Nail your interviews

So you’ve graduated college and are taking the next big step in life: starting your career. It’s time to find a job in this tough economy.

But the worst part? Hundreds of recent college graduates, just like you, are entering the workplace hungry to find that exact same job you are seeking. Your impressive résumé you worked so hard to build all throughout college? Bad news: there are hundreds of résumés that could pass as near replicas of your own. Other people have the same GPA, were involved in similar extra-curriculars and clubs, and graduated from universities with similar rankings to your own. But luckily, you don’t get a job offer based solely on your résumé.

There is a step in the job search process that allows you to show how you are different than the others: the

interview. The interview is your chance to prove that you are better (or worse, if it goes poorly) than every other person who matches your résumé.


Pulling off a successful interview begins before an employer even asks you a single question. I cannot stress how important it is to research the company, as well as the specific position you are applying for. Look into what the corporate atmosphere is like. Has it been in the news recently? You don’t have to know every single detail about the company, but don’t go in with a completely blank mind because the interviewer will view it as a sign you aren’t interested in working for that company.


What to wear to an interview also requires a bit of research. You want to mirror the required dress code of wherever it is you are applying or be slightly overdressed. If you are unsure of the company’s typical dress policy, search online. There are industry-specific forums dedicated solely to this topic. Men, they can help you to decide the “tie or no tie” debate, although it’s always safer to wear a tie. If you cannot figure out what to wear, remember that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed for an interview.


Typically, the interviewer will ask two types of questions: either “fit” or “technical” questions. The technical questions will be specific to the job, and may require prior research on your part to be fully prepared. At the time of the interview, you’ll either know these or you won’t (the difference between a job and no job).

The fit questions are where the real “you” can shine. These are the open-ended questions like “Why do you want to work in this field?” or “What is one of your strengths and one of your weaknesses?” It’s important to have a general idea of what your answers to these questions will be so that, again, you don’t seem unprepared. These questions are asked to see if your personality aligns with the type of person that workplace is looking for.


So how should you behave during the interview? Maintain eye contact, as this implies confidence. Speak with a purpose, not to be heard. Treat the interview less like an interrogation and more like a conversation. Just as in regular conversation, nobody likes the person that rambles on and nobody likes the person that gives short, abrupt answers.


The most important thing you can do during an interview is to actively gauge your interviewer. Try to understand how his or her mind works and what it is he or she wants from you. If your interviewer is lighthearted and casual, show some life yourself and engage with them. Don’t be afraid to joke if it seems appropriate, but be ready to follow that with a serious response. Once, after I bombed a few technical finance questions, the female interviewing me asked me what one of my weaknesses is. I laughingly told her that pretty women obviously make me too nervous to answer math questions. It made her laugh; I was able to recover my nerves, answer the question seriously, and the rest of the interview went great.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you can figure out the type of person your interviewer is looking for, adjust your demeanor to be that person. At the end of the day, you want to make these people like you. They already know the facts about you from your résumé, and this is when they decide whether or not they would want to show up to work, see your face, and have to talk to you every Monday through Friday.



The Ka Leo version of this article can be read here.


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