Wednesday, October 14, 2020 Guest Contributor Mollie Paschall, USC-SLIS Intern

CHARLESTON, S.C. - The interview process can be intimidating – especially if you are trying to land your first real job during a pandemic. Fortunately, CCPL is here to help. We are available by phone, email, text, chat as well as in person to answer your questions and provide important resources. We have also developed tips for preparing for and standing out in any interview, whether it be in-person or virtual.


Tips for Any Interview

A. Dress the part

Your choice of attire speaks to your interest in the job. When possible, abide by the company’s dress code. If you are unable to find the company’s dress code on their website, some general rules to follow include:

  1. Be well groomed and wear clean clothes, free of wholes, tears or other signs of wear.
  2. Avoid clothes with offensive or inappropriate designs or stamps.
  3. Avoid revealing clothing.
  4. Make sure your clothes are pressed and stain free.
  5. Choose the right color. Neutral colors are best for job interviews, such as black, navy, and grey and brown.
  6. Wear something that will help the interviewers remember you and that will show a little bit of your personality. We are not talking about a bright yellow suit, but something subtle that also allows you to stand out and might serve as a conversation piece. Consider a bold colored blouse or a special accessory that has a fun story behind it.

B. Practice answers to common interview questions

Practice for your interview by creating a list of common interview questions and developing answers for them. Make sure that your answers include specific examples and that you practice your answers out loud. Some common interview questions include:

  1. What makes you unique?
  2. Why do you want to work here?
  3. Why are you leaving your current job?
  4. What are you passionate about?
  5. What are your greatest strengths?
  6. What are some of your weaknesses?
  7. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
  8. What is your greatest accomplishment?
  9. What can you bring to the company?
  10. How do you work under pressure?

C. Research the company

In depth knowledge of the company will not only allow you to determine whether it is the right fit for you, but it will allow you to appear more invested than your competitors. When researching a company, look for details concerning the company’s:

  1. Values
  2. Business operations
  3. Leadership
  4. Current events

D. Have questions to ask at the end

Every interview ends with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. This is a great opportunity to further display your interests in the company. Make sure that you develop questions that extend beyond the superficial aspects of the job or company. Ask questions that demonstrate the research you have done. Specific projects, goals, and future plans for the company are all things worth inquiring about.

You can also use this as an opportunity to display a sense of confidence in yourself by preparing questions about what the company has to offer you. Ask questions about mentors and further training opportunities.

E. Follow up

After your interview, it is good practice to follow up within 24-hours. You can send an e-mail thanking the interviewer and letting them know that you are available to answer any additional questions.

Tips for Virtual Interviews

A. Test your technology

Virtual interviews give you an opportunity to display your technical skills, and technical skills are considered one of the top competencies employers look for in new hires.

It is important that you avoid potential technical glitches by testing your equipment before the video call. You should make sure that you have a strong internet connection and that your audio and video are working well. You should test each of these the day and hour before your scheduled interview. Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to solve any technical issues before the interview begins.

B. Choose a professional e-mail address

In virtual interviews, your e-mail address can be your first impression. That said, the e-mail address you select should display a level of professionalism. Consider the following tips when creating an e-mail address:

  1. Avoid using an e-mail address that contains a nickname or funny phrase. Instead, try creating an e-mail that uses a combination of your first, middle, and last name.
  2. Avoiding using the numbers one and zero in your email as some fonts can cause these numbers to look like letters.
  3. Avoid using symbols or accents in your email address. The email address should be easy to pronounce or easily read aloud.

C. Choose an appropriate setting

Make sure that your virtual interview setting also conveys a level of professionalism.

  1. Avoid a messy background. The messier the background, the harder it is to convince your interviewer of how detail-oriented and organized you are as an employee.
  2. Sit in front of a blank background, if possible. This will allow you to be the focal point. If this is not possible, try to find a background that looks business-like.
  3. Make sure that you have good lighting. Video call in a well-lit room. The light should be in front of you, not to your back. For example, do not sit with your back to a window.
  4. Make sure the room has a table or desk on which to place your computer. You want to avoid placing your device in your lap or on an object that may move during the interview.

D. Monitor your body language

Unfortunately, a firm handshake to convey confidence is not an option in the virtual setting. So, it is even more imperative that you pay close attention to your body language. Throughout the interview you should:

  1. Sit up straight
  2. Smile
  3. Make ‘eye contact’ (Hint: look into your camera, not at the screen)

Additionally, you should not:

  1. Cross your arms
  2. Fidget
  3. Touch your face

E. Rid yourself of distractions

Find a quiet place.

  1. Make sure that you leave your cell phone on silent, in another room.
  2. Do not have any other tabs open on your computer.
  3. Close all windows to avoid any noises from traffic, construction, or children playing outside.
Additional Pro-Tip

Use sticky notes to create ‘cheat sheets’

Maybe one of the best things about virtual interviews is that they allow you an opportunity to use "cheat sheets." You can write reminders for important talking points on sticky notes and place these on your computer screen. These cheat sheets will come in handy if your nerves tend to make you lose track of your thoughts.

If you would like more information, assistance in finding resources, tips on how to get the job-hunting process started or more, please reach out to us. Click here to see which library locations are open and available to provide in-person services.  With a little bit of practice and self-patience, you will be ready to take on the next steps in your future career. If you would like more information about changing careers during difficult circumstances, assistance in finding resources, tips on how to get the job-hunting process started or more, please reach out to us at CCPL by email, chat or text. You may also call us at 843-805-6930, leave a voice message, and a library staff member will return your call. Remember, you are not alone.