Enhancing Tomorrow’s Interview: Four Simple Ps

November 23, 2015 at 7:40 am 8 comments

By Emma Williams

We’re all familiar with the anxiety that creeps over us the night before an interview.  Whether the interview is for a summer internship or a full-time job, the encounter can be a nerve-wracking experience – one that you don’t want to mess up.

I know when I walked into my first mock-interview with Kenan-Flagler I wasn’t properly prepared.  I couldn’t even give my interviewer a brief summary of who the overall company was and its purpose.  I was embarrassed and the interviewer could clearly tell that I hadn’t done my homework.  Since my awkward experience, I’ve made sure to plan for any upcoming interviews.

William Baker in Writing and Speaking for Business (2015) establishes both how to effectively prepare for and act during an interview.  Though he sections his advice into ten main points, I have compiled his suggestions into four simple Ps that will help ensure that you’re ready for the big day.

Prepared

Do your research. You want to walk into your interview with confidence, knowing exactly who the company is and what they do.  You should know your company and who its competitors are to answer any questions that an interviewer may ask.  I follow companies on social media accounts, such as Twitter, so that I’m up-to-date on any recent news.  You should try to figure out the company’s culture by talking to past interns and current employees.  While doing so, identify the role of the company’s intern(s) and his or her duties.  If possible, find out who your interviewer is and even look him or her up on LinkedIn beforehand.Emma

Before stepping into the room, determine what you can bring to the company and what sets you apart from others.  Companies want to see why you are different and why you would be a strong addition to their team.  I try to have a list of positive characteristics, skills, or experiences that I can bring to job to help better the company.  Be sure to bring a copy of your updated resume, as well as a pen and padfolio.  Know how to respond to opening questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume.”  Write down questions for your interviewer that you can refer to at the end – the written questions will show that you’ve thought thoroughly about the company or job and have done some preparation.

Also, remember to expect the unexpected, such as difficult questions that are unique to the company. For example, a question that a company has asked in their interviews is “If you were stuck in a blender, how would you get out?” This question doesn’t necessarily have a correct answer and isn’t realistic at all.  The company only wants to know how you think on your feet and how you react under pressure.  Remember to take a deep breath and think about how you want to respond to these unexpected questions.  The last thing you want to do is fill your interview time with nervous “ums” and “likes.”

Punctual

Arrive on time.  Nothing is worse than walking into an interview late, flustered, and embarrassed – trust me, I’ve been late to an interview before and it’s difficult to erase someone’s first impression of you.  To avoid future tardiness, I now record the date and time that my interview is scheduled, where it will be held, and perhaps even the person who is interviewing me.  I believe applicants should arrive at their location at least 15 minutes before their interview starts.  I always make sure to have directions to the location (knowing how long it will take me to get there) to guarantee that I know how to get there and where I can park.  Before walking into your interview, make sure to turn off your cellular device.  You don’t want any distractions, such as alarms or phone calls that could disrupt your conversation.

Professional

Dress appropriately.  Before arriving, figure out what is acceptable to wear to your interview.  When in doubt, you should be over-dressed instead of under-dressed.  Most interviewers expect applicants to come in business professional attire.  For women, professional appearance means a blouse, a pair of pants or a skirt, a blazer, and heels.  For men, professional appearance requires a suit and tie.  Men should remember to shave their face, and women should wear minimal jewelry.  Both men and women should be aware of the amount of aftershave or perfume they wear, so as to not overpower the room with their scent.

Remember to speak clearly and confidently and to give your interviewer a firm handshake, while maintaining strong eye contact.  Be aware of your body language and know how your hand placement and facial expressions could be perceived.  If you don’t make eye contact during your meeting with your interviewer, he or she won’t think that you’re interested in the conversation.  I believe that an applicant should always smile while he or she speaks, unless the topic is serious.  Try to place one hand over the other and keep still – fidgeting and clenching signify that you’re nervous or anxious, rather than relaxed and confident.  After looking over videos of myself presenting in class, I’ve noticed how distracting my fidgeting is, and I’ve made an effort to keep still while speaking – less fidgeting has enabled me as well as my viewers to focus on what I’m actually saying.  Additionally, ask your interviewer for his or her contact information, such as an email, so that you can follow-up with a brief thank you note.  From experience I’ve noticed that interviewers appreciate the time taken to reach out to them for taking the time to meet with you, and they want to see that you’re actually interested in pursuing the position.

