9 interview tips

Views 151 | Time to read: 5 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 13 - 2014 | By: Emilie Whitman

Even if you have a marvelous résumé, floundering during your interviews can speedily derail your chances of securing an auspicious internship en route to your career. If the thought of an impending job (or internship) interview fills you with dread, here are nine ways to turn your panic into poise, and find the interpersonal edge that will make you and your skills stand out — in the best way.

KNOW THYSELF. You are more than a walking résumé. Are you able to accept responsibility or handle conflict? How do you use your imagination to problem-solve? What are your stress responses? Be aware of your weaknesses and how you can articulately demonstrate that you have a strategy for recognizing and improving upon those foibles. Before the interview, smooth out the anxieties with good preparation, prayer and/or meditation. “You want to present yourself as naturally as possible,” says Dana Alexander, director of the Westmont Office of Life Planning.

PRACTICE. You may have thought your mother ran the “practice makes perfect” maxim into the ground, but if you can’t expect to play a concerto the first time you slip onto a piano bench, you can’t expect to wow the first time you slip into an interview chair either. Practice going through a set of basic questions that are bound to pop up in an interview (e.g., “How do you work under pressure?”). Simulating an interview (or two or 10) is the only way to get better at it. Be ready for the hard questions.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Check out company members’ work histories on LinkedIn, comb through an organization’s website and read articles. It’s important to know who you’re talking to; make sure that any questions you might ask haven’t already been answered on the website. If you show intelligent initiative and interest, potential employers will see that you researched and arrived prepared, and that you respect their time. While interviewing for publishing internships in New York, Westmont alumna Elana Palace ’13 learned “go into an interview knowing how you can innovate what they already have going on . . . it shows you’re a creative thinker and you know how to help the company get ahead — that you’ve taken the time to learn about the company and know what you can do to take it a step further.”

BE BOLD. “Westmont students seem to be very averse to coming across as arrogant,” Alexander observed. But beware of humility that can come across as hesitance in an interview. There is nothing unseemly about candidly articulating what you bring to the table. You do have marketable “liberal arts” skills, and an amalgam of abilities and talents unique to you. If you have something to contribute to the job or internship, make it clear. You’re not going to shine if you keep smothering your most stellar qualities. (And women, think of Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In.’)

TELL A STORY. Use examples to illustrate your skills. People remember stories, and by extension, remember you. “I’m a people-person,” means nothing unless you can illustrate it with an apt, engaging, and succinct example. “The more specific the better,” Alexander recommends. “In what way are you good with people?” And consider your audience: translate “I went on a missions trip with Potter’s Clay” to “I helped lead a medical team on a social service trip to Mexico.” Also be mindful to “always tailor what you say about yourself to that specific job,” as Palace advises.

NO FIDGETS OR FILLERS. ‘Filler’ language such as an excessive use of the word ‘like’ is distracting, unprofessional and annoying — and it can be “a disaster in an interview,” says Alexander. Try recording yourself as your friends ask you a few impromptu questions. Don’t be afraid to pause and choose your words carefully. Vocabulary and diction really are important. So is body language — be aware of the ways you fidget when you’re nervous.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY. And no, this isn’t just directed at women to dress ‘modestly.’ Appropriate attire means an attentiveness to the formality of the interview. Again, your mother was probably right: it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Avoid dousing yourself in cologne or perfume. And unless you’re interning at a surf shop, flip-flops don’t count as shoes (sorry, Southern Californians).

COMMUNICATE INTEREST. An interview is a two-way street, not an interrogation. Ask questions; don’t hesitate to be an initiator. “An interview is not a passive process,” says Alexander. “Know what you want to get across and work that in.” Potential employers will be concerned if you don’t have any questions, so evince some curiosity and ask a couple of smart ones. Again, body language is important: Alexander advises that you sit up and lean slightly forward to show that you are engaged.

WRITE THANK YOUS. This is essential follow-through. Hand-written notes are preferable, but a well-composed email can also be appropriate. Don’t overlook secretaries and others who helped you get the interview or with whom you had lengthier interactions. Treating everyone with kindness is a good policy anyway — and in the interviewing process, perhaps taking your mind off yourself for a little will also assuage some of those jitters.


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