How do I Answer This Interview Question: If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Interviewing can be nerve racking, a bit stressful, but super exciting at the same time, right?  We do our best to prepare, practice  and rehearse what to say and be well equipped to answer the typical interview questions, such as, “where do you see yourself in 5 years”, or “why do you want to work for us?” But, what tends to catch us off-guard, are those questions we don’t expect, the ones that are unrelated to the position.

But, there is a way to prepare for those bizarre interview questions! Really, you can actually have fun with them!

I will share a question that I was asked when I was interviewing for a marketing role at a large, well-known company.  My interview was with a hiring manager and a senior sales associate, and they asked, “if we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us”?  I felt like I was staring at them for an hour before I answered, but in reality I sat back and pondered for a minute on how best to answer. My first comment was, that I really like cooking and friends have told me that I am a good cook and an even better host!  From there, it was easy, I made sure to be considerate, I asked if they had allergies, any dietary restrictions, and if they enjoyed sweets! I proceeded to put together a well-thought out menu, right down to the dishes and centerpiece!  I also added, that our dinner gathering was more about the company than the food (they seemed to like that.)  By the way, the company was Disney Publishing, and yes, I got the job!

The reason these bizarre or unrelated questions are asked is often designed to assess your ability to think on your feet and get a sense of your personality.  People who interview you want to hear your thought process and how you handle challenging situations.

Think First, Then Answer

So, take your time when answering a random interview question. Your interviewer (or interviewers, in my case) has designed the question to be intentionally testing and won’t necessarily expect you to have an immediate answer at your fingertips.

Think about what the company does and what role you’re applying for and what the responsibilities are. If there is an opportunity to show off organizational skills, technical ability or math skills in answering the question, this is more than likely what the question is designed to do.

In most cases, these bizarre questions are an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity and about how you could approach the problem/challenge. Remember, there may be a number of possible answers and not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Check out this post about Rubik’s Cubes and 747’s for a similar approach to answering these types of questions.

Your willingness to embrace an unusual question and your efforts to provide a logical answer will be looked upon favorably by an employer, whatever answer you eventually arrive at!

This post was written by Christine Hathaway. Christine is an Associate Director of Marketing and Communications for Co-op and Career Development here at Northeastern. She is our in house marketing guru and is passionate about planning events, working with others to create powerful marketing materials and presentations and enjoys an occasional kick-boxing class or two! Tweet her about this post @CareerCoachNU.

How Do I Answer This: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

dont know what i'm doing

“Uhh, good question”: A great way to buy yourself a second to organize your thoughts, not so great when you actually don’t know the answer to the interview question. Every Thursday, throughout the summer we’ll tackle a hard-to-answer interview question as part of our Summer Interview Crash Course series on the blog.

This week’s question:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

“Um, working here?” Well, yes and no. This question is really trying to gauge how much you’ve thought about how this job will align with your long term goals. It should also speak to your professional ambition as well as your ability to think about both the short and long-term. Even if you picture yourself running your own business or perhaps in the interviewer’s shoes, you can’t really say those things out loud. I’d still suggest being honest about your ambition, but focus it more on how this position would support your long term goals. You can keep you answers relatively general, but be prepared if they decide to push for more details.

Example: Eventually I would love to be leading my own sales team. Based on my research and from talking to others in the industry, *name of company* really invests in the career growth of their employees and many people who start off in this position eventually move into a more managerial role.

You could then ask the interviewer to expand on the career trajectory of this role, but it is likely that they will take the lead and agree with you and tell you some success stories.

Kelly is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach. She is also the “blog master” for The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University (Go Huskies!) with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Tweet her @kellydscott4.

First Impressions, Or How Job Interviews Are Like Tinder

tinder gifSwipe right or swipe left? Most users of the dating site Tinder take mere seconds to decide whether to connect with a potential partner or to banish that person to the reject pile.  Would you be surprised to learn that it doesn’t take a potential employer much longer than that to form a strong impression of a job candidate? Being invited to interview for a job means that you and just a few other candidates were chosen, possibly out of hundreds of other applicants, to make your case in person.  Given this chance, it’s important for your in-person performance to be as flawless as you can make it. And that begins, and unfortunately sometimes ends, with your first impression.

gross cher reactionIn one study, 33% of hiring managers surveyed said that they knew within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether or not they would hire a candidate. In the same study, conducted by Monster.com, 65% of bosses said that appearance could be a deciding factor when two of the candidates being interviewed are otherwise very similar.  Appearance includes not only clothing but hairstyle, hygiene, makeup and jewelry.

