Tips for a Successful Interview

1) Research, Research, Research

Perhaps nothing frustrates a recruiter more than to interview a student who is not adequately prepared for the interview. In fact, this is generally the number one complaint recruiter’s voice regarding on-campus interviews. Take the time to research the company you are interviewing with. In today’s day and age there are endless resources available to help you accomplish this including company homepages, annual reports, promotional pieces sent to the college career services office, and personal interaction with current company employees (alumni!) and competitors. Set yourself apart from others on the interview schedule by knowing key people, major products, sales numbers/market share, domestic and international markets, competition, and company philosophy/values. And remember to always attend on-campus info sessions hosted by companies prior to the interview!

Secondly, take the time to research yourself. Do some serious soul searching and understand what your strengths and weaknesses are – especially as these relate to the job you are interviewing for. More on these later.

2) Dress for Success

You only get one chance to make a positive first impression so make it count by looking good! Most campus interviews are evenly divided between business and business casual (http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewsnetworking/a/businesscasual.htm) attire but when in doubt, always err on the more professional side of dress. There is a very good chance you won’t be wearing this attire to work on a daily basis but it does send a positive message to the recruiter.

Remember, most sectors within the Agriculture and Life Sciences industry are conservative in nature so keep the following in mind when preparing for the interview:

  • Stick with the basic colors – navy, black, gray and brown.
  • Make sure colors complement each other. Guys – no white socks!
  • Keep shoes shined and well-conditioned.
  • Well-groomed hair. Minimize strange colors and facial hair presence.
  • Minimize body piercings and cover all tattoos.
  • Easy on the cologne and perfume. If a smoker, no smoking prior to the interview.

3) Honor thy Interview

More specifically – when you sign up for an interview, make sure you show up for the interview! Companies invest significant resources in the recruitment and interview process and interview “no shows” are poor reflections of the individual, department and college. More importantly, if the schedule is full there is a good chance that you have deprived a fellow student the opportunity to interview for the position. If you are running late, call the career services office or company and let them know the situation. Bottom line – remember interviewing is not a right it is a privilege!

4) Get a Grip

It is generally a good idea to arrive to the interview fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled time. This will give you a chance to relax as well as fill out any forms that the company may request of you. Turn your cell phone off, take a few deep breaths and relax. The majority of recruiters recognize you may be a bit nervous and are usually very good at fostering a positive experience for you. Project a strong physical presence (firm handshake, eye contact, posture, voice level/speed, and body language) when introducing yourself and throughout the interview. Exude confidence!

5) Open Strong

It’s no surprise that the first question of almost every interview is the standard “tell me about yourself?”. Theoretically this should be the easiest question of the entire interview but is very surprising how many students struggle with it. Specifically, most are much too brief and spend less than thirty seconds summarizing their life history. This question sets the stage for the rest of the interview so take your time with it. Focus on strengths, especially those needed for the job, and portraying yourself as a well-rounded individual. Don’t be afraid to discuss (in detail) farm experience, education, internship and work experiences, leadership activities, honors and awards, study abroad experiences, and future goals. Give them something uniquely positive to remember you by!

6) Information Exchange

There are numerous types of questions recruiters may ask during the bulk of the interview but few have the predictive validity of behavioral-based questions. Simply put – past performance predicts future performance so brace yourself for questions of this nature. The majority focus on the “tell me about a time” experience designed to probe for predictable future behaviors based on past responses. The list of these types of questions is endless so stop by the Career Services office or simply Google “behavioral-based interviewing” to obtain a list of commonly asked questions.

Keep the following in mind during your next interview –

  • Your resume serves as an important menu for interview answers. Diversify your experiences to keep the interviewer engaged.
  • Always turn negatives into positives! Simply put – what happened, how did you handle it and why are you a better person as a result of the experience?
  • Practice “damage control” with your answers. Avoid responses that raise potential red flags and diminish your chances early in the interview process. Examples include the desire to return to the family farm in a few years or return to school to obtain a graduate degree.
  • Brace yourself for the dumb or crazy questions (If you could be any animal in the jungle?) that may be asked during the interview. Remember there are no right or wrong answers to these types. Instead recruiters are often looking for a creative and quick response combined with a sense of humor.
  • Although most recruiters are well-versed in asking the proper interview questions, occasionally the line is crossed and illegal questions (age, marital status, arrest record, citizenship, etc.) may surface. If asked and confused how to address, inquire how this may relate to the position? Report to Career Services Director asap.
  • Be prepared to ask questions and avoid discussion of money during first interview.

7) Close Strong - Ask for the Job!

Generally speaking, when you hear something along the lines of “is there anything else I should know about you?” it is a good indicator that the interview is coming to a close. Rather than offer a generic handshake and verbal “thanks”, step up to plate and ask for the job! Recruiters yearn to hear this but very few applicants know how to effectively incorporate this piece into the interview. The process is simple – offer appropriate “thanks” for the interview and any accommodations that were provided. Also, remind them of your strengths and experiences and how these would prove to be major assets in the position. Ask them to consider you as a serious candidate for the position! Self-confidence is a highly desirable trait amongst employers and a closing statement of this nature is sure to set you apart from others on the interview schedule.

8) Tie Up Loose Ends

  • Obtain a business card from your interviewer and send an appropriate “Thank You” immediately upon completion of the interview. Reiterate the same thoughts you provided during the verbal close of your interview. Given the potential quick turnaround of some interviews, an email “Thank You” is acceptable.
  • Before leaving, inquire about timeframes and future round interview schedules.
  • Once you have official accepted a position – stop interviewing with other companies!