Acing the Interview

Tynan Costin

Staff Reporters

Tynan Costin, before getting ready for the interview. Photo courtesy of Beth Smith

Tynan Costin, before getting ready for the interview.
Photo courtesy of Beth Smith

Tynan Costin, after getting ready for the interview.

Tynan Costin, after getting ready for the interview.

Even if they aren’t sure what kind of job they want after college, most students have usually thought about what types of careers they want. If students know exactly which industry they want to work in, deciding which company to work for or how to begin in that industry can be difficult to maneuver. Students can be left feeling lost and a little uncertain about where to turn.
Once they find the perfect job and have received a call back from the company they want to work for, there is still one milestone to pass before getting that great job: the interview. Even if an interviewee has a great resume and cover letter, it won’t make up for a bad interview. The job interview is the best way to not only show off their credentials, but also to show future employers a personality they would want to work with.

Job Hunting How-to

Even if job seekers know exactly what career they want, finding that job can be a daunting task. Many resources exist for job hunting, including internet searches, job databases, career fairs, state employment agencies and newspaper classifieds.
Westminster College offers many resources through the Career Resource Center to students who aren’t sure what kind of job they are looking for. The career center offers assessment tests as well as planning and decision making help.
“The earlier you get started, the more we can do for you,” said Jan Lyons, the assistant director of the career center. She said that it is a common misconception that students should begin job hunting at the same time they graduate. The career center can help students find jobs while still in school, as well as internships and volunteer work. All of this can boost a student’s resume and help them find the future job they want.
One resource outside of the career center is This website has a job search function, but also has guidelines for writing cover letters and resumes. Another site is, where users can read work experience synopses. This tool gives an inside look into companies that job-seekers might want to work for. This site can also include interview questions and experiences.

Resume and Cover letter tips

When the words of a resume and cover letter come up students and postgraduates tend to have some anxiety towards how to format them.
When creating a resume and cover letter, remember to use proper paper, not just typical white printer paper. You want to use paper that is sturdy and not so loose so it looks more presentable.
“It doesn’t work to blast out a hundred of the same resumes to a hundred employers,” said Michael Caldwell, the director of the career center.
The structure of a resume depends on what job students are applying for. If it is for a formal business job, then the structure will be more of a list with topics that you choose. If it is for more of an artistic side, then it may look more artsy. Resumes should always contain education, job experience, and skills.
A cover letter should include why the student is applying and why he or she feels qualified. The cover letter is meant to open a person to a company and demonstrate how he or she would use their skills to make it better.
“It helps to customize them, especially when writing a cover letter,” Caldwell said. “You want them to know that you are interested in that position specifically. You want to provide as much specific information, not just duties and nonsense but what you have accomplished.”

Questions to ask an interviewer

As the interview comes to an end, it is always nice to ask the interviewer some questions to follow up and catch their attention. Such questions include asking them why they work for the company, and what the company’s major goals are.
Caldwell said to “refer to previous questions they asked you when asking them. You asked me more about how I would go about a day at work, how about you?”

Things to do before every interview

It is essential to look and dress professional for an interview. Practice with a friend or go to the Career Resource Center and try a mock interview. Relaxation is key to making a good impression.

Body language

According to Caldwell, it is important to give the interviewer full attention at all times, give full eye contact and be open. Body language gives a lot away about people.

Try to anticipate what questions the interviewer might ask

When going into an interview, be prepared. Most interviewers ask behavioral questions, and they can be responded to using a technique called STAR (Situation Task Action Result) or CAR (Context Action Result).
“When preparing for the interview, think of how you frame your responses. Don’t wander too far from the question they asked,” Caldwell said “Show how you gained a skill and how you got to that point.”
Potential employers, such as Goldman Sachs, arrive on campus from time to time to meet students. Speaking with a potential employer is a good way to gain insight on interviews.
For additional information, visit The Career Resource Center in person or online.

Dress to Impress

“The way you dress for an interview is critical,” Lyons said. “Job recruiters say that they know within the first six to 90 seconds of an interview who they are going hire.” By the time a person gets called for an interview, employers already know that person’s credentials and skills from the resume and cover letter.
The interview is conducted to determine if a person’s personality will be compatible with the job. The way a person dresses is a critical part in creating a positive first impression.
“You prepare to provide the best impression possible,” said James Hedges, a communication professor at Westminster.
“Dressing properly for the interview is important,” said Ellen O’Neall, the owner of a veterinarian clinic. “If I interview people who are not dressed similar to how they would be if they worked here, I question how much they really know about the job.”
O’Neall said that she has refused to hire people because they were wearing stilettos, which are inappropriate footwear for work in vet clinic.

Dressing for Men: Find a Suit that Fits

Men should wear a suit to the interview. Most importantly, make sure the suit fits well. When purchasing a suit, it is important to remember a few key factors: getting the right cut and getting the proper measurements.
There are three types of suits available: American, British and European cuts. The differences are easy to remember. American cuts are meant for stockier builds, with a center vent. The cut is more generous since it is meant for larger body types. It will give a more relaxed feel, while still looking fitted.
British-cut suits are designed for taller, slimmer men. Designed similarly to uniforms, British-cut suits follow the line of the body. They have side vents, shorter jackets and a tighter fit than American suits.
European suits, intended for slim men, are known for a sharp shoulder line and trim waist. It is more severe than the previously mentioned cuts. These suits are usually either not vented or double vented. Recently, suit designers have start mixing elements of each cut to create newer looks. Therefore, the best thing to do is simply try them on. Most stores that sell suits have someone who can take measurements and help find the right fits.
Regardless of the type of suit that a man buys, there are a few key facts he should remember if he wants to impress the interviewer. The fit of the jacket is one of the most important elements of a suit, so the wearer should make sure the sleeves are long enough and that it fits well around the shoulder.
“The sleeves should hit just past the break of the wrist,” said Randy Spain, Assistant Manager of Men’s Wearhouse. “The shoulders should be at a 90 degree angle from the top of the shoulder down.”
The effort that goes into the suit is lost if the wearer does not know how to tie a tie. There are several ways to learn how to do so. One of the best resources is GQ Magazine’s website,

Tips for Women

The biggest challenge men usually face is finding a suit that fits. The problem most women face when getting ready for an interview is the sheer number of options available.
Women should still look tailored, well groomed and ready for the job. If a woman chooses to wear a suit, it should be well-fitted but not skin tight. Simple conservative shoes are the best bet for an interview.
“Don’t break out the highest pair of heels you own for an interview,” O’Neall said. “You’re already going to be nervous, and those shoes will only make you more uncomfortable.”
Another factor to remember is that “skin to win” is never a good mantra when getting ready for the interview. Shirts don’t have to be buttoned all the way to the neck, but cleavage should not be visible. Shoulders should also be covered. If a woman chooses to wear a skirt, it should cover her thighs when seated.  For some women, it may also be wise to wear nylons or tights.
“You have to think about everything from your hair to your jewelry to the way you present yourself,” Hedges said. Interviewers should be careful to avoid flashy jewelry. Women should also avoid too much makeup, as well as perfume because the interviewer may have allergies.

Other Good First Impression Techniques

The way an interviewee dresses is not the only way to create a positive image.
“Non-verbal communication is an extremely important aspect of any communication event and should not be overlooked,” Hedges said.
In addition to dressing well, there are other forms of non-verbal communication that can be used in an interview.
“As soon as you are in the interview, you should smile, look the interview in the eye, make sure you have a good handshake, and say, ‘My name is…’” Lyons said.
To set up a mock interview, call or visit the career center.

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