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How to Prepare for an Interview

Putting in for jobs, but not sure how strong your resume is? Preparing for your first interview? Or maybe you’re just planning on attending one of McNeese’s Career and Internship Fairs? Here is some advice to help get you started:

Write a strong resume

On average, prospective employers spend only six seconds on a preliminary evaluation of a resume. Here’s some tips on how to make those six seconds as impactful as possible:

Do:
  • Check for correct spelling and punctuation.
  • Include all contact information in the resume header: mailing address, phone number(s), and a professional email address.
  • Find a good balance between text and white space — your resume shouldn’t be overcrowded and hard to read, but should also contain the necessary information on why you’re a great candidate.
  • List education before experience if this will be your first professional position.
  • Examine job descriptions for the position you are seeking and make sure the required qualifications are included in your resume.
  • Use action words to describe job experience and accomplishments instead of just listing job duties.
  • Keep it to one page unless you have years of valuable experience.
  • List current and past employment in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent job.
  • Make a separate page for references.
  • Make a .pdf file of your resume once it’s complete. A .pdf file can be sent via email without losing any formatting characteristics.
Don’t:
  • Use any first person pronouns anywhere on your resume (I, my, me, mine).
  • Include any sensitive information, such as your social security number, or information about your age, including birth dates or the year you completed high school.
  • Falsify anything, including employment dates, education level, etc.
  • Include references that are family members.

Dress Professionally

First impressions are crucial when interviewing for a position or introducing yourself to employers. With potentially hundreds of equally-qualified individuals competing for the same position, employers are looking for details beyond resume bullets to distinguish prospective employees. What you wear, how you present yourself, and attention to detail all communicate to employers that you’ll be a good choice for a position. Therefore, make sure that you’re:

  • Well-groomed. Shower at least the night before an interview, and your clothes should be clean and ironed. Your hair should also be clean, brushed and styled. For men, any facial hair should be neat and trimmed.
  • Conservatively dressed. Stick with neutral-colored clothing, and avoid novelty ties and anything with a high seam or a plunging neckline. Shoes should be closed-toed and professional. Suits are good choices for both men and women, but other strong choices include:
    • Dress slacks or skirts
    • Button-down shirts or blouses
    • Blazers or cardigans
  • Avoiding distracting accessories. Avoid strong colognes or perfumes Both men and women should avoid wearing non-traditional piercings or excessive jewelry. Tattoos should be covered as much as possible.

Practice Interviewing

Practicing an interview beforehand can help ensure that you feel prepared and confident for the real event. Before your interview, make sure you research the company you’re hoping to be employed with — they may ask you about your specific areas of interest in the company, or how you might contribute to their particular brand. Also, practice a strong handshake and making eye contact. Both are important non-verbal ways to make an immediate good impression.

Here are a few example questions to consider beforehand that will help you prepare:

  • Think of a time that you successfully overcame a challenge or solved a problem. What was the situation, and what actions did you take to resolve the issue? What were the results?
  • What are some of your specific strengths and skills? How do you think you will use them in the position your interviewing for?
  • What are some of your weaknesses, and how have you worked to improve on them?
  • Why do you think you would be a good fit for this position?

When answering, try to include how you have demonstrated skills like time management, critical thinking, teamwork, as well as practical skills specific to the position. Don’t try to memorize your answers — you might freeze or get discouraged if they don’t ask any of these exact questions. Instead, focus on techniques to successfully communicate your strengths and why you’re the best choice for the position.