Do's and Don'ts: Interview Edition

Let’s face it: we hate interviews.

From jittery legs to sweaty palms to quivering voices, we know what the stress of interviews does to our bodies and mentalities. Even if we have the slightest amount of preparation, interview anxiety is enough to reduce our minds to a clean slate, making us forget even basic information that we wanted to convey to the interviewer.

The source of our nervousness comes from the unknown. We don’t know exactly what we’ll be asked, and we don’t want to look like a fish out of water if we don’t know how to answer a specific question.

To help ease our minds, I’ve compiled a do’s and don’ts list of four popular interview questions, along with some tips I’ve learned on how to be more prepared for what they might throw on you.

But remember — failure is another step towards success! You’ll go through a hundred interviews before you ace one, but each failed interview is one more lesson you’ll walk into the next one with!

1. “Tell me about yourself!”

DO: present qualities and facts about yourself that align with the company!

DON’T: give them your life story, or any extraneous details that don’t have relevance to the position you want.

Sure, you can tell them details about yourself, like where you’re from or hobbies you enjoy, but try to sneak in some details about yourself that catch the interviewer’s attention. For example, when I was interviewing for a marketing job at a company that had strong connections to different cultures, this is something along the lines of how I answered:

“I’m a second-year Communication major, looking to pursue a minor in Professional Writing. I was raised in Los Angeles, so I’ve always loved being under the sun. I’m always exploring new cultures, like new cuisines and new activities, since Los Angeles is such a diverse place. I’ve always turned to writing as a form of relaxation, because writing is something I’ve always loved to do. I even started a blog with my friends when I was younger, where we published even the most routine things…”

I started with a brief introduction about myself and tied it back to cultures since my workplace has a strong emphasis on interacting with different cultures. Because it's a marketing job, I included an interest in writing since writing is one of the basic tasks of a desk job. Showing my proficiency in it shows a positive about myself to my potential employers.

2. "What is your greatest strength?"

DO: describe a strength of yours that would best parallel the position you’re applying for, and sets you apart from other candidates! Also, give an example that proves your strength!

DON’T: brag about yourself, or the opposite, come off as insecure about your strengths.

Refer back to the job description and choose your strength based on what they’re looking for! But, of course, make sure it’s actually one of your strengths. What if they actually hire you and you end not being as leadership-oriented as you said you were? Things are going to get messy. Also give an example of when you’ve demonstrated this. Even if your strength is the most basic thing, as long as you give a good example, you’ll be fine.

“My strength is determination. I will do whatever it takes to do my best, and once I start, I won’t stop, even if it requires going outside my comfort zone to achieve my goal. Being a first-generation student, being accepted into a high-ranking UC like UCSB, took a lot of determination on my part. No one else in my family has gone to college, so I had little to no help when it came to the application. I didn’t even know what a FAFSA was! I didn’t have confidence that I would get into a good university, but I was still determined to try…”

3. What is your greatest weakness?

DO: present a weakness, how you’ve acknowledged it, and how you’ve taken steps to fix it.

DON’T: say you don’t have one, or sound defeated by it.

Your employer doesn’t want to know what you’re bad at. And they won’t judge you based on your weaknesses, and they won’t hold it against you for admitting it. We’re all human! But it’s important you don’t sound defeated by your weaknesses, but rather that you have a control over it.

“Sometimes my perfectionism will take over, and it will cause me to think my work is not good enough. As a result, it will cause me to work harder until I’m satisfied with the results. I’ve come to a realization that it’s sourced from being worried about meeting other’s expectations. I’ve learned to take a step back and acknowledge I’ve done the best that I could. I’ve acknowledged that striving for perfectionism sets back the group’s productivity…”

4. How do you handle stress and pressure?

DO: Provide examples of instances where you’ve worked through stressful situations.

DON’T: forget to give EXAMPLES.

This question is the most likely to reflect to them what you would look like while working for them. What are you like when things don’t go how they’re supposed to? How do you handle multiple tasks being thrown at you, or coworkers who just won’t cooperate? Real world things.

“I’m aware that when I get stressed, it can easily snowball into more stress. I take a step back and evaluate what’s stressing me out, and I take time to do things that I like and calm me down. Disagreements are very common since people come from so many different backgrounds. I am able to solve conflicts by…“

And lastly, the biggest tip is to be confident! Walk into the interview with a smile, shake your interviewers’ hands, and do your best. Even if you’re nervous out of your mind, fake it until you make it! Your interviewers will only sense the amount of nervousness that you exude, so put on your confidence hat and nab that job!

Happy interviewing!

*All images via Giphy