While knowing your resume, researching the company, and practicing common interview questions are important in preparing for an interview, they aren't all that counts. What you wear, how you communicate, and the questions you are prepared to ask your interviewer all matter as well.
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After a screening interview, either on-Grounds or at the employer’s site, strong candidates are often invited back to the company for further interviews. While the employer will have a schedule for when you can visit, if your schedule cannot allow for it, it is perfectly acceptable to ask to reschedule for a more convenient time. An invitation to the employer’s site is a good sign that the company is interested in you as a potential employee.
The on-site visit is your opportunity to "close the deal" if you decide that this job is right for you. Remember, your major task is to convince the employer that you are the best fit for the job and that you are sincerely interested in the organization and the position.
During an office visit, you will meet a number of people who will evaluate you on the basis of your qualifications as well as on your "personality fit" with that company or organization. The people you talk with will be asking themselves: "Would I like to work with this person or have them working for me?" Keep in mind that every employee you meet, from the person who picks you up at the airport, to the recent alum you meet with for lunch, to the people with whom you formally interview, is evaluating your qualifications and "fit" for the position. Be sure to present yourself as professionally as possible throughout your visit.
Learn how to make the best first impression and build rapport.
Often a representative from the company will meet you at the airport or in the lobby at the beginning of the day. If it is a visit that requires you to stay overnight, you may not have time to check into your hotel prior to your first meeting, so dress for your interview depending on your arrival time and your schedule. Upon arriving at the company you may first meet with a personnel manager or your host who will provide you with an agenda for the day. This may be an individual meeting or it may be with a group of other applicants also there for second interviews.
Your agenda will include interviews with a variety of people and may include the head of the department in which you would work, the person who would be your immediate supervisor, the people both in the department and in other departments with whom you would need to work closely, or UVA alumni who are currently working for the company. These interviews will often be longer and less directed than screening interviews though many of the same kinds of questions may be asked. You may also be expected to be able to actively participate in discussing technical and specific tasks and responsibilities of the job.
Other activities on your agenda may include a tour, possibly personality testing and in some cases a group activity or work simulation in which you participate with other applicants. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes that are also appropriate to the work environment.
Check out Questions Employers May Ask.
In addition to basic guidelines that apply in any interview situation, keep in mind the following:
- When scheduling your visit, it is appropriate to ask the employer about who you will be meeting with. That said, in many cases the employer will also provide a schedule with this information.
- Use the schedule to help you prepare questions for the different individuals you will meet.
- Prior to your first appointment of the day, you may ask to use the restroom to freshen up after your trip (particularly if you have just flown or driven in that morning).
- Be honest and consistent. Several people with whom you interview may ask you the same questions and often these people will not have exactly the same expectations for the position. If you play the game of trying to give each person with whom you talk the answer you think he/she wants to hear, you may contradict yourself. Be yourself – do not play to what you think the employer wants to hear.
- Be courteous, attentive and interested in all your activities during the day.
- Remember names and titles of those people you meet - you may want to jot these down as the day proceeds and check spelling with your primary host for the day before you leave. You may also ask for business cards during your interviews.
- If you participate in a group activity, keep in mind that your interpersonal skills as well as your ideas will probably be evaluated.
- Keep in mind that the questions you ask reveal as much about you as your responses to questions.
Sample Interview Questions - It helps to know general interview questions and themes. The more you know, the more prepared you will be. Check out this list of top interview questions and start practicing.
At meals, remember that your primary goal should be to talk rather than eat. Order light foods that are not difficult or messy to eat. Take your cues from your host when ordering. When ordering, do not order the most expensive item on the menu. It is generally not advisable to order alcoholic beverages unless your host encourages you to. Even then, you should not feel compelled to drink. If you do drink, make one drink your limit.
A few general eating tips:
- Wash your hands before the meal.
- Follow your host in putting your napkin in your lap. Partially fold the napkin instead of snapping it open.
- Start your meal once everyone has been served and your host lifts their fork.
- Whenevery you excuse yourself from the table, put your napkin on the left side of your plate. Leave it in loose folds, keeping any soiled parts out of sight. Do not leave it on your chair.
- If you're allergic to a particular food or on a restricted diet and your host urges you to help yourself to food you shouldn't eat, gently decline: "Thank you, but shellfish is off-limits for me. But I'm enjoying everything else."
- Take a drink only when you have no food in your mouth.
- Use a straw quietly - no slurping or blowing bubbles.
- Keep your elbows off the table while eating.
- When finished, place utensils at the 4:20 clock position to indicate the course is finished.
- At the end of your meal, leave your loosely folded napkin to the left or, if your plate has been removed, put your napkin in the center of the place setting.
During the office visit, you will have a great opportunity to collect information, which you will need to make a good decision about where to work. Be observant. Prepare questions to ask and think about what you want to observe.
Check out the Questions You Can Ask Employers.
Adapted from the Job Search Companion Handbook, Tucker Associates, 10521 Elmenden Ct, Oakton, VA 22124