Tips from the Career Center: How to ace your job interviews

By Rachel Ramirez | February 28, 2018 8:28pm
Students practice their interviewing skills in the Career Center. On Friday March 2nd, the First Avenue Career & Graduate School Expo will be held in Chiles Center, giving students the opportunity to explore career and grad school options.
Media Credit: Molly Lowney / The Beacon

Five minutes. That’s how long it typically takes for you — the candidate — to impress the interviewer for your desired job, according to CNN Money

Whether you’re an upperclassman scrambling to find a job for after graduation or an underclassman who’s seeking to get a head start in the job market, preparing for a job interview is one of the most nerve-racking  — yet essential — things college students have to master. 

Interviewers are often psychic. They can sense when an interviewee comes unprepared. Having no knowledge of the company you’re applying for or not doing your research will automatically put you in the “no” pile. 

With the annual career fair on Friday, Mar. 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Chiles Center, the University of Portland Career Center staff helped The Beacon compile a list of do’s and don’ts before, during and after a job interview. 

What to do during a job interview?

1. Do your research. The moment you get an interview with an employer, do your research. Go to their website, and really get to know the company (i.e. Who’s the CEO? What does the company do? etc.) It also helps if you know who will be interviewing you, and with thorough research, it should be easy.

2. Go over possible questions. It’s important to go over and practice possible questions by having answers ready through assessing your strengths and weaknesses, abilities, values, goals and aspirations. Give examples. However, do not over-prepare and memorize answers. It’s better to act naturally and just be yourself. 

3. Dress professionally and appropriately. It’s a job interview, not a farmer’s market. Take your personal appearance seriously. Make sure you keep your jewelry to a minimum and that you look clean and respectable. 

4. Act with professionalism. When the interviewer comes to greet you, make sure you stand up and shake their hand firmly. Show your enthusiasm in a way that is natural to you. 

5. Bring a resume and a portfolio. Regardless of if you’ve sent both your résumé and portfolio digitally, make sure to bring a physical copy to present. It highlights preparedness and professionalism. 

6. Ask questions. When the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?” always ask questions. Prior to coming to the interview, prepare relevant and well-prepared questions. 

7. Smile. Everything is always better when you smile.

8. Follow up. After the interview, it might take a few days or a couple weeks to hear back from the company. Following up is the most important element. Send a “thank you” email within the next 24 hours. Be sure to ask for business cards during the interview. If you don’t hear back, call or email the company and ask for an update or status. If you did not get the job, ask for feedback (i.e. What can I improve on?)

For possible interview questions, formulating the right “elevator pitch” and other additional resources, the Career Center has prepared an interview guideline for all students. 

What NOT to do during a job interview?

1. Lack knowledge of the company. If you don’t know anything about the company, then this whole interview process might go down the drain. 

2. Wear a backpack. As Max Kalchthaler, a career and program advisor in the Career Center, said, “Imagine walking into the interview room in business casual clothing, but wearing a backpack.”

3. Dress inappropriately. Do not come in the newsroom with flip flops, jeans and a low-cut shirt, short skirts or a t-shirt with graphics on it. You want to look professional and respectable. 

4. Memorize answers. Good, you went over possible questions beforehand, but do not memorize your answers. It will come off as unnatural and interviewers will see it. 

5. Come in late. It is highly unprofessional to show up late to a job interview because that becomes their first impression of you. Show up ten minutes early.

6. Slouch and look everywhere in the room. Make sure you sit straight and make eye contact with the interviewer(s). 

7. Smoke before the interview. You don’t want to smell like cigarettes coming into the interview. In addition, do not shower yourself with perfume and cologne. Bring some breath mints.

8. Lie and appear arrogant. Do not lie about your skills and abilities in an interview. It is a huge N-O. And while you may share examples of your accomplishments and experiences with your employer, a line must be drawn when you begin to come off as boastful. 

“Be prepared, because it’s not everyday you introduce yourself to people,” Kalchthaler said. “Your ability to communicate will help you stand out as a candidate.”