Pieces of Interviewing Advice Students Have to Hear

As Graduation Approaches, How to Prepare for Interviews

One of the most interesting parts of my role as college professor is the opportunity to schedule guest speakers to address my classes, and (of course) to listen to those guest speakers share information with my students.

Over the years, I have found panels of three to five add the most value to the educational experience.  Hearing different viewpoints on the same topic can substantially aid students in developing a more thorough understanding of a given topic area.

Which brings me to a recent panel featuring employees of Southern Wine and Spirits, a leading distributor of wine and spirits.  The panel discussed their industry, different roles within the firm and sales in general.  One topic that was of interest to the more than 100 students in attendance was interviewing.

The panelists offered many tips, which the students subsequently summarized in short papers.  What I noticed when reading the papers was that many behaviors which an experienced business professional takes for granted are interesting to students who are new to the interview process.

As a result I'm sharing these tips inspired by the panel that students have to know about interviewing:

  1. Be on time.  A classic case of one of those practices that is sometimes assumed, but is important.  Advice for being on time includes allowing plenty of time to get to the interview - especially if it is at a building or location you have never been to.  Also, if relying on public transportation, be certain to consult the schedule and take a train/bus that will get you there with time to spare.  My advice is to always be in the parking lot 15 minutes before the interview and check in for the interview five minutes early.
  1. Dress for success.  Physical appearance matters.  The interview is your opportunity to impress the firm's representative.  Showing up in any way disheveled can be a major black mark on your candidacy.  It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.  So the night before your interview take some time to pick a sharp looking outfit and shoes.  Doing so will also help your preparation the day of the interview, as you will not need to fret about selecting your clothes.
  1. Research the company.  The most important part of your interview preparation is mental.  Walking into the interview you should be knowledgeable about the business, its products, and its competitors.  To acquire this knowledge will require effort.  Begin by visiting the company website.  Also, be sure to Google the company - including checking the "news" tab for any recent developments.  Do the same for its competitors.  But looking over that information is not enough.  You also have to study it so that you can recall it easily during the interview.  This preparation will make you feel confident walking into the interview and able to impress the interviewer. 
  2. Prepare to ask questions.  This is the area where many inexperienced candidates fall short during the interview process.  The interview winds down and the candidate is asked if he/she has any questions.  Often the candidate feels everything has already been covered and politely responds that there are no questions.  This is a major mistake.  It signals to the interviewer that the candidate is either not very interested or is not well prepared.  So, this is your moment to shine.  The work done prior to the interview should stimulate some questions that you can have prepared in advance of the interview.  In addition, any information covered during the interview can be revisited for further clarification.  But under no circumstances should you reply that you do not have any questions.