Dedra McDowell

Students need more than a lively personality and good looks to get a job.

In addition to looking nice and looking alive, there are steps students can take before, during and after an interview to increase their chances of landing that coveted position.

Before the interview

Becky Bennett, career specialist with the Career Services Center, said one of the biggest interview mistakes that students make is not doing their homework.

“Students should review information about each employer with whom they plan to speak well before the day of the event,” Bennett said. “They should prepare a resume targeted for each employer.”

She said that students should avoid saying statements such as “I don’t know what kind of job I want. What do you have to offer?”

“That indicates that the student has not done any thinking about their career plans, and has not reviewed information about the company and positions they have to offer,” she said.

In a pamphlet that Bennett compiled, which is available at the Career Services Center, she suggests that men wear khaki pants, shirts and ties.

It is recommended that women wear a skirt and blouse, a dress or dress pants and a blouse.

Both sexes should avoid showing tattoos, flashy jewelry and going overboard with fragrances.

During the interview

Bennett said interviewees only have a few minutes to make an impression. Therefore, it’s important that students “have in mind exactly why they are interested in each employer to whom they speak.”

She also said students should be able to highlight a few skills and qualities that make them good candidates for the positions in which they’re interested.

David Smith, who works for the Social Security Administration, offered some interviewing tips at a recent career tips meeting on campus.

“Be comfortable in your own skin,” Smith said. “Either you have it or you don’t.”

Smith said that interviews are designed to show your raw intelligence, interpersonal skills and how well you think on your feet.

“This is when we will see the real you, in these role-playing interviews,” Smith said.

Mike Hammond of Enterprise Rent-A-Car also offered some tips. He said if the student is asked about an experience that they have not had the best thing for the interviewee to admit is that they haven’t experienced that particular situation and then explain how he or she would have handled it.

Hammond said you must have the ability to take things from the interview and relate them to the real world.

There are some questions that are commonly asked during interviews that students can anticipate.

These usually include telling what experiences have prepared you for the job, describing both long-term and short-term goals and revealing strengths and weaknesses.

It is important that questions are answered to the best of the applicant’s ability and with honesty.

“Be honest and upfront,” said Cheryl Smith of the Commonwealth Health Corporation, who also attended the meeting. “Your integrity is on the line.”

Employers also ask questions regarding behavior that students should be prepared to answer.

Potential employers many also ask applicants how they have behaved in past job situations. They may ask an interviewee how he or she has shown initiative, when he or she has had to motivate others and times when he or she has had to work with a group to get things done.

After the interview

At the end of an interview, employers usually ask the interviewee if he or she has any questions.

Hammond said that you should have at least four or five questions to ask. He suggested asking what qualities the company is looking for in the ideal candidate.

“This will allow you another chance to sell yourself,” and tell why you are the best fit for the position, he said.

Hammond also suggested asking the interviewer about his or her time and experiences with the company.

After an interview it is appropriate to thank the interviewer in person and then follow up by mailing a written thank-you note.

If the company doesn’t reply by offering the job or telling you it was offered to someone else, it is appropriate to call back just to check, a gesture that also shows a continuing interest.

Reach Dedra McDowell at [email protected]