By: Emily Wilkes
For many students, interviews can be the most intimidating part of the recruiting process. In school we learn about what we should and shouldn’t wear and inappropriate interview topics, but nothing can completely prepare us for an interview because every interview is different. I have been to several different interviews, with different employers, who had different interviewing styles; but here are some things that I have learned that have proved successful for me across the board:
1. Show initiative: If a firm or company doesn’t recruit at your school then approach them. Go online to their website, find the firm or company’s recruiter, and call or email them about a potential position. I guarantee they will be impressed with your initiative and remember you when hiring!
2. Be yourself: When you go into an interview, you should act and dress just as you are. You want a potential employer to want you for exactly who you are, not who you are when trying to make a good impression. This is extremely important because you want to make sure that you find the right cultural fit in a firm. Attempting to become something you are not during an interview or office visit will only hurt you. Be professional, but be you.
3. Don’t over or undersell yourself: This sort of goes along with the last tip about being yourself. When you go into an interview you never want to lead your employer to believe you know how to do something that, in fact, you do not. Employers do not expect you to know everything at first—instead they want to be sure that you are capable of being trained. While you should not lie about things that you cannot do, you absolutely should share your strengths and abilities. Don’t be shy!
4. Come prepared with questions for the interviewer: If you really want to work for the firm or company you are interviewing with, then you probably know something about them, but it is still a good idea to go online and do some research. Spend about five minutes on the company website, familiarizing yourself with its mission statement, service lines, and anything that is important to you in a career. I promise that at some point during the interview, the interviewer will ask, “Do you have any questions?” Your answer should always be yes. Write down about five questions beforehand, so that even if a couple of your questions get answered before you can ask them, you will still have something. If you don’t ask anything, the interviewer may take this as a sign of disinterest, even if that is not the case, so be sure to have questions.
5. Be prepared for the dreaded “what is your biggest weakness?” question: I have heard several different opinions on how to answer this question. Some people tell you to turn your weakness into a strength and others tell you they are looking for an honest weakness. I think the best answer is to talk about a weakness but then explain what you are actively doing to improve it. However, your weakness should not be something like, “I’m lazy,” or “I hate working with people.” Most interviewers do ask this question, so take some time to prepare an answer before your interview.
6. Send thank you notes: After an interview or conversation with a potential employer, you should always send them a thank you note. Be sure to include something that the two of you talked about so they know the conversation was meaningful to you. Thank you notes show that you are appreciative of the interviewer’s time. Email are great, but hand-written cards are much better!
I hope that these tips will be beneficial to you during your next interview. Good luck!
My name is Emily Wilkes and I am from Cary, North Carolina. I am currently a senior at High Point University. After graduating from HPU in May 2014 I will pursue a Master’s of Accounting at North Carolina State University. I previously interned at Red Hat, Inc. in their taxation department and Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP as an administrative intern. I am currently serving as a tax intern at Smith Leonard, PLLC while completing my last undergraduate course at High Point University. This summer I will return to the triangle to intern in the tax department at Cherry Bekaert, LLP.