You stayed up countless nights studying, putting together the perfect portfolio to showcase your abilities and potential, stayed involved on campus, made time for internships, and still managed to have a social life. Now, it’s time to prepare for the real world.
Whether you’re planning to walk down the stage soon or walked down the stage six months ago, here are some things I find helpful when getting ready for your first entry-level interview.
Build the right portfolio
I find this so important, especially in the communication world. You want to show employers your potential. You can say you did something, but showing that PowerPoint presentation or Op-ed off to a potential employer will make you memorable. Just remember to make sure there are not any errors in the examples. Your professor may have glanced over or ignored that typo, but do not let it slide if it is going in your portfolio. The work you put in your portfolio needs to be A++ work; something to be proud of and relevant to the job you are applying for. For internships and entry-level positions, a binder is typically fine. If you want to get really fancy (like myself), find a nice black leather portfolio (I found mine on Amazon). Use page protectors, dividers (type up section tabs with the tabs provided in most dividers), make a table of contents and organize it like your life depends on it (it kind of does). Make sure your resume, cover letter, and application are easily accessible in the front.
Lay out an appropriate outfit
Not to sound superficial, but you are not only going to be judged on how many words you can type or how fast you can go through an AP Stylebook quiz, but you are also going to be judged on how well you put yourself together. Invest in nice dress pants, shirt, and blazer. Also, make sure you wear flats unless you are super comfortable walking in heels (AND I MEAN SUPER COMFORTABLE LIKE YOU COULD DO YOGA OR RUN A MARATHON THEM).
Another tip is to take the time to make sure your nails are decent. Opt for a clear or nude coat of nail polish. If you have a little extra cash to spend, then go out and treat yourself to a manicure. However, if you are a broke college student, like most of us, then all you need to do is use one of the 15+ nail polishes you probably don’t use and the nail file your friend buys you every year for Christmas. It’ll show that you care about even the simplest details (especially if you say you are detail-oriented in your cover letter). So, when you go to give your best handshake before and after, you can feel confident about the work that led you to the interview, as well as, yourself as a whole.
Know who you are and what you want
Lately, it seems like in my head I know who I am and what I want, but communicating that over and over again seems to be catching me off guard. The questions “So tell me about yourself” and “What exactly do you want to do in PR?” really threw me off at my first couple interviews. I mean, I went to school for PR, so can I just do PR? Nope. I remember walking out of an entry-level interview wishing I had put more thought into answering such simple questions. Maybe I would have been more qualified for the job, but who knows.
Get a good night’s sleep
Treat this interview as a big exam. You need to sleep no matter what, so plan for a full 6-8 hours (whatever works for you). You want to be sharp and ready for anything. The only problem is this isn’t a college exam anymore, and the answer is not going to be C when you are not sure. Also, you’ll be happy not having to cake on the concealer to cover up the bags under your eyes.
Whether your interview is down the road or two hours away, EAT SOMETHING. The last thing you want is to be hungry, and no one can think when he or she is hungry. I know if food is not available when I need it, I get “hangry.” Obviously, I wouldn’t be hangry in an interview, but I don’t want to think about how badly I want a bagel sandwich or smores pizza.
Map out the location
Google it. Memorize it. Keep checking it. Know how many miles it takes to get there and how long the estimated drive is. Also, factor in the time it takes you to get in your car, realize you forgot your keys on the counter (or is that just me?), walk back into the house, grab your keys, walk to your car, put on some pumped up music to calm your nerves, drive through traffic and construction (ugh), park your car (you might have to pay for parking), walk to the building (pray you don’t get lost) and make it to the office early. If your interview is at 12:30, make sure you’re about to walk into the building at 12:20.
Be prepared for tricky questions
I personally haven’t had this happen to me yet, but through my research, I found some employers will throw in a tricky question or two. Do your research on what kind of questions could be asked for the position you are applying for. The last place you want to b.s. an answer is in that room with HR and your potential future boss.
Also, it is important to know when an employer is asking illegal questions and how to handle it in the most appropriate way possible.
Research the company
Knowing who the company is and its values are so important. Do its values match yours? Is its mission statement clear and concise? Do the employees seem to like the kind of people you want to be around? What’s its website like? Can you tell the company took the time to make it clean and professional instead of from the 90’s (even though the 90’s are making a comeback in the fashion world, that doesn’t mean it’s good for the professional world)? If they have blogs or case studies, make sure you take the time read a couple. Also, research your potential boss and see how they got where they are today. It’s not creepy, I promise.
Prepare questions for your interviewer(s)
ALWAYS ASK SOMETHING AT THE END. YES, I AM LITERALLY SCREAMING AT YOU IN CAPS. But seriously, asking questions shows you’re interested. After researching the company, make sure to write down ten things you want to know more about. If you don’t know what to ask, Google some ideas and go from there (honestly, Google is going to be your best friend if it isn’t already).
Give yourself a pep talk
I always tell myself “breathe” and “you got this, girl.” Whatever you need to say to yourself to bring out the most confident and best version of yourself, do it. Being in touch with yourself is so important and could potentially help you land your first entry-level job.
So when you’re getting ready for your interview, keep these top ten things in mind, and know I wish you all the best in your endeavors.