What you wear must fit well and be clean and in good repair, including your shoes. Select and examine your outfit before the interview so if cleaning or mending are in order, you will have time to do it.  If you’re planning to wear something new, make sure you remove the tags and stitching in the pockets or pleats. Be conservative with makeup unless the job you’re after requires big floppy shoes and a fake red nose.  Likewise, jewelry should be unobtrusive except if the norm for your industry says otherwise. Regardless of industry, skip the cologne or aftershave; you have no way of knowing whether any of your interviewers have allergies or sensitivities. If you smoke, you may not be aware of the tobacco smell clinging to your coat, clothing or hair, but your interviewer will be, and most likely will not be impressed.

Knowing what to wear can be tricky. Your goal is to dress like you belong in the organization where you’re interviewing, preferably on the more formal side. For consulting, financial services and legal positions, that means wearing a suit for both women and men.  In other fields, it is up to you to do a little sleuthing to find out what is the norm. You may look crisp and professional wearing your suit, but if you’re meeting with people in a much more casual environment, they could take one look at you and decide that you don’t understand their culture. Dressing up may not score in your favor if it isn’t what other employees do, since an interview is largely about determining fit.

When you walk into the interviewer’s office, be aware of your posture. Convey a confident attitude by standing up straight and walking purposefully. A natural-looking smile is also important, as are a firm handshake, a heartfelt “Pleased to meet you” and good eye contact.  Practice these things with a friend until they are second nature.

If this seems like a lot of work for the first 90 seconds of your interview, don’t forget that without that great first impression – swipe left! – your well-prepared interview talking points may fall on deaf ears.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2015. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

Image Source: Tinder Gif; Cher Gif

What should YOU be asking in an interview?

notesLet’s face it — Interviews are nerve-racking. Everyone knows how to dress and that they need to research the company. We’ve all probably practiced answering typical interview questions, too! But what questions should you be asking when the tables turn and the interviewer says, “Now, do you have any questions for me?”

Here are my go-to questions and why I ask them in every interview:

Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?

It’s great to know about your coworkers, there’s no doubt about that. This question is mainly geared to give a better understanding of team structure and dynamics. However, the use “I’ll” shows a confidence in your ability to get the position and crafts an image in the interviewer’s mind of you working in that role.

What opportunities are there for growth?

Whether you’re a co-op student or interviewing for a full-time job, nobody wants a stagnant position. From this questions, you can discover how you can move up within a company or what additional responsibilities you can take on. This question also tells the interviewer that you are eager to work and to grow as an employee!

How does the company measure success?

While this isn’t the most common question to ask, it’s one of my favorites. Success is key to any business and knowledge of how the position can add to that is key.

What is the company culture like?

This is, without a doubt, my #1 question to ask. On paper, the position could be perfect you, but are you really the best fit for the company? Really take their answer into consideration, because company culture can affect your happiness, work, and success.

Preparing for a Case Interview

art of interviewing

What is a case interview?

As you prepare for co-ops, graduation, and beyond, it is likely you’ll come across case interview questions during the hiring process. These are questions that pose hypothetical problems to the interviewee to identify their ability to gather new information quickly, process the information, and make an informed decision. They are most often associated with management consulting and investment banking interviews, but can also be used by tech companies (like Vistaprint), to assess critical thinking skills for a variety of roles.

Here are a few examples:

How many bars of soap are used each week across the world?

How many eggs are sold annually in the United States? (This was asked of me during an interview with an advertising agency in Boston.)

If you owned a flying car company, how much would you charge per car?

How is a case interview different from a behavioral interview?

Case interviews differ from behavioral interview questions in that they are specifically designed to examine your thought process, while behavioral interview questions assess personality traits and past experience. Case interviews focus on what you’re able to do now instead of what has been completed in former roles. Being put on the spot this way can be intimidating for the interviewee, but there is a wealth of resources available that can prepare candidates to successfully navigate case interviews.

