First Impressions Matter, and Other Job Interview Secrets from the Pros

Published April 27, 2017

You’ve cleared the first big job-search hurdles – finding a position that’s right for you, polishing your resume, getting the company’s attention – but the big challenge still awaits: the job interview. Selling yourself on paper was successful, but now you’ve got to sell yourself in person too. This is no time for winging it. Wowing your potential future employers – so much so that they’ll offer you a job – requires preparedness, confidence, and thoughtfulness. Here, tips for acing the interview.

Before the Interview:

Do your research. “Be prepared,” says Susan Pagan-Hilton, an advisor in Full Sail’s Career Development department. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to do your homework, and how much it can really help you,” she says. “Researching employers [read their websites and their LinkedIn profiles] is one of the best ways to stand out as a candidate. You’ll be better prepared to answer interview questions.”

Rehearse your answers. Employers will probably ask at least one of these common questions: What software skills do you have? What’s your greatest weakness? Why do you want to work here? Practice answering questions like this in advance; that way, you won’t find yourself put on the spot during the interview.

“Try recording yourself while practicing interview questions. This will help you work on other non-verbal signals such as body language and hand movements,” says Pagan-Hilton. “You may realize that you say ‘umm’ or ‘like’ a lot, or have a nervous cough. It’s okay! This is your chance to prepare yourself and practice.”

But don’t sound too rehearsed, advises Jesse Durlin, a 2004 Full Sail Show Production grad who owns Orlando Productions. “Be a real person and be able to carry a conversation,” he says. “Act like we’re at a bar and just chatting.”

Craft your elevator pitch. “Make a list of your skill sets, experience, education, and career goals,” suggests Pagan-Hilton. “Practice this quick pitch at home, so it comes out naturally during your interview.”

Get materials ready. Bring several copies of your résumé, says Pagan-Hilton. “If you have a portfolio or demo-reel, have it ready on a zip drive and on a mobile device/laptop that will work without wi-fi.”

At the Interview:

Dress smart. Pagan-Hilton’s wardrobe tips: Look clean, neat, and professional. Don’t “dress down” for an interview; for example, don’t wear clothes that would be more appropriate at the beach or the gym. Don’t wear flip-flops or sneakers, and don’t wear too much jewelry and strongly scented perfume or cologne.

Make a great impression. “Make eye contact, have a firm handshake, don’t slouch, try not to fidget, take notes, and try to slow your breathing,” says Pagan-Hilton. “You will be nervous, but try to relax and act confident. Remember, they called you in for an interview because they saw something in your résumé that impressed them.”

What impresses Durlin the most is someone who really wants to work for his company: “I look for drive, passion, and a willingness to learn. Some of my best employees came to me with little experience, but they wanted [the job] so bad and were ready to learn.”

Ask questions. You’ve aced all your responses, but before wrapping up, the interviewer will likely ask if you have any questions for him or her. Always have questions ready, suggests Pagan-Hilton. It shows that you are engaged, passionate, and, most of all, interested. Some ideas: What’s the company culture like? What are the most important qualities you’re looking for? What do you like best about working for this company?

After the Interview:

Say thanks. Pat yourself on the back for an interview well done, but don’t skimp on the gratitude. Go the extra mile and send a handwritten thank-you note to your interviewers, says Joe Boutin, a 2009 Full Sail Digital Arts & Design grad and the founder and CEO of Orlando agency Three21 Creative: “I always think, wow, this person took the time to send something that’s a little more unique than the standard follow-up.”

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