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Nailing the Interview: What You Need to Know

With the excitement of getting asked to interview for a position comes the dread of actually having the interview. If you, like most people, feel stressed out and nervous about the interview, read on to learn what you need to do to prepare (and hopefully nail it).

Before the interview:

1) Read about the company in advance

If you’ve applied for this position yourself, chances are you’re already interested in the organization. Even so, make sure you walk into the interview knowing a bit about the company and what your internship or job would entail. Show that you’re a knowledgeable candidate and have at least done some homework. Nothing is more awkward than stumbling on the first question: “So do you know what we do here?” Avoid this by checking out the company’s website or even following them on LinkedIn. This way, if the opportunity arises, maybe you could even bring up recent company news that you’ve read about online. Brownie points!


2) Do some last-minute tweaking

Even though you applied by submitting a résumé, the interviewer will often want to have a hard copy in front of them. From their point of view, it serves as a road map to ask you specific questions from. Just in case they didn’t print it out themselves though, bring it with you. Be sure that it’s updated with your most recent achievements and positions, and above all, make sure it’s error-free! You can get your résumé critiqued at the Center for Career Development and schedule a mock interview while you’re at it. Update your LinkedIn profile before the interview, too; who knows, maybe the interviewer will want to learn more about you before the interview, so give them the opportunity to do so. Fun fact, some interviewers specifically look for your LinkedIn address on your résumé, so make sure 1) you have an account, and 2) it’s listed on your résumé.

3) Practice interview questions beforehand

You rehearse a speech before a presentation. You practice the piano before a recital. Interviews are no different! Familiarize yourself with typical interview questions and have some answers prepared beforehand. Answers to common questions, like those revolving around your greatest strengths and weaknesses, can be hard to think of on the spot; have a few adjectives in mind before you walk in. Do you have any leadership experience? Reflect back on the things you did and learned so you can have something to talk about in your interview.  The Center for Career Development also offers mock interviews to get some extra practice.


During the interview:

4) Put it into perspective

Interviewers frequently throw curveballs at students to see how they handle themselves. Don’t fall for their ploy and just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Often, interviewers ask specific questions (“Describe a time when you worked in a team and how you handled conflict that arose”), and it’s okay to ask to have a moment to think to yourself; maybe even throw out a “Huh, I have two situations in mind and I’m trying to decide between them!” to stall. Point is, they want to see how you carry yourself under pressure, and whether or not you actually DO have experience working with others. For behavioral questions like this (“Name a time when you…., “Can you describe a situation where….”), think back to experiences you’ve had that even remotely fit the picture (practice with these types of questions helps – see #3 above). Obviously the more relevant to the position you’re applying for, the better. But hey, giving one example is better than nothing! Avoid a blank stare and passing on the question at all costs.

You have the opportunity to show them who you are. You’re a person, not a robot who is consumed by work 24/7. That type of person would be boring, and would they want to work with someone like that? So when confronted with a question like, “Can you tell me about any recent stress you’ve been under and how you managed it?”, it’s okay to get personal and talk about midterm stress and how you’ve had to adopt better time management skills (brownie points for connecting it to time management). Just be honest, be real – they know you’re a student and aren’t stressed from managing a $2 billion portfolio. Shift your mindset to treat interviews like a conversation, and you’ll notice the pressure will suddenly lessen. Have some fun with it, and let your personality shine.

5) Ask questions

When the interviewer gives you the chance to direct conversation, don’t turn it down. This is your moment to find out what you want to know. Demonstrate interest by asking at least one question, preferably more. Even if you know a lot about the company and your potential position already, try to think outside the box (this follows under practicing beforehand! Have a question ready, but make sure the interviewer didn’t answer this question during the conversation). A good question that shows some thoughtfulness on your part is, “Let’s say I joined this company. Where do you see it going five years from now?” Something like this shows them that you’re thinking ahead and wondering how you would fit into the organization. Fun fact, some interviewers specifically look for questions, and if you don’t ask, you don’t look interested.


After the interview:

6) Send a thank-you note

Before you leave, ask your interviewer two things: 1) inquire about next steps like when you’ll hear back (this demonstrates interest and for your own sake, informs you of what’s to come), and 2) ask for a business card. Within 48 hours after your interview, send an email to thank them for their time. This email could include whatever you want: maybe reiterate the skills you have that make you an ideal candidate; express excitement at the possibility of working for their company; or include a reference to something from your conversation (any inside jokes you can reference?). Be creative and professional.

With the above tips in mind, straighten your shoulders, take a deep breath, and stride into that interview room with confidence. Good luck!

 

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