Case Interview Preparation Tips:

  • Practice
    • Just like anything else, getting better at case interviews requires practice. Case in Point is an excellent resource, as is good ol’ Google.
    • Keeping a notebook with your practice case notes in it is a good way to identify areas to improve and provides practical review material as an interview date approaches.
  • Focus on the Skills Needed for the Position
    • There are many different types of case interviews (marketing sizing, profitability, brain teasers, etc. – see a good list) that can be asked by a hiring company. It’s important to consider the type of position being sought when preparing for a case interview question.
    • A company looking to fill a financial analyst role is more likely to pose M&A, cost cutting, or profitability questions, while brain teasers are often used during engineering interviews. Know what to expect going in!
  • Research the Company
    • Before every interview it’s always a good idea to search for “[company name] interview questions” to see how other interviews been structured for past candidates. This can help identify what type of case questions are often posed based upon the position being sought.

Tips for During the Interview:

  • Confirm the Desired Answer
    • Before starting, it is critical to confirm with the interviewer what the desired answer looks like. You do not want to reach the end of the case and realize the answer is not what the interviewer is looking for.
  • State Assumptions Clearly
    • Stating assumptions clearly and out loud will allow the interviewer to follow your train of thought throughout the case. This is what they are most interested in; they want to know how you think.
  • Ask Questions
    • Asking questions demonstrates your ability to gather and digest new information – a key skill for any role.
    • Sometimes important information regarding the case is initially withheld and is only revealed if asked – so make sure to ask!
  • Simplify (and Check) Your Math
    • Expect there to be mathematical elements to a case interview, but don’t get bogged down with it. Round where it makes sense and, when assuming variables, use easy numbers. Be comfortable with quick “back of the envelope” calculations and be sure to watch those decimal points.
  • Arrive at an Answer
    • Always be approaching the desired answer! It is easy to get sidetracked during a case. Always. Be. Closing (the case).

Additional Resources:

Kyle Risley is currently a Senior Marketing Associate within our Organic Search team. Kyle has been with Vistaprint for 1 ½ years and is also a Northeastern alumni who studied Marketing and minored in Economics.

Call Me Maybe: 5 Phone Interview Strategies

Honey Boo Boo hates phone interviews image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/TFMoOxjnAAMbm

Honey Boo Boo hates phone interviews
image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/TFMoOxjnAAMbm

This guest post was written by Career Development intern and aspiring Career Counselor, Mike Ahern.

Phone interviews are becoming increasingly popular as hiring managers look for new ways to separate desirable candidates from the rest of the pack. Throughout multiple job searches as an undergraduate and graduate student I’ve relied on a few intentional strategies to carry my candidacy through to the second round. Here are 5 strategies to make sure you have a successful phone interview.

1. “Dress for the job you WANT …”

Just because the interviewer can’t see you, doesn’t mean you should take the call in your pajamas. Studies have shown that the type of clothing you wear can greatly impact how you perceive yourself in any given work space or environment. Putting on your business clothes will put you into a professional mindset and better prepare you for the interview. Wearing workplace attire can even correct posture, in turn altering how you sound over the phone. So take the extra time to pick out a professional outfit and dress for the job you want.

(Note: this doesn’t mean you should show up on your first day dressed as an astronaut…)

2. “Before anything else preparation is the key to success”

For any type of interview, whether over the phone, on Skype, or in person, you should be spending a significant amount of time preparing. A large part of efficiently preparing for a successful interview will be anticipating thetypes of questions you will be asked. Be prepared to answer a variety of questions and have answers with specific examples. Take notes on ruled paper or better yet, a personal favorite, utilize note cards. There’s no rule stating that you can’t have your note cards spread out around the desk while you are on the phone. Just be sure not to sound like a robot if you have to read off of them.

3. “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing”

The phone interview can be a great opportunity to show your level of enthusiasm and knowledge about the position or the industry it is in. Be sure to take the initiative to research the company. How many employees does it have? How has it been performing? Are there any new programs or products the company/business/organization is releasing? Showing that you understand the trends and status of the company will show the hiring manager your level of understanding about the business and that can help push your application into the second round pile.

4. “The only stupid question is the question that is never asked.”

At the end of practically every interview the employer will ask if there are any questions you want to ask. Think of this as one more opportunity to leave a lasting impact. Ask about that new project you researched. Ask what skills the ideal candidate would have (I’ll personally use this one then try to tie my experiences to what the employer is looking for) Simply replying “No I don’t have any questions” doesn’t show a lot of enthusiasm and leads to a missed opportunity to wrap up the conversation in a meaningful way.

