For anyone looking for their first job or their fourth job, meeting a potential employer for the first time can be really nerve-racking. What should you wear? What kind of questions can you expect? Once you’ve gotten your resume through the online application process and into the hands of the right person, you’ll want to shine for the interview. Below are some tips from a few RDs that have been the interviewee as well as the interviewer.
For starters- dress the part. It’s been said before, dress for the job you want, not the job you already have. It’s always better to be overdressed, than underdressed. Obviously, men should not show up in a tux or women in a ball gown, but a suit or professional suit jacket, tie, and nice pants work for men, while a blouse, skirt, or dress pants or a professional dress are fitting for women. Don’t be too flashy and make sure you feel comfortable and confident in your outfit. While they are cool, this is not the day for your vintage Chuck Taylors.
You’ll likely be asked to describe a situation or problem you had to deal with and how you rose to the occasion. Lindsey McCoy, MS, RD, CSSD, Owner of Crave Nutrition, RD suggests “using the STAR method. Describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. For example, don’t simply say “I worked on a farm stand project.” Provide a full picture with “Patients in our diabetes management program struggled to buy fruits and vegetables because of a lack of transportation to grocery stores and limited grocery funds. I coordinated starting a farm stand that accepts SNAP and WIC benefits at our clinic by working with the state government agencies, local city council, and a local farmer. The farm stand was a hit with an average of 78 people making a purchase each of the 12 days it was operating last summer!”
Do your research. Zoe Griffiths, B.Sc., RD. Global Director of Nutrition at WW, states “The level of interest and depth of someone’s effort to experience the services or products of the organization they are applying for a role in, has always been a clincher for me when recruiting. It’s not just about you and your skills and not standard research about the role that you might expect- but take it further; visit the facility where the role is based, experience the services (if you can), test products, talk to family and friends about their perceptions and / or experiences, follow their social media, research any media coverage and get a real feel for how patients or consumers will experience the organization. One example that helped to secure a job offer for an RD when I was working in clinical care, was that he visited the hospital and wandered around the cafes, shops and observed daily life in the public areas and reflected the things he had learned in the interview - the food choices on offer, the notice boards content, the ‘feel’ of friendliness which confirmed his desire to work there. Take these experiences in to contextualize your interview responses and shout about the work you’ve done to prepare. I love nothing better than to hear ‘when I visited a WW workshop to check out what members will experience, I noticed/ I learned.”
Make a genuine connection to the company. Madeleine Berg, MS, RD, CDN of www.supernutritionist.com believes “luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. The night before I went on the interview for my dream job, as the corporate nutritionist for Hanes Brands in NYC, I was searching my brain for a fact that would connect me to the company. I came across a shoelace from my first race, the 1986 Leggs Mini Marathon, an all-women’s race in Central Park. It turns out, Leggs is owned by Hanes. I was qualified for the job, but it was that connection to the company that gave me the edge. Everyone in the interview agreed it was meant to be. My best tip is to be prepared and find a connection between you and the company or the interviewer.”
Interview the interviewer. Ask lots of questions. What are all the duties and responsibilities of the position? What are the benefits of the employer or contract position? Are there growth opportunities? Will you be expected to travel and if so, how much and where? How soon can you be expected to hear something and when does the position start? Be pro-active. Show interest. You are interviewing them for a good fit, too.
Finally, don’t forget to say thank you! This is important to show respect and interest in the position in addition to showing gratitude for being chosen and given time for an interview. While it may seem old fashioned, send a snail mail card or at minimum, an email message to the interviewer. This small, but important gesture, makes you stand out from the crowd. And this is exactly what you want to do.