4 Tips for Acing an Interview

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IT employees working on projects

We’ve all been there: Sitting outside an unfamiliar boardroom or waiting for the host of that virtual meeting to let you in. What should you say, what should you focus on? Did you bring all of your most recent materials? Do those socks really match your shirt?

Interviews are nerve-racking, no matter the circumstances. As an IT department director and a recent graduate of the WSU Online Executive MBA program, I have spent a lot of time on both sides of the interview panel. I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way which I think could help you nail that dream job:

  1. Write a cover letter and customize it for the position you are applying for, even if it’s not a requirement of application. I’ve read hundreds of cover letters during my time as director. I personally prefer them to the resume itself. And I can tell right away if you are using a form letter which has been recycled ad nauseam. I know this is a huge pain, especially if you are doing a rapid-fire application to multiple firms. Do it anyway, a small amount of effort goes a long way for a prospective employer.
  2. While on the effort topic, do some research on the company you are applying for. As a boss, nothing darkens the mood of an interview more than the prospective employee saying, “So, what do you all do here?” I’m not expecting a treatise, but make sure your future employers know you cared enough to learn what market or service the organization provides. This simple initiative goes a long way with a hiring committee.
  3. Company research will help you with tip 3, how formal should you be in the interview? That really depends on the company. The more you know about them, the better prepared you’ll be. Is this company a Fortune 500 and the CEO was just featured in a prominent financial journal? Your best bet is to go formal. Is this company a new startup, and the CFO has a blog on windsurfing? You can probably go without a tie.
  4. When appropriate in the interview (usually at the very end) ask questions; lots of them.  Explanation of duties, benefits and wages, or even advancement protocols are all appropriate topics to bring up. You can prepare these ahead of time or take notes on items which need clarification during the interview. Make sure you are comfortable with the answer, or this position might end up not being the best fit.

Finally, and most importantly of all my advice, be confident. You’ve made it this far, so walk or log in with your head held high. In the end, this may not be the right job for you; these things happen. However, you can take pride in knowing you did your very best. And you can carry that energy to all the interviews that will follow.

By #CougaMBAssador Aaron R. W. Wheeler

Aaron Wheeler headshot.