So you landed the interview, but are you prepared? What you do to get ready for an interview is just as important, if not more, than what you do in the interview.
Know Yourself. How do your skills, interests, and values relate to this opportunity? How does it relate to your career goals? Keeping in mind the organization's mission and vision, ask yourself, "What can I contribute to this organization?"
Know the Organization. Research the organization. Learn about its mission, products/services, customers/clients, competitors, strategies, market landscape, related current events, and media presence.
Know the Kind of Interview. Is the interview in person? Is it over the phone? Or perhaps it is an online video interview through Skype? If your interview is not in person, it is important to find a quiet space where you will not be interrupted by distractions, loud noises, or a loss in service.
Reflect on Past Experiences. Many organizations use behavioral-based interviewing, which means they want to understand how you react in different situations. For example, “Can you please tell me about a time there was a conflict within a team you were a part of?” These questions can be tricky if you have not reviewed your prior experiences and thought about the results of your actions.
Considerations for Health Professional School Interviews
Most health professional programs require an interview as part of the application process. Each school may interview hundreds of applicants during one application cycle. Most medical schools (and many dental, optometry, pharmacy and other health professional schools) begin interviewing as early as late August (nearly one year prior to matriculation). The interview provides an opportunity for applicants to tour the school, meet current students, learn about the curriculum and financial aid options, and participate in a structured interview with one or more members of the admissions committee.
Practice Responding to Questions
Take the time to practice interviewing. Think about your responses to common questions. Anticipate questions that may be asked based upon the position description.
Be ready to respond to difficult questions. How will you explain or address a low grade point average? Why did you change your major three times? Do not try to avoid these questions. Be prepared to explain the situation honestly and in a positive manner. Negative results are okay if they are explained as a learning experience.
Be Prepared to Ask Questions
The end of the interview is usually reserved for your questions; this is your chance to interview the interviewer(s) and assess your fit with the organization. Ask questions that will help you decide if this opportunity is right for you. Ask the quesitions you want answered. Do not ask generic questions or questions that could easily be found on the web. Ask questions appropriate for the person's role within the organization.
Select clothes appropriate for the type of interview, industry, and organization. Make sure to convey professionalism at all times. First impressions make lasting impressions.
What to Wear? Suits - pants, skirt or dress - that are nicely fitted and usually a darker color are always safe, unless you know that the industry has different expectations. As for accessories, a tie, jacket, or vest are all appropriate as well. Shirts or blouses can be a pop of color, but consider more conservative style choices; don't let your attire be a distraction from the interview.
Interviewing Over a Meal
Before the Meal. Become familiar with the menu. Let the host know about any food allergies or restrictions a head of time. Arrive at least 5 minutes early if you are meeting the host at the location of the meal. Present a firm handshake and repeat the host’s name as well as offer your name.
During the Meal. When ordering, choose an item that either costs the same or slightly less than others at the meal. You can ask what others are having and then, follow their lead. Eat each course at a similar pace with the others at the table. It is important to remember that the meal is not just about the food, but about the conversation as well. Listen more than you speak and feel free to ask follow-up questions. It can be helpful to prepare some questions prior to the meal in case there are lulls in the conversation. Keep your non-verbal body language and gestures in mind as well (smile, eye contact, enthusiasm).
After the Meal. Once again, follow the lead of the host and get up from the table after she or he initiates it. You will not want to ask for a to-go box or doggy bag to take leftovers with you unless otherwise directed by the host. Be sure to thank the individuals for their time and for the meal.
Other tips. You may want to avoid messy foods, such as pasta with sauce, foods that are challenging to eat, such as bone-in chicken, and finger foods, such as burgers. You may also want to only order non-alcoholic beverages. Stay away from trying foods that you have never tried before. Don’t expect alternative food options, and choose items that are familari to you. Stay away from your cell phone unless you are expecting an important phone call and notify the host regarding the potential call. Be positive and enthusiastic throughout the entire meal.
Follow-Up After Interview
Your interview is complete and you feel relieved! You may be drained following an interview and have other obligations, but it is important to follow-up with each individual involved in your interview within 48 hours. This will reinforce that you are indeed interested in the position.
Although a hand-written note is typically seen as going above and beyond, the interview process can sometimes move quickly and an email will provide the most timely response. You can decide which method is best. Keep the note brief and bring up a specific topic or conversation you enjoyed with the individual you are writing the note to.
You may also want to inquire about next steps in the process. For example, “when should I expect to hear back regarding the final decision on the position?” The response from the employer is going to guide the timing of additional follow-up communications. If you have not heard from the employer within the timeframe the employer indicated, be sure to follow up. Let the employer know you are still interested in the position and ask if there have been adjustments to the timeline. Also, be sure to communicate if you have a pending offer with a looming deadline with another employer. Transparency is important.
Tips for Non-Native Speakers
Practice is the best preparation. Invest time and energy in practicing with native speakers to be more confident in your ability to communicate your unique skills and experiences during interviews.
Speak slowly and clearly. Speaking slower and louder than your usual voice will make it easier for interviewers to understand you. Also, interviewers tend to like direct and succinct answers rather than long-winded ones.
Ask for clarification. Seeking a clarification on a question is much better than providing an answer that does not match the question. Useful ways to ask for clarification are "Could you please clarify your question?" or "Could you please be more specific?", or "Could you please re-phrase the question?"
Multi-lingual skills are an advantage. Many employers in are operating internationally. Confidently articulate how your uniques skills are beneficial to the organziation. If you have experience at a top company in another country, say so. “It is a Korean Google” would be an example. Many interviewers don’t know about teh size, scope and impact of companies based outside of the U.S.