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From Resumes to Getting the Job: Advice & Strategies

Resumes, cover letters, interviewing tips, and job hunting

Interviewing Basics

Illustration of two men sitting across a desk from each otherThe interview is your chance to show the employer your positive qualities, communication skills, and also to learn more about the employer.

By showing up early, dressed professionally, and prepared for questions, you are presenting yourself as the kind of employee that the hiring manager wants.

Quick Tips for Interviews

Do:

  • Show up 15 minutes early
  • Research the company/position before your interview
  • Keep your answers brief, relevant, and to the point
  • Show energy and a positive attitude during the interview
  • Prepare your answers to commonly asked questions

Don't:

  • Mention personal, political, or religious details in the interview
  • Use slang, curse words, or make jokes that could be offensive
  • Check your phone in an interview
  • Badmouth former employers
  • Ask how much the job pays/vacation/benefits in the interview
  • Say you have no questions to ask at the end of the interview

Preparing for the Interview

Wear plain, professional clothing. A black or dark gray suit can be paired with a white or a neutral color button-up shirt.

Avoid bold prints or colors, as they can be distracting. You want the interviewer to be paying attention to you, not your clothes.

For women,

  • Skirts should be knee-length at least.
  • Heels under 4 inches
  • Make-up should be natural and light. Use a lip gloss instead of lipstick. Avoid heavy eyeliner or bold eye shadow.
  • Jewelry should be subdued – a necklace or bracelet is fine, but no statement or chunky pieces.
  • No perfume or strong scents

For men,

  • Clean-shaven or neatly trimmed facial hair
  • Clean, trimmed nails
  • No cologne or strong scents
  • Wear dress shoes with dress socks

For both, it is recommended that overt piercings (besides earlobes) be taken out and visible tattoos be covered up. Some workplaces are more relaxed than others. Dress conservatively for the interview; after you get the job, you can assess how other people are dressing and make judgments from there.

Illustration of people dressed more formally and more casually in business attireNote: Guidelines for interview attire have somewhat relaxed over the years so that a full suit is not necessarily expected for many positions. It is acceptable to match your interview attire to the level of dress code of that place you're applying to (i.e. if you apply to be a cashier at a store, khakis and a polo or button-up would be fine). When in doubt, however, it's better to err on the side of being too formal rather than not formal enough.

Show up 10 - 15 minutes early. Any earlier is going to force the interviewer into an awkward position, and later shows you are irresponsible. 

Turn your phone off before going into the interview. It is unprofessional and distracting if your phone begins to ring or buzz during the interview.

Do not bring a drink into the interview. If you have a drink, throw it away before going in.

Be polite to everyone you meet. You never know who knows who, and you want to leave the best impression possible.

Keep your answers brief and relevant. Only give information which directly pertains to the job.

Be upbeat, focused, and make eye contact during the interview. You may be nervous, but try not to show it.

Do not curse or use offensive language in your interview. 

Don't mention religion or politics. These usually aren't appropriate interview topics. At worst, the interviewer could disagree with your views and it could cost you the job. Don't risk it.

Carry a portfolio with you that includes at least two (2) unwrinkled, clean copies of your resume. If the employer needs a copy, you want to be prepared.

Bring a black or blue-ink pen and a notepad to jot down anything that you may wish to remember. Employers like to see that you are invested in the interview.

Bring a question. At the end of interviews, the hiring manager will usually ask if you have any questions. Having a question shows that you have researched the position and company and are interested in the position. Do not ask about the salary or benefits. Instead, ask questions that show your interest in excelling at the position. See "What Questions to Ask in a Job Interview" on the right for what to ask and what not to ask.

Do not give gifts to the hiring manager. This puts them in an awkward position. Be memorable for your skills and qualifications, not a gimmicky gift.

Do not have your parents call to set up the interview, cancel, or ask questions. You are an adult, and your parents interfering can show that you are not responsible enough for a job. 

Send a thank you note after the interview. Some managers think it is old-fashioned, but at worst, the manager will remember your name, and at best, they will consider you more closely. Mention something specific about the interview to remind them who you were.

Don't stalk the hiring manager. Dropping off a resume once and introducing yourself is a good tactic. Don't call multiple times to check up on an application.

Do call (once) after dropping off a resume or interviewing. Call once, thank them for meeting with you, and ask about a timeline for hearing from them. If they do not give you concrete information, thank them and hang up. Call back after three days to ask again. If there is still no news, do not keep calling.

Hiring managers are busy people. They have other responsibilities they need to attend to. Calling multiple times or having long conversations make you annoying, not persistent.

Common Interview Questions

Interview Online Resources