Updated: Oct 19, 2020
So, let's start: tell me a bit about yourself
I used to think I was naturally good at interviewing. I enjoy 1-on-1 conversations and can improvise when needed. But coming up with an answer doesn’t mean it’s a good answer.
Although there were other contributing factors, my lack of interview preparation and strategy likely played a role in the many dead-end interviews of freshman and sophomore year.
For my third real-time recruiting update, interviews take the spotlight. Although interview outcomes do have elements of luck and subjectivity, you can practice, better structure answers, and influence the direction of the conversation. Voila, my small handful of interview learnings thus far:
Compile a document with common interview questions and position-specific questions from Glassdoor. Don’t just think about answers, write out scenarios and main points to use in your responses. Then talk through your notes to form full answers out-loud. Otherwise, you risk nervous rambling for 5+ minutes straight the first time you verbalize an answer...like me. My first interview of the season last week emphasized the importance of talking out (and timing) responses ahead of time. Oops.
Besides outlines for individual questions, someone recently advised me to put together 4-5 stories that highlight my strengths as multi-purpose answers. They'll 1) prepare you for unexpected questions and help avoid the "what do I say" panic, and 2) communicate key characteristics about yourself regardless of what questions you get. By intentionally selecting which scenarios to bring up, you avoid missing important components in the behavioral picture you communicate to the interviewer.
Things I've learned about interviews
The STAR method. Use it. The format of Situation, Task, Action, and Result add an easy-to-follow structure to behavioral questions, where it's easy to ramble and forget to include the what and why of the story.
Culture fit. Behavioral questions not only screen for experience and skills but also cultural fit. Understand what traits are considered strong culture fits (or culture adds) and use the corresponding language in your responses. Just as you'd tailor your resume for different companies, you can customize interview responses to be more relevant. You can't share everything you've done, so make sure what you discuss applies to the position and company.
Recruiter Q&A. "Do you have any questions for me?" Yes, you do. Have them ready and step beyond the generic (not creative: what do you like best about ABC company, describe the company culture, etc.). I improved my questions when I stopped thinking of my asks as checkbox items and started taking advantage of the opportunity for insights beyond what l found via research. Just like preparing informational interview questions, think: what do I actually want to know that this person is uniquely positioned to answer?
Big Interview. Check if your school also provides free access to this interview practice tool.
HireVue. Practice for the 1-sided video interviews gaining popularity.
Glassdoor. Database of interviewee-submitted questions by company and role.
The more I care about a conversation, the more likely I am to freak out. So practice is particularly important for me to build my confidence and ability to clearly(ish) express myself.
I'll leave it there, at the end of my novice knowledge. Best of luck to anyone interviewing at the moment...you got this 🙂