Passionate

Show that you want the position, and be yourself.  The interviewer and you are both trying to figure out whether or not you will be a good fit at this company.  Strengthen your chances of getting hired by being YOU and selling yourself as the perfect candidate.  Remember to be honest and engaged during the entire interview.   Express your interest in the industry and, more specifically, the company.  Tailor your responses to appeal to the interviewer and demonstrate how your abilities, experiences, and passion for this job will outshine other applicants.  In my experience interviewing, I have found that telling your story of how you became interested in business, a specific industry, and especially the company you’re interviewing for, will definitely help the interviewer get to know you even more and give him or her reason to remember you.

At the end of the interview make sure that you have a strong close.  You want to display how much you want the job, how much you’ve appreciated the time that your interviewer spent by meeting you that day, and how much you hope to have the opportunity to bring your abilities to the company. Also, give another confident handshake as you leave the meeting.  Don’t forget to send your interviewer an email afterwards!

By considering these four Ps (prepared, punctual, professional, and passionate), you’ll be ready for any interview that’s coming your way. Now go get ready to impress your next interviewer!

 

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Entry filed under: Job-search Communication.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mary Tuggle  |  November 25, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Great advice, Emma! I know I have walked into an interview room many times and felt nervous. Some of my interviews have even been intimidating! I love your four Ps and I have an addition to your Prepared “P.”

    When you do go in to interview, especially for a job in finance, know who the top executives in the company are, know who leads the branch or division you are interviewing for, and know what stock price the company is trading at. These are questions I have been asked multiple times and I would prepare for. Also keep an eye out to see if your company has been in the news recently and why. These are all questions that show if you really know about the company.

    Thank again Emma!

    Reply
    • 2. Emma Williams  |  November 29, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Mary,

      You’re exactly right – when walking into an interview you need to know as much about the company as you can, by doing your “homework,” networking, and studying the news.

      By doing these three things, as you said, you will be more Prepared for your interview and your interviewer will notice that you’ve put in the work.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • 3. Katie Grad  |  November 27, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Emma,

    Great advice and I love how you created the 4 P’s–it is very catchy! I think your point about being passionate is especially important because any interviewer can see past you if you are faking or do not really love the company or job. It is essential to have passion for what you are interviewing for because it will come through in you interview! To show you are passionate about the job or position I think goes hand in hand with also being prepared. Knowing information about the company is important to prove you are knowledgeable and again, passionate!

    Thank you Emma for this article and I will definitely keep in mind the 4 P’s next time I go to interview!

    Reply
    • 4. Emma Williams  |  November 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

      Katie,

      Yes! I’m so glad you agree with my point about being passionate with whatever you do – whether it’s in an interview or in your actual job. Your peers will notice if you are actually excited by what you’re pursuing and they will take it into consideration when deciding whether or not to hire you.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • 5. Jordana  |  December 1, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Emma,

    The 4Ps is such a creative way to organize this information! Your advice to prepare common questions is so useful, I know that I’ve gotten “walk me through your resume” in every interview I’ve ever had.
    Also, I agree completely with what Katie said above- it’s great that you mentioned how important passion can be in an interview. I know that my brother, who works as an interviewer for Goldman Sachs, always tells me how he can tell those who really want a job from those who are just going through the interview process. Passion and knowledge are musts in an interview. Great blog!

    Jordana Friedman

    Reply
    • 6. Emma Williams  |  December 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Jordana,

      So glad that you agree with the preparation and passion needed for an interview – hope that these 4Ps will stick!

      Reply
  • 7. Cassidy Rowe  |  December 4, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Emma,

    I really enjoyed your post! Even after participating in a handful of interviews, I know that I can benefit from these tips.

    I like that you put in the effort to give a list of appropriate apparel for males and females. Dress code can be tricky–you’re right in recommending over-dressing as opposed to under-dressing!

    Cheers,

    Cassidy

    Reply
    • 8. Emma Williams  |  December 8, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Cassidy,

      Yes, one can always improve his or her interviewing skills.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply

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