5. “Practice… We’re not talking about a game… we’re talking about Practice…”

You can increase your chances of having a great phone interview before you even pick up the phone; through practice. This can be one of the most over looked strategies for prepping for any kind of interview. Taking the time to sit with a friend and parse out possible questions you might encounter will get you in the right mindset. If you can’t find a willing participant to interview you, try utilizing a smartphone to record your answers to preselected questions. Play back the tape and notice how you respond. Do you say “um” a lot? Did a few of the questions make you pause and think? Consider practice as an invaluable strategy to increase your chances of sounding professional on the phone.

Overall these five strategies will help set you up for a successful phone interview. As always keep in mind that as a current undergraduate, graduate or alumnus you have innumerable resources at your fingertips, courtesy of the Northeastern University Career Development office.

Mike Ahern is a Career Development Intern at Northeastern University in Career Development. Currently he is pursuing a graduate degree in Higher Education in Student Affairs at Salem State University. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn or on Twitter @MIkeAAhern 

 

 

 

 

When My Dream Job Wasn’t

Photo Source: idaamerica.org

Photo Source: idaamerica.org

This guest post was written by BU and NU alum, Lindsey Trione. She now works in Greek Life at Texas State University. 

When I was looking for my first post-grad job I interviewed a lot…I mean a whole lot. I was applying to anything and everything that was close to what I wanted to do. I wasn’t picky about the size of the organization, the location, or even the living arrangements (in my field sometimes you get an apartment as part of your compensation). I just wanted a job.

Then along came my dream job. It was doing EXACTLY what I wanted to do for an award winning organization located in a part of the country that I preferred. I knew other people who had worked there and saw all of the great things they were doing, things that I wanted to be doing, and the national recognition they were receiving for their efforts. When I mentioned the posting to my mentor she told me about how highly sought after this position was and how she interviewed there but didn’t get the job. Even my parents, who don’t really understand my field, knew that this was a job I absolutely had to apply for. As you can imagine, my mind was racing “How awesome would it be if I got this job?”, “What could this do for my career?” and “I’m totally going to nail this interview!”

Finally, I managed to calm myself down enough to fill out the application. After what felt like weeks of waiting with no results I finally received that golden email asking to set up a phone interview. This was it! I made it past the first cut! I was ruthless in my preparations for the phone interview. I did practice interviews with friends, asked for advice on how to be successful in a phone interview, I even spent my commute answering questions I posed myself as if I were being interviewed in my car!

The best part was, once the phone interview happened I totally nailed it! My phone call was with my potential supervisor and I really had a connection with him. We discussed his organizational goals, my career goals, and my thoughts on best practices while still managing to have what felt like a real conversation. I ended that call even more sure that this was the place I wanted to work.

When I was invited to an on-site interview I was beyond ecstatic, like jumping up and down screaming ecstatic. I was going to actually visit this great place and meet even more people, people who could potentially be my future co-workers. However once I got there for my interview things started to feel off, the great connection I had made over the phone was almost non-existent.

The day started with a group interview with the staff I would be working directly with. I remember being asked how I would have handled a “hypothetical” situation. In my response I spoke of the best practices that were discussed during my phone interview and how I would use them to handle the situation. When I finished my answer I was met with silence and instead of following up they just moved on. My interview with organizational stakeholders wasn’t much better, except instead of awkward silences I was met with awkward jokes that I had no clue how to respond to.  Overall, the entire day was uncomfortable.

Afterwards I tried to convince myself that I was just really nervous or maybe I put this place on a pedestal with unrealistic expectations. Was I reading too much into their responses, or in some instances, their lack of a response? Slowly I started to realize that it wasn’t because I was nervous, or had unrealistic expectations, it was because this organization wasn’t a good fit for me. I learned that the job search isn’t just about who can advance your career and give you networking opportunities, it’s about where you feel like you can fit in. When I wasn’t offered the job I was actually relieved because I knew that I wasn’t going to accept the position if it were offered. I could no longer see myself working there, and those amazing opportunities I was looking forward to no longer seemed so amazing.

My search ended up lasting a lot longer than I thought it would and maybe that was because I became pickier about where I interviewed. When I did find my current position, I knew I had found the place that I fit in. I saw several people who took the first job offered to them and ended up leaving after less than a year; I’m happy to report that I’m not a part of that group. I love my job and I love my organization. Maybe it wasn’t what I had originally thought would be my dream job, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Originally from North Carolina, Lindsey earned a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration from Boston University and a Master of Science in College Student Development and Counseling from Northeastern University. She found her dream job as a Greek Affairs Coordinator at Texas State University in sunny San Marcos, Texas. When she isn’t working with her students she can be found with her nose in a good book or playing with her dog Brett. Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LMTrione.

