordering, and NEVER use your fingers (unless it’s a rib joint), or, begin eating until everyone in your party has been served. More on table manners later!

Stay Positive! This is easier said than done, but, a true, positive disposition will shine through. Positive, upbeat people attract—they don’t repel. Look like you’re happy to be there and interested in the job and the company. Don’t fidget and try not to bite your cuticles. Focus on answering questions truthfully and fully. Provide the most information you can about the person you are and your skill set and experience. Be prepared to talk about specific examples! One favorite question that I like to ask is: Tell me about a time when you had to follow through on something that you did not support or agree with?

Thank you: Always send a follow up thank you note to the people with whom you have met. You’d be surprised at how few applicants do this, so following up will definitely give you a leg up on the competition. Be attentive to your surroundings and then decide if you should send this note by e-mail or by post.

And finally; say “yes!” Worry about getting the job before you turn it down! Take that interview. Align yourself with a company you’d be proud to work for and see where things go. That receptionist or mail staffer role may be the next sales coordinator or marketing assistant if you play your cards right!


Sharon Jautz has over 20 years of HR experience at major media companies like Forbes, Conde Nast, and Playboy. She’s been tapped as an HR expert on Washingtonpost.com, giving advice to job seekers everywhere. Her super-power? Scanning a resume in 15 seconds. Find out more about her at her LinkedIn page.