Summer is approaching, and fast. If you still haven’t landed the internship of your dreams, being the fabulous collegiette you are, you probably have some interviews lined up. Interviews can be tough—how are you supposed to dazzle an employer with your sparkling personality while maintaining your professional persona? It’s a difficult balance to strike, but we consulted the experts about how to pull it off!
Focus on your passions
When you’re going into an interview, you should always take some time to prep beforehand. However, you should be prepared to talk about more than just your professional experiences! “It is fair game for an employer to ask a student what are her hobbies [and] interests… these responses are a great way to highlight your personality,” says Junea Williams-Edmund, associate director of civic engagement in Barnard College’s Career Development office.
When preparing for your interview, think of a couple of extracurricular activities you’re involved in. Make sure to pick ones you’re really passionate about, so you can speak about them eloquently and show your dedication. “Highlight your extracurricular activities, whether on or off campus,” Williams-Edmund says.
Discussing the things you’re interested in that aren’t necessarily related to work will give the employer a good idea of who you are as a person. “Given that we spend a great deal of time with coworkers, employers know how important it is to identify employees who will gel well with others and bring value to the company [or] organization,” Williams-Edmund says. Preparing yourself to discuss your hobbies and interests will help you effectively communicate who you are as a person.
Use real-life examples
Interview questions like, “What’s your biggest strength?” and, “How have you overcome a challenge?” can be difficult to answer. When answering tough questions like these, it’s important to use concrete examples to elaborate on your answers. Just saying you’re organized or passionate isn’t enough; you need to provide an employer with proof. You can draw from professional experiences or situations you’ve encountered in your other involvements.
Williams-Edmund says you can show off your personality by “highlighting examples from your work in extracurricular activities, community service or similar tasks” when answering these kinds of tough questions. “Use personal stories, and when doing so, emphasize your interactions with others and/or ways you resolved a particular issue,” she says.
For example, let’s say your biggest strength is your ability to communicate effectively. It’s not enough to simply state that. Think about a time that you used your impressive communication skills to solve a problem. Maybe there was a time you disagreed with a group member about a project and you went out of your way to address the issue and come to an agreement. Tell an employer about this specific example to show him or her exactly how you would handle a situation at work.
Using real-life scenarios to answer questions will provide employers with a more complete sense of who you are, how you think and how you interact with others. Show them proof that you’re a fabulous collegiette and they’ll be dying to have you on the team!
One of the best ways to go into an interview feeling like yourself is to get in the right frame of mind. When you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to trip up and present yourself in a way that isn’t necessarily representative of whom you really are.
According to Reyna Gobel, author of CliffsNotes Graduation Debt, “More important than the questions to show off your personality is the attitude you bring into the meeting.” So what does Gobel do before her own big meetings? “I make sure I smile first,” she says. “Then I’m in the right mood to enjoy myself and make sure the other person knows I want to be there.”
It may sound trivial, but your attitude and mindset will directly affect your ability to speak about yourself and convey your personality to an employer. Taking a minute before going into your interview to breathe deeply and just smile to yourself will make you feel so much better!
If that’s not enough to get you in a good mood, try jamming out to your favorite tunes before you head to the interview. Pharrell’s “Happy” is an obvious go-to, as well as Betty Who’s “Somebody Loves You.” Dance it out in your room, have a healthy snack or take a nice long bubble bath before getting ready for your interview. Do whatever makes you happy! You’ll relax and be able to show your stuff when the tough questions are thrown your way.
Find shared interests with your interviewer
Finding mutual interests with your interviewer makes it easy to express your personality while impressing him or her. Lesley Mitler, president of the career coaching service Priority Candidates, Inc., says, “Research the people you are meeting using social media… to identify commonalities.”
With Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s impossible not to find at least a little information about someone online. Do a quick search and see if you can find some interesting things you have in common. Maybe you were both in the same sorority or were involved in similar volunteer organizations in college. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just something you can bring up casually in your interview.
If you manage to find some similarities between you and your interviewer, slip them into your conversation. It’s okay to say that you saw it online—it will actually be impressive that you’ve done some research for your interview, even if it feels a little creepy to you. You might be crossing a line if you can tell the interviewer his or her entire life story, but dropping one or two facts you found online will show you cared enough to do a little research.
If you can’t seem to find anything through social media, there are other ways to find commonalities during an interview. “Don’t just talk about yourself,” Mitler says. “Ask the interviewer questions that might unveil some similarities or common interests.” Asking things like “What drew you to this company?” or “Why did you choose a career in Industry X?” will show your interest and reveal some things about the employer.
Additionally, you can draw information from the interviewer’s office. Mitler says that asking about a vacation photo or interesting office décor will “show that you are interested and take a personal interest in the person you are meeting.” Asking about your interviewer is a great way to start a more natural conversation and express your personality.
Know the company
This is an essential interview tip every collegiette needs to know! Your interviewer is going to be looking for evidence that you really want the job. The best way to show that is to demonstrate a real interest in the particular company and the industry as a whole.
“Show your passion and interest in the job, company and industry by doing your research on current issues, trends [and] competitors,” Mitler says. “[Be] able to speak about the company and about how they fit into the competitive landscape.”
A simple way to keep up with a company is to follow it on Twitter or like it on Facebook as soon as you apply for a position, if not earlier. That way, you’ll keep up with what it’s doing without even trying. Being aware of anything from rebranding to a new CEO will show that you put in some effort and you care about the field.
Taking this step to learn about the company will always impress an interviewer. When you slip little tidbits you picked up about the company or the industry into your conversation, the interviewer will see you as a passionate, organized and truly dedicated candidate. Plus, you’ll be able to truthfully answer questions he or she might ask you relating to the company and position, such as why you wanted to apply there in the first place.
Keep your goals in mind
Employers are looking for specific information about you during an interview. “[Keep] in mind that the employer is analyzing your answers to see what type of person you are,” says Williams-Edmund. “Are you personable? Are you dependable? Can you work alongside teams and also work independently? Have you articulated a specific interest in working for that employer?” These are the kinds of questions employers are trying to answer through an interview.
You want to show off your personality in an interview, but you have to remember that you’re showing how you’d be a great for the job as well. An interviewer is not trying to figure out if the two of you could be best friends; he or she is trying to decide if you’re the right fit for a position at the company.
When preparing answers to interview questions, ask yourself if your answer shows that you’re outgoing, reliable, responsible and so on. You want to show an interviewer your professional personality. For example, talking about your volunteer work will show dedication, or explaining your role as your sorority’s social chair will show organization. If your answers demonstrate qualities like these, you’ll definitely show your interviewer what a qualified collegiette you are!
While it’s important to get along with whoever is interviewing you, the point of the interview is to show how well you could work at this company. You can be as hilarious and charming as you want, but if you don’t demonstrate an ability to thrive in a work environment, you’re wasting your time and your interviewer’s.
Interviews can be stressful, but don’t let your nerves get in the way of showing your personality. Use these tips to prepare yourself for your interviews and you’ll be able to show your interviewer who you really are. Just relax, be yourself and show the interviewer what you’ve got!