 

 

Tell Me About Yourself… But Not Really

image source: cartoonstock.com

image source: cartoonstock.com

This post was written by Amy Stutius, Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development.

In everyday life, if someone asks you to tell them about yourself, it’s usually because they want to get to know you as a person and learn about your interests, hobbies, and passions.  So if I asked you to “tell me about yourself,” what would you want to say?  Would you tell me that you grew up in California, love to surf, like cookie dough ice cream, and just came back from a family trip to Paris?  That would all be pretty interesting, and a good conversation starter if I asked you that question while we were waiting for a treadmill to open up at the Marino Center, or if we were taking a break from studying for finals.  But what if you were coming in to interview with me for a co-op, internship, or a job that you really wanted?

You response might help me realize what a fun and unique person you are, and that maybe we’d have something in common as friends, but it wouldn’t tell me anything about why I should hire you, and why you’d be a better fit for the job over any of the other candidates I’m interviewing.  Remember, you’re out there trying to compete for, and secure, a great job and the way to do that is to market yourself, not as a terrific and friendly person with an interesting childhood and hobbies, but as a terrific and friendly person who can do this job better than any of the other candidates waiting in the wings!

So how do you master your answer to this question or some variance of it?  Think it through and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  You’ll need to answer this question in some form during your interview, whether the interviewer comes out and asks you to “tell me about yourself,” or if they say “what brings you in here today.”  Even if they don’t ask you the question that directly, it’s great for you to try to weave your proposed answer somewhere into the interview because the whole point of the answer is to clearly and articulately relay a bit about your background and experience, and why that makes you a good fit for this position and this company.

back to the future poster

image source: meansheets.com

When you’re thinking through your response, I like to take the “Back to the Future” approach (part 1, that is). You want to start in the present, then travel to the past, and then head back to the present and into the future.

So by starting in the present, you’re going to be talking about your current status, namely, your class year, and major, and anything else relevant that’s going on right now.  Next you’ll travel with your interviewer to the past, where you’ll share a few RELEVANT snapshots of some experiences you’ve had that tie in well to the job you’re interviewing for.  These could be co-ops you’ve done, academic projects you’ve worked on, and/or any research you’ve completed.  After you discuss those all-important RELEVANT experiences, you want to travel with your interviewer back to the present and start heading into the future, meaning that you’re going to very briefly find a way to explain how, through those experiences and your coursework, you’ve developed the necessary skills to make a strong contribution in this position, which especially interests you because….[and here’s where you fill in exactly why you’re so very interested in this position at this company!]

Sound good?  So next time someone asks you to “tell me about yourself” in an interview, remember that they’re looking for you to tell them about yourself in a way that’s relevant to, and focused on, why you’re a great fit for the position and the company.  Save any cute childhood stories and discussion of your favorite ice cream flavors for some friendly banter once you get the job!

Amy Stutius is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University.  She practiced as an attorney before transitioning to higher education.  Email her at a.stutius@neu.edu.

The Informational Interview: The Secret Weapon of Job Searching

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.

Ever heard of an informational interview? If you’re anything like me when I was an undergraduate, this concept is drawing up a big, huge question mark in your thought-bubble. If you don’t want to be in the successful job-search club, then this is your queue to go back to wondering why you didn’t come up with these college hacks (because let’s be real, they are pretty awesome). If, however, you would like to join the pay-check earning, “look at me, I got a job” club, read on.

Yes!!!! source: memegenerator.net

Yes!!!!
source: memegenerator.net

So, what the heck is an informational interview?

An informational interview is an interview in reverse. Instead of an employer interviewing you, you meet with somebody in an industry you’re interested in learning more about and interview them. And…you got it…the whole point is to gather information. Think of all you could learn if you had 30 minutes with the CEO of your favorite company, or anyone in your favorite company for that matter! Sometimes all you have to do is ask for their time.

But what should I ask in an informational interview?

There are no right or wrong questions to ask, so ask whatever would be helpful for you. Want to know how to break into the field? Ask it! Want to know how important creativity is at the organization, or what the day-to-day work looks like, or the work/life balance, or…? Ask away!  You can ask about the person’s own background, the company that person works for, or the field in general. There’s only one rule: don’t ask for a job. I repeat, DO. NOT. ASK. FOR. A. JOB! It’s sort of like dating. How awkward would it be if on your first date your lucky companion asked you if you would marry them? Whoa, slow down buddy, we just met. Same deal with an informational interview. Don’t ask for a job on your first meeting, it’s not going to work.

