When it comes to interviews, a little thoughtful preparation can go a long way. Just take some time to review our list of nine essential tips to ensure you are putting your best foot forward from that first handshake to your trip down the elevator.
1. Dress appropriately
Different interviews call for different outfits. If you’re going to an interview at a Big 5 consulting firm, you should wear a suit; if you’re going to an interview for a entry level IT customer service position, then khakis and a button down shirt may suffice.
There’s nothing wrong with asking about appropriate attire when you set up the appointment. A simple “What is your office environment like – formal or business casual?” either in an email or on the phone when you’re arranging your interview can provide you with a lot of confidence that you are presenting your best self.
If you didn’t ask or they were vague, keep in mind, 99% of the time, it’s better to arrive over-dressed than under-dressed, so if you’re not sure, go for a more formal look. No one will mark you down for the extra effort.
2. Dress appropriately for recruiters too
Some people think, “Oh, I’m just meeting with a recruiter – it doesn’t matter what I wear.” Wrong.
The IT recruiter is the person in the best position to ‘sell’ you into a potential employer, and will have a good idea of what that employer is looking for in terms of personal presentation.
If you show up in yoga pants and flip-flops, how will the IT recruiter know you look fantastic in a business suit? It’s often fine to wear business casual to a meeting with a recruiter, but once again, it’s better to ask in advance than show up in the wrong outfit.
3. Don’t show up too early (or too late, or not at all)
The best time to arrive for your interview is 5 minutes before the scheduled time. Not 30 minutes early (actually you can arrive 30 minutes early, but wait outside before going in) not 10 minutes late, and definitely don’t be a no-show unless you’ve fallen into a coma and don’t plan on working in any job for a while.
If you’re going to be unavoidably late or have to reschedule, call – ahead of time – and explain the situation. It doesn’t have to be a disaster.
4. Spend at least 30 minutes on research
Before your interview, spend a little time with Google to learn about the company you’re interviewing with. Learn their mission and vision, an overview of their products and services, what they seem to be focusing on now, etc.
Then make reference to these in your interview. “Well, I really wanted to work at Acme Inc. because I’m a big fan of your environmental/recycling program…” and “I think what you’re doing with your recent YouTube campaign is interesting…” are good ways to demonstrate you’ve been paying attention and will make a good fit.
5. Bring documentation
Whether you’re interviewing with an IT recruiting company or an employer, you should bring:
- A copy of your resume
- Names and contact info of your references (you’ll probably be asked to fill out a reference verification form)
- Recent grads may want to bring a copy of their diploma
- If you’re working in the country on a special visa, bring your passport and permission-to-work documentation
We also think it can be helpful to bring printed copies of any relevant articles or blog posts you’ve written recently. You never know when something unique like that might make the difference between you and another equally-qualified candidate.
6. Firm handshakes and eye contact
How you shake hands says a lot about you, but the bottom line is this, firm handshakes make good impressions and limp (or absent) handshakes make poor ones.
Eye contact is equally important. People who don’t make eye contact are perceived as deceptive and unfriendly. People who look at people to whom they’re speaking are engaged and engaging.
7. Be friendly and show your personality
The truth is that your resume and cover letter have already told the interviewer that you have the basic skills and experience required for the IT job. The interview is your opportunity to show that you’re the kind of person they want to work with every day.
That means being comfortable with a little small talk (“Can you believe this heatwave?”), offering some genuine enthusiasm (“Wow, this is a great office location!”) and throwing in a relevant question or two (“I see you’re using the new iPhone – how are you liking it?”).
Don’t totally bury your personality, either – both you and the potential employer are going to be happier if you end up working somewhere you fit in with the culture and environment. Just keep it positive and try to make it relevant.
You’d be surprised at how many people get hired because someone just ‘liked’ them in the interview.
8. Prepare some examples
More and more companies are using what they call ‘behavioural interviewing’ techniques. This means they’ll ask you about specific situations or challenges in which you used job-related skills.
Examples of questions they’ll ask:
- Describe a situation in which you had to demonstrate creative problem-solving skills
- Describe a situation in which you had to get a big IT project done on a tight timeline
- Tell me about the last time you had to work with a difficult co-worker
Your answers don’t always have to be from on-the-job experiences, especially if you’re new to the IT industry who hasn’t been in the workforce for very long, but they do need to be relevant, concise, and show you in a positive light.
Before you start interviewing, think of some situations in which you’ve accomplished something you’ve been proud of. Have you organized a big event, managed a big project, worked super-hard for a couple of weeks to meet a deadline. Then practice describing those successes in 2-3 sentences.
It’s likely that the interviewer will ask you about ‘weaknesses’ or something you could have done better in these situations. Make sure you have something to say about this, too – but keep it positive. “I think next time I’d have established a weekly status meeting right from the beginning – it would have kept us on track earlier.”
9. Ask some questions yourself
Remember, part of the interview is you interviewing the company. It may be a great job – but is it a great job for you?
So don’t be afraid to ask some questions:
- Can you walk me through a typical day in this role?
- Can you tell me more about the culture of the office and/or the department I’ll be working in?
- Are you looking for someone who is entrepreneurial?
Keep in mind that questions like “When can I expect a raise?” and “How much vacation time would I get?” are bad ideas, until you actually have an offer on the table.
If you’re looking for the right position to start using this essential interview tips, reach out to Poly Tech Talent. We have many open positions and would love to get to know what you’re looking for.
For more tips on your IT job search, visit our Guide to Your Ultimate Position in IT.