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8 Things I Learned From My First Big Girl Interview

Interviewing is always a nerve-wracking process, whether you are interviewing for a summer internship, a job, or graduate school. When I got my first grad school interview invite, I was super overwhelmed, especially since I felt like my entire future was on the line. Now that I’ve successfully survived my first interview, here are several things I learned during my prep!

Practice Common Questions

How do you deal with failure? What’s your biggest strength/weakness? Where do you see yourself in five years? These questions will likely appear no matter the position or program you are applying to. I made a short bullet-point list highlighting key ideas to guide each of my answers to these questions. This helped me formulate concise responses and prevented me from rambling. Be sure to think of thoughtful answers and avoid clichés. Don’t be the person who says, “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard and that I care too much.”

Memorize Examples

Examples from personal experiences are the ultimate toolbox. They provide support and make your answers more genuine and impactful. During my prep, I tried to come up with a relevant example for every question. Coming up with examples also helped me highlight different personality traits that my interviewer would not be able to see otherwise.

Do Mock Interviews

For me, mock interviews are super scary and intimidating. However, they are the best way to learn how to communicate and answer questions on the spot. Ask people who have been through the process to help interview you. In my case, I asked an upperclassman who had experience being both the interviewer and the interviewee. After each interview, I listened to their feedback and worked on my responses to their questions. I gave my mock interviewers a list of 500 questions (including some crazy curveballs!) to pick from. In my opinion, this was the most helpful and effective way to prepare.

Learn About the Institution/Program

One of the questions I learned to always anticipate is, “Why are you a good fit for the program/job?” This question is tough to answer without doing thorough research. Think about what kind of new ideas you bring to the table and how you might contribute to the company/program’s goals. Be specific about your response and bring up aspects of the program that you are genuinely interested in. Your interviewer will be looking for someone who will be able to contribute to the mission of the company.

Don’t Regurgitate Your Resume

When practicing interview questions, do not restate your resume. Chances are, they have read your resume, and you are more than qualified on paper! Feel free to bring up your past work experiences, but be sure to highlight what you learned from them. Be prepared to discuss specific examples of what you have learned and how you plan to apply them. Make sure to refamiliarize yourself with each experience on your resume and be prepared to talk about any of them.

Don’t Memorize or Read Off a Script

Many interviews are now being conducted virtually, which may make it tempting to read off a script during your interview. Avoid doing this, as your interviewer will see your eyes repeatedly scanning across the screen. Don’t try memorizing a script either. I initially wrote and memorized several answers, only to have my mock interviewer tell me that I seemed very stiff and rehearsed. I also realized I was taking awkward pauses to “search” for the right word.

Take a Chill Pill

The day before your interview, don’t do any prep. This is the time to relax and unwind before the big day. Treat yourself to a nice cup of coffee or bubble tea! Before my interview day, I binge-watched both seasons of Fate: The Winx Saga. Try to distract yourself from your anxiety.

Let Your Personality Shine

At the end of the day, the interviewer is trying to see if you will be a good fit in their working environment. Be yourself and try to find common ground upon which you can connect with your interviewer. Remember to stay professional but still personable. A huge part of the interview process is the “vibe check.” Most interviewers are looking for someone who would be a great team player!

My motto is to “overprepare and go with the flow.” After all your hard work, don’t overthink the interview and let the conversation progress organically. Your interviewer is human too, so try not to be too nervous! Wishing you all best of luck! #HCXO

Lily Huang

Rutgers '23

Lily Huang is a senior attending Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She is currently majoring in Cultural Anthropology. In her free time, she loves cooking, painting, and playing with her cats.
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