If I can’t ask for a job, then how does an informational interview help me get one?

You’ve probably heard that networking is the number one way that people find jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 70% of people found their job through networking. Informational interviews are just like going to a networking event in that they are an opportunity for you to make a first professional impression and help you get the inside scoop on what could make you a successful candidate (but one-on-one meetings are a lot less intimidating for my fellow shy networkers out there). That way, when you apply for a job at the company where you did an informational interview, they don’t just know you as a one-page resume, but they know your face, they know more about your story, and (hopefully) you made a great impression on them so you’re already ahead of other candidates. Better yet, they may even tell you about jobs in the “hidden job market,” or the ones that are never posted.

Case in point, I was looking to get into career counseling, but I didn’t have any experience in the field. I did an informational interview with a career counselor and asked her if there was anybody else she recommended I talk to. I followed her recommendation and did an informational interview with her contact. In this second interview the very last question I asked was, “Do you know of any opportunities for me to test the waters before I make a long-term commitment to this field?” Yep, in fact she did. Northeastern’s Career Development was looking for interns, so I applied to the position that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. And voila, now I’m writing this blog, and the woman that I did an informational interview is my supervisor. See, I haven’t been lying to you, this really works!

The Secret Weapon of Job Searching!

Here in Career Development we have gotten a lot of great feedback from students and alumni alike that these interviews have helped develop themselves as professionals and learn about new opportunities. They’re the secret weapon of job searching because often times, people don’t think to do them as part of their search, but they can be oh-so-powerful. But I hate keeping secrets, so check out Career Development’s resources on how to conduct informational interviews, and help me spread the word by sharing your success stories with us, your friends, and anybody else who is looking for a job! Happy interviewing.

Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at k.mccune@neu.edu.

Things To Take Care Of Before You Apply: A To-Do List

30 Rock... full of words of wisdom source: digitalfireflymarketing.com

30 Rock… full of words of wisdom
source: digitalfireflymarketing.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

Think of a few things that are the worst: missing your train by ten seconds, room-temperature milk, and wearing socks to bed. You know what’s probably worse than that? Missing out on a job even though you are the perfect candidate. Get your business in order, even before you start applying, to avoid those speed bumps that could cost you your dream job.

1. Check yourself out on social media. Google yourself – don’t be shy. Employers are more likely than ever to look you up on Google, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else they can find information. It’s your job before application time to spruce up your social media channels and take care of anything that might show you in an unfavorable light. Drunk pictures? That’s not cute.

2. Set up a voicemail message. Remember when ringback tones were awesome? That time has passed. Let go of your I’m-clearly-a-high-school-senior Pitbull ringback tone and record a short, clear voicemail message. Make sure to state your name clearly, and it’s probably best to listen to it a time or two to make sure no one can hear the oven timer going off in the background. A great voicemail message makes you seem more like a human and less like a robot, so get that done.

3. Set up an email signature. Because you’re that kind of official. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or pretentious – just your name, school name, and maybe cell phone number at the bottom to make it as easy as possible for potential employers to contact you.

4. Start brainstorming interview “moments.” It’s important to be prepared for an interview at any time – an employer might call you the day after you submit an application and schedule an interview with you the next day, and cramming for an interview is a less-than-ideal situation for the nerves. In an interview, it’s important to have “moments,” or quick stories about situations you have encountered or projects you have been involved in that will solidify your position as a qualified candidate. If the position is customer-service oriented, think of a time you exhibited stellar customer service skills and try to incorporate it into your interview if possible. It will give your interview substance and make you a more interesting and memorable candidate.

5. Do your research. It’s obvious when a candidate has done his or her research when the time comes for an interview. Instead of awkwardly fumbling around the company website, check out a few other sources. The company profile on LinkedIn will give you a list of similar companies in the industry (aka. competitors you should know about). The company Twitter will give you a sense of the office culture while providing access to industry-related articles you should probably read. It’s important to be well-read because

You are a capable and qualified candidate who deserves to be gainfully employed (repeat that to yourself a few times in front of the mirror before you head to an interview). You did the legwork, got the relevant experience, and wrote a crazy cover letter. Now it’s time to get your business in order and avoid the stumbling blocks on your way to the interview.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here.