Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to: Survive an Interview (Re-published)


     Above is the poster I had to design for the second (final) round of the interview for my current job as the Graphic Designer for my college's wellness institute. The first round interview was conducted via Skype. I was super nervous because I've only gone through two other interviews prior.
    My very first job interview was for a position at my school's library. There was only one question: "Do you want to work here?" Most interviews, however, are much more brutal. My second job interview was pretty rough. I applied to be a Writing Consultant for the Writing Center. I thought I was ready, but when I was finally face-to-face with the interviewers, I spat out answers too quickly and stumbled over words. In retrospect, I must have appeared frazzled and unprepared. Needless-to-say, I did not get called back for a second interview. 
    When I stumbled upon my current opportunity, I spent half the night taking notes on the company, researching everything from their goals to their foundation date. I brainstormed my answers to the most common interview questions for this field-- graphic design (what is your greatest weakness? tell us about an opportunity in which you were challenged? what unique aspect could you bring to the team? how do you respond to feedback? how do you work in a group? what ideas do you have for a new project?) I was even  so enthusiastic about the position that I explored potential projects I would propose if I did get the job. I prepared a business casual outfit and rehearsed some hard-hitting questions about my career path in the shower.
     The day of my interview, I logged into Skype a whole twenty minutes before the set interview time. I cleared out a section of my room and placed my laptop so I'd have a plain, non-distracting background view. Then, the call came. During the interview, the vibe between myself and my interviewers was very cordial and upbeat. Conversing with interviewers was easier this time around compared to my previous interviews because I had prepared and was therefore confident in what I would say. And I got really lucky. The questions I'd mentally prepared for came up in conversation. I was even asked to pitch a potential video podcast idea, and I already had a list prepared. 
     Several days later, I got the call telling me I got the job. I was ecstatic. I was also indubitably surprised. As much as I'd tried to link my design and community service skills to the skills my employers were looking for in a candidate when I wrote my resume and cover letter, I knew I was going out on a limb applying for this job. I am under-qualified; I lack program-specific skills. However, my employers basically said this didn't matter when they hired me. My confidence and , "good energy," and "excitement," they said, compelled them to hire me. My personality during the interview overshadowed my inadequate skill-set. 
     Interviews are a crucial opportunity to show who you are and what you can offer to your potential employer. Here are a few tips a I put together from prior knowledge and other articles I've read on Student Health 101. 

Interview Tips:
1.) Research. Research. Research.
      Many companies will ask you why you are drawn to their company's opportunity. Knowing more about the company will allow you have more specifics to incorporate into your answer. During my interview, I was asked which aspects of the organization made me want to join their team. I responded by saying I believed in their goals. "Which goals?" my interviewer coerced. I responded with a list of mottoes the company adhered to which I felt best touched on my interests. Answering with specifics reassures the company that you are a thoughtful, prepared, and strong candidate for their position. 

      In addition, when the interviewer asks, "Are there any questions you'd like to ask us?" always have "after questions." This shows implies interest in the company and shows employers that you have done enough research about the company to spark questions. You can ask questions about the position, current projects the company is working on, etc. 

2.) Prepare for Questions.
Be able to answer company trivia. You cannot make up answers to questions like, "When was the company founded," so be sure to know your facts. Knowing company goals is especially important. 

Typical interview questions include:
  • Who are you?/ Describe yourself?
           Use this as an opportunity to describe your skill-set and life goals (major, future career path,         ambitions). Avoid discussing your social life or childhood.

  • Describe a situation when...
           -Based on the job describe, anticipate possible questions
           -...you struggled/ failed. For questions like these, turn a negative story into a positive. Do not list your failures 

3.) Ponder. 
Don't feel pressured to answer on the spot. It's fine to take 30 seconds to a minute to let the question sink in and think through how you will answer it. This way, your answers will tend to come off less rushed and more thorough and purposeful.

4.) Dress for success
Have a business outfit prepared (even if its a Skype interview! You do not want to have to get up to grab something and have your cartoon duck pajama pants be on display.) For in-person interviews, lean in and appear attentive and confident. Sit up straight. Make eye contact. Do not fiddle. If you have a tendency to talk with your hands, do so reasonably. For Skype interviews, employ the same tips, and make sure you set yourself in a setting with a plain background as not to distract the interviewer(s). 

5.) Relax.
Let the jitters out before your session by taking a few deep breaths. Then, go in there and believe in yourself.

6.) Be yourself. 
Let your personality shine through. Personality is a main aspect of what your interviewer will remember when reviewing her candidate. It's great when an employer chooses you because he enjoyed talking to you during an interview. 

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