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SPIE Professional April 2006

Top 10 Interview Tips from the Experts

By Beth Huetter

All the experts quoted in the “From Backpack to Briefcase” article about job interviews (SPIE Professional, pg. 29, April 2006) had more to say about the process, so here are more tips from them to help you get that job.
1. Get internships. This happens before the interview, obviously, but by getting an industry internship, not only does it give you experience, it also gives you exposure to the company you interned at, which may lead to an inside track on a job in the future.
2. Attend Career fairs. “Many young applicants receive visibility from attending on-campus university career fairs or engineering society events,” says Victor Greer, a recruiting consultant at Northrop Grumman Space Technology Corp. (Redondo Beach, CA). “Most Fortune 500 companies are committed financially to attend these events throughout the academic school year. Oftentimes young applicants will receive an impromptu interview by a technical representative or hiring manager of a company, which really increases chances of visibility. And, should that applicant impress an interviewer, it can lead to an invitation for a formal interview at the company site.”
3. Start searching early. Dirk Fabian, SPIE student services coordinator, points out, “your last year at school is full. There’s no room in your schedule to look for a job. But you need to make room. Even if you don’t have your degree yet, believe you’ll finish, and go from there. Even if they don’t have a position for you at the time you apply, positions can be created.”
4. Be honest.  “Everyone has faced a challenge while working with others,” says Greer. “By sharing your experiences, it endears an interviewer to the applicant.”
5. Try to get an interview early in the process, if you have any choice in the matter.  This way, the interviewers haven’t seen as many applications, aren’t as exhausted, and will be able to remember you better.
6. Dress appropriately. Know the culture of the company. Are they a suit and tie company, or are they more a jeans and t-shirt operation? If they’re the latter, obviously don’t wear jeans and a t-shirt to the interview, but don’t wear your three piece suit either.
7. Don’t ramble. Be aware of the length of your responses and of non-verbal clues from your interviewer. If you feel you’re starting to go on, try to wrap up your thought quickly.
8. Know your resume back and forth. Know what dates you worked at a job, and what order you worked at which jobs. If you said you led a student project in college, be ready to go into great detail about what that project was and what you did to lead it.
9.  Don’t try to relate EVERY job you’ve had. “If you’re trying to get a job in optical engineering, potential employers aren’t going to be interested in your part-time job at the dining hall or your summer job,” says John Cain, SPIE course coordinator. However, as Anna Lawson of Careerperfect.com points out, “include jobs that show you can provide qualities useful to your career, such as leadership, e.g., that you led a team of salespeople at Best Buy while attending college.”
10. Know what you love.  “Figure out what you do that you love,” says Fabian. “Then figure out why you love it.” By knowing what you love to do, you can weed out jobs and companies that are not a good fit for you, and save yourself time and wasted energy.

Beth Huetter, SPIE Staff Editor

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200604.16