Tips for Nailing Job Interviews
The job interview…every college student’s worst nightmare.
It always seems like that interview is the only thing standing between you and your future, so making sure you nail it is crucial. Luckily for you, I am somewhat of an interview expert. I’ve compiled a list of tips that have always helped me get the “you got it!” call.
Craft Your Resume
Having a well-constructed resume is key to even securing an interview. How you represent yourself on your resume carries over to the interview itself; employers have an idea of your background and skill set before you walk in the door. Make sure they have the best first impression possible.
First off, keep it simple. No one has time to read a long resume, and I’m willing to bet most of the information on it is unnecessary. At this stage, your resume shouldn’t be longer than one page. Keeping it short makes the information you include really stand out.
For example, if you’re in college or already have your college degree, don’t waste space with information about the high school you attended. If you’re in college, it’s a no-brainer that you went to high school, so why be redundant?
I worked at Victoria’s Secret and T-Mobile for less than a month combined. Is that on my resume? No. It adds nothing to my work history. Short stints like this can even hinder your chances at getting an interview, so just keep them off. Employers want to know you’re going to stick around if hired.
Tailor your resume to the job at hand. You can spin most experience to be at least somewhat relevant to each position you apply to. If you can’t, emphasize other experience that shows you’re qualified instead. Remember, your resume isn’t meant to show you have experience all over the map, it’s meant to show how closely you fit the job description.
It’s worth it to invest time into designing and polishing your resume. Have friends and family proofread for typos. Even the font can keep you from getting a call.
Prove You Fit In
Yes, we all have long-term career goals, but sometimes we need a retail job to keep us stocked in ramen.
Here’s a tip: research the type of people each job has hired in the past. If at all possible, learn the company culture so you can mirror it in the interview. Does their website show employees in suits? If it’s the type of job you can easily visit, check it out and figure out what’s common among the employees.
When I applied to work at Victoria’s Secret (and was hired a few hours later) I presented myself as extremely outgoing and bubbly.
I wore black—if you know the dress code, it’s always a plus to follow it—and I even changed how I spoke to match the girls I’d observed in the store.
Is that how I act usually? No. But it got me the job.
Prove you not only fit the job description with your skills and experience (as shown on your resume), but that you also match the company culture and could easily work well with the other employees. You can have all of the right skills but not get hired if employers can’t imagine you fitting in with the rest of the team.
Review Common Questions
There’s no way to predict what you’ll be asked in an interview, but there are some common questions you should be prepared to answer.
“What’s your biggest flaw?” is one of the most annoying, frequently asked interview questions. You might be tempted to lie, but trust me—it’s not a good idea.
If you answer with something like, “caring too much,” that’s not going to help you. The employer learns nothing about your work style. You also show you haven’t taken time to consider the question—if a good answer was “I have no weaknesses,” they wouldn’t bother asking.
Think about the job. When I got hired at T-Mobile, I was asked that very question. So, I gave an honest answer with a twist that made me seem perfect for the job (which I was hired for on the spot).
“My biggest weakness is that I sometimes lose track of time. Whenever new technology comes out, or a provider releases a new program, I spend hours researching—I think it’s important to be as well-informed as possible.”
Did I lie? No. I usually do lose track of time, mainly when I’m writing, but I knew my stuff about technology, so it’s not like I didn’t have the knowledge to back up what I said.
My “weakness” was perfect. It showed I had initiative to learn about the job in my free time and that I’d continue researching until I knew and understood everything about it.
Also, you’ll probably