Well, it’s interview season at the Career Center again. The Career Fair was a couple of weeks ago, and employers and recruiters have started walking our halls on a daily basis, looking for the best and brightest that UGA has to offer. This time of year can be pretty stressful for those of us looking for full-time positions and Summer internships—suddenly your planner is full of the first round of exams, project group meetings, information sessions, and (hopefully) interviews. You know that you need to keep doing well in school, stay involved in your extracurriculars, and make time to research and prepare for your interviews. Fortunately, the Career Center has plenty of resources to help you get prepared for an interview.
If you don’t already have a copy of the 2009-2010 Career Guide (free at the Career Center or at most of our sponsored events), you can access it here. This Career Guide is the job-seekers bible, trust me. You’ll find excellent advice and resources not just for interview prep, but also for getting your resume together, informational interviews, professional dress, a timeline of what you should be doing throughout college to best prepare you for life post-grad, and so much more. If you’re looking specifically for information on preparing for an interview, see pages 36-43. I would especially recommend the “Top 10” Interviewing Tips and the sample interview questions. There are plenty of other resources available on our website, from information on employer research to how to dress for an interview to how to use the STAR technique. The Vault is a particularly great site to visit to help you out with employer and industry research to make sure you’re knowledgeable before going into the interview.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had many conversations with our Consultants and have been given some very helpful advice on doing well in an interview. Here I’d like to share some of the best tips I’ve been given.
- Through feedback from employers who recruit on our campus, we’ve learned that their #1 criticism about UGA students is that we don’t do enough Employer Research. We may have great experiences and know ourselves well, but we need to also know all about their company, the position, and how we fit with what they’re looking for. Taking the time to learn about a company’s products/services, competitive advantages, competition, areas for growth, etc. can really set a candidate apart. This does NOT mean that you should randomly recite back the company’s founding dates or corporate location to a recruiter during an interview. However, you SHOULD weave evidence of your knowledge into your questions at the end of the interview, or when you reiterate your interest in the position. For instance, try asking a question like: “I’ve been very impressed with X Corp.’s growth into a, b, and c industries and I’ve read that a next step may be expanding into a global market. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this expansion and its effect on new hires?”
- Yes, your experiences and a polished resume are important. However, employers really look for a candidate to have a presence in an interview. Show confidence in yourself and your experiences, speak articulately, and demonstrate your interpersonal skills throughout the interview. Years of experience in a related field can go a long way, but in the end employers are looking for someone who commands a presence in the room, has a knack for building relationships and communicating effectively, and who acts like an adult. Tracey Dowling gave me a great tip when we were talking last week: she recommends that when you walk into an interview and take a seat, you should open your padfolio, have the company’s name and a few questions written on the pad, and offer a copy of your resume to the employer. This says that you’re an adult here for the meeting, not a nervous student who is just using their padfolio as a sort of security blanket.
- These days, most interviewers use behavioral questions, which are those questions that tend to start with “Tell me about a time when…” and are aimed at gaining evidence of your skills through past experience. Anyone can talk about their strengths and claim to be the best fit for a position, but having to describe an experience where you used a particular skill really tells an employer a lot about a person. When answering these types of questions, it’s important to focus on 1) what you did to solve the problem, 2) what the resolution was, and 3) what lessons you learned. Too often, people get caught up in describing the situation down to the last detail.
- Exhibit 1: “We had a project in my MARK 4100 class, which is a marketing class about Consumer Behavior, where we had to analyze a case study and come up with a presentation for the class about what the company in the case could have done better to reach their target market. Well, there were 5 of us in the group; I’ve worked with 2 of the group members before because they’ve been in other classes with me and we’ve been in some of the same student organizations, but 3 of them I had never worked with before, so it was kind of difficult for us to all get on the same page at first. When it came down to crunch time for us to finish up our project and work on the situation, one of the group members who was a friend of mine didn’t show up to a few of our meetings and didn’t even call to tell anyone. We talked a lot about what we should do and eventually I decided to talk to her since I knew her a little better than everyone else and I called her and asked her if I could come over. She was busy so I couldn’t talk to her until the next day, but eventually…”
- Exhibit 2: “In my Consumer Behavior class last semester, we were assigned a case study to analyze with a group of 5 students and we were asked to present our findings at the end of the semester. I knew a few of the students in my group from past classes, but a few were new to me. While we were working hard to finish up the project and get ready for our presentation, one of my friends in the group didn’t show up to a few meetings and wasn’t pulling her weight. After discussing what to do, I decided to take the initiative and talk to her because I knew her a little better than the others. I sat down with her and told her that we felt she wasn’t doing her fair share of the work and that we really needed her help to do well on the project, and also that we really needed her to communicate with us if she wouldn’t be able to make it to team meetings. She opened up to me and told me that she was having some family problems at home and had been caught up dealing with those issues. We were then able to find an alternate meeting time that worked better for her, and she was able to e-mail us her contribution to the project when she couldn’t be there. After our discussion, we were able to make great progress on the case study and ended up doing very well on our presentation. I was really pleased with the results because we came up with great work, and I learned that it’s always better to have open communication with those I’m working with. I now know how important it is to address an issue right away before too much time is lost and how much more efficient I can be when I deal with issues right away.”
As I’m sure you can tell, the first answer has too much irrelevant information. When answering behavioral questions, get to the point. An interviewer does not necessarily care about all the little details; they care about what action you took to help rectify the situation and what skills they can see in you that would transfer to your performance in a position with their company.
Remember to keep these tips in mind as you go through your interviews. Present yourself in a confident manner, speak to your skills clearly and articulately, and give the employers you talk to evidence of what you’re capable of. Take advantage of the great resources on the Career Center website, and set up a mock interview with your Career Consultant to practice beforehand and work all of the nervous habits out (Just call us at 706-542-3375 to set one up). As always, feel free to drop by the CDI office or send us an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions!