It’s that time, seniors! Graduation is just around the corner and professors, parents, friends, etc. are asking you the same question: what’s the next step? You’re probably tired of the question, especially if you’re not entirely sure what that next step is. Along with the excitement of graduating, there seems to be an endless cycle of stress: saying goodbye, those wonderful student loans calling your name, job searching, and, oh yes, job interviews. First time interviews can toss your nerves into a jumble. You’re not looking for part time shifts at McDonald’s anymore. Hello, real world! Preparation time before the actual interview reduces your stress level and builds confidence more than you realize. Interested to learn how? Here are a few key tips on how to make a lasting impression.
Your resume plays an important role in this process, but how to spice it up the right way can be a little tricky. When you hand over that resume, employers are going to look for the qualifications they have put into the job description; make sure they find those credentials and include as many extra skills as possible. Show that you can do some difficult things. If you could have a second major that you don’t necessarily love but you can do it, it will be worthwhile on your resume. Make yourself stand out.
How do you stand out from all the others? Simple: reflect on your life/personality. What are the unique qualities that make you you? Why should people be interested in you? Let them know why. Most importantly, demonstrate how those unique qualities fit the job description you are interviewing for. It is helpful to have a few distinct, tight short stories (thirty seconds) about yourself that answer the question, that also give them a mental image of you doing the thing they want to understand about you. Provoke them to ask more questions. Develop a comfortable way to talk about yourself that doesn’t come across as self-centered.
That said, it is important to know when to stop talking. Answer the question deliberately in a professional manner and avoid babbling. Try sitting down with a friend or a faculty member that will give you honest feedback and practice answering questions. If you don’t feel comfortable practicing with other people, trying recording yourself. It’s hard to watch yourself on video, but this is a wonderful tool for learning where you need to make improvements. Practice speaking slowly, making eye contact, and being intentional with what you are doing.
As you practice, consider the questions you may be asked and learn what you can about the company. Explore their organizational values and learn their language. They will know if you have done your homework and they will appreciate that. Expect to give your strengths and weaknesses, but be careful not to highlight a weakness as a liability. Frame it in a way that comes across professionally. Keep in mind the challenges you’ve faced, as well as failures and accomplishments. Questions may pop up on these topics. Consider what ideas, tasks, or values you could bring to the job. They are testing to see how well you have been trained in the field, so be able to converse about their organization.
It’s also a good idea to come to the interview with questions. Stay away from pay and time off and the nuts and bolts of the job. Instead, ask about their values. What do they find meaningful about their job? Ask what they are hoping to gain in a new hire. What do they not want to lose if you are replacing someone? Coming to the interview with questions not only gives you a good sense of their expectations, it shows you’ve put serious thought into the job, highlighting your interest.
These are a few sure ways to get you started on the right foot. Practice to boost your confidence. Soon it will come naturally and you’ll feel at ease walking into your next interview.