We’ve all been there. Those sweaty palms. The nervousness. Blanking out. You are sitting in an unfamiliar room and the interviewer just asked you the first question. It’s a fairly easy question: “So tell me about yourself…” but your mind goes blank and you don’t know what to say or where to even begin. What do you do?
After you’ve constructed a great resume and sent it in along with your awesomely-crafted cover letter, you’ve landed an interview! You feel that you are completely competent and qualified for the job position….great! Recruiters are looking for employees who are versatile, confident, and not afraid to just roll up their sleeves, lead and manage. However, you can’t get started with anything or prove your value until you’ve made it through the interview process! And believe me, you definitely don’t want to plunge into an interview with a blindfold on!
Interviewing is a definitely a learned skill. Like anything, it takes practice…and by that I mean lots of practice. I got my hands on 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions and the author mentions the many factors that should be avoided in any interview:
• poor grooming
• being tardy
• inappropriate dress
• an answer that doesn’t address the question
• lack of knowledge of the company, orb, or industry (showing poor preparation prior to the interview)
• lack of enthusiasm
• differences between your resume/cover letter and the interview answers
• no eye contact
• negativity, especially in discussing people
• no focus
Now that we’re through with some of the biggest no-no’s during an interview, let’s get started on what you NEED to do to have the perfect interview experience.
Most employers will probably give 10-20 seconds of their time to scan your resume to see if they want to give you an interview. The interviewing process reminds me of a transaction. Here, you are the product, and the employer is the buyer. During the interview, you have to try to sell yourself by discussing all your good qualities and unique characteristics that will make you the perfect candidate for the position. Since the employer could basically ask you about anything (mostly job-related questions hopefully), it’s a good idea to assemble all of the experiences you have ever had: previous and present employment, volunteer work experiences, activities, awards and honors, and languages. You are probably wondering, “But my resume lists all of my experiences in chronological order, why should I spend even more time crafting a data sheet about myself?” True, the resume is a great tool for refreshing your mind the night before your interview about all of your commitments and your experiences. However, the resume should only be 1 page in length, so that doesn’t leave you a lot of space to put down all of your duties, skills and contributions.
Have a specific section for every part-time, full-time job or summer job you have ever had. For each job, note your specific duties as well as your responsibilities, including significant accomplishments, awards, special recognitions, and numbers of hours you worked every week.
You should also have a separate section for any volunteer work you have done. Employers definitely like to see people who take initiative to contribute to the betterment of society in their spare time. Include the number of hours you devoted to the activities or organization every month, your duties, specific skills, and any accomplishments and special recognition.
Under your activities section, list all of the activities that you do. For example, list all the sports, clubs and organizations you have participated in both inside and outside of school. Just like before, write down your duties, key accomplishments, awards, leadership, as well as reasons to why you did them.
After you’ve completed the previous 3 sections, make short sections for your awards/honors and your languages.
Whew! That sure was a lot of work! Now that you have all this information down, it’s very important to personalize and own them.
101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions has a list of questions for you to consider, and these are questions that you should expect to answer during interviews that get to the heart of your character, personality and work ethic:
“1. Which achievements did you enjoy most? Which are you proudest of? Be ready to discuss how these achievements relate to the position you are applying for.
2. What mistakes have you made? How have you learned from them?
3. How well do you interact with authority figures?
4. What are your favorite games and sports? Think about the way you play these games and what they say about you….Are you too competitive or do you give up too easily?
5. What kinds of people are your friends? What are some things that have led you to breaking friendships and what does that say about you?
6. What words would your friends and acquaintances use to describe you? Why would people describe you this way?”
By answering these questions, you’ll gain more insight to yourself. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to focus on your strongest skills, greatest areas of knowledge, greatest personality strengths, and most remarkable achievements.
What’s next you ask? Now it’s time to look over your most remarkable qualities and try to see how you are going to “sell” yourself to the employer. How are you going to show him or her that you are qualified for this position? Becoming comfortable telling stories that highlight your skills and accomplishments is a critical part of preparing for successful interviews.
Just remember, the interview process can be time-consuming and difficult. But the more work you put into it, the more likely you are to succeed! Ask your friends to “interview” you and do lots of practice! You want to rehearse what you want to say to the employer, yet not sound staged and trite at the same time. And lastly, definitely come down to the Career Center and take a practice run with the Peer Advisors! We hold drop-ins Monday from 12-4pm, and Tuesday-Friday from 12-5pm. Happy interviewing!