Filed under: Thoughts
I’ve done my share of interviews in the past (mostly business internships) and though I didn’t always get a job offer, I did pick up a few tips.
Be a Better Version of Yourself
An interview is a lot like going on a first date or meeting the parents. It’s your chance to make a good lasting first impression. Dress better and more professionally than you usually would. Let your personality shine, but make sure it’s nothing inappropriate. Be polite. Talk about your ex, I mean past employer, if needed, and never bash them. Because, more often than not, you will look crazy and whiny regardless of whether or not your employer was horrible. Talk up your strengths, downplay your weaknesses and never lie (which is actually more of a life philosophy than an interview tip).
I’ve applied to both marketing and design internships and I’ve found that the marketing interviewers thought that I was too creative and not analytical enough while design interviewers thought I was too focused on the business process instead of the visual aspects. Instead of being a little of both, it’s better to focus on one field at a time. Make different resumes for different types of jobs. Emphasize different skills for each of the position. For example, I can use this blog to demonstrate analytical thinking by explaining how I use reports to see which source provides the most traffic and thus determining how I will promote it. See, very business-like. Using this same blog, I can focus more on the design elements like the layout and coding showing them examples of my work and explain how it allows me to experiment with different designs. Which brings me to my next point.
Any Experience Can Be Relevant
At this stage, not many of us has had professional jobs. We then fall in to the unemployment cycle where you can’t get a job because you don’t have experience and you don’t have experience because you can’t get a job. However, if you had a part-time job or even volunteer experience you can put that on your resume. Most employers understand that we’re just starting out so our experience is somewhat limited. Just having a job shows responsibility and commitment. Teamwork, if you’ve worked with others, the ability to multitask and work under pressure for waiters/waitresses, communication skills for sales people and etc. You can even use classwork as an example of past experience. I often get asked questions like “Tell me about a time when you’ve worked in a group and had to demonstrate leadership.” Then you can tell about how you had to pick up slack after the lazy person in your group failed to do his/her part. The beauty of this is that there’s always that one person. If not, then you’re that person and no one likes you. Congratulations!
Know about the company before going into the interview. I’ll bring up my dating analogy again. Usually when you’re interested in someone you want to Facebook stalk the crap out of them to get an idea of what you have in common, what you like, what you don’t like, basically how compatible you are. You want to make sure it’s as good a fit for you as you are for them. Except in the working world, it’s socially acceptable! It’s not creepy to know random information about the company because it’s all public, they want you to know. It also makes it easier to answer questions if you know what they’re looking for. Make sure you understand what the position is, because that can be just as important if not more, than the company itself. It will define what you will be doing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Working at Google may seem fun, unless you’re the one scooping up poop. Okay, well that doesn’t really make sense but you get the gist.
The interview process also gives you an opportunity to get a feel of the office environment, see it for yourself, ask questions. ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS. I cannot stress that enough. If there’s something that you didn’t quite understand, now is your time to clarify. It shows that you’re interested and willing to learn more about the job. Showing interest is a definite plus.
Prepare by reading on some interview questions and how people would answer it, especially the very common “tell me about yourself” question. Take this time to reflect on how you would answer them and use other’s replies to help guide you. Learn from other’s mistakes so you don’t have to make them. Learn from your own so you don’t make them again. Evaluate what you want in a job and see if your interests align.
Write thank you letters. Handwritten letters are more memorable but since everything is so fast-paced nowadays I think e-mail is the way to go. You can further show your interest and have another opportunity to showcase your skills. Follow up is key when you haven’t received a reply about their decision. Because some people do forget and this helps to refresh their memory.
You win some and you lose some. Mostly lose, because you’re a failure and should just give up. No, I kid. Kind of. There could be a lot of reasons why you didn’t get the position. You could be under-qualified or over-qualified, there was just someone better, you talked too much, you didn’t talk enough, the interviewer just had a bad day, the position was no longer needed. Whatever it is, don’t take it personally. For whatever reason they didn’t think you were a good fit and it’s probably best for the both of you. Just try to figure what might’ve been your downfall and correct it for your next interview. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. Sinatra reference, anyone?
Keep in mind that these tips/lessons learned are geared towards entry level type positions for college or high school students. I know nothing about salary negotiations and etc. I’m still learning myself. Any tips, tricks or feedback would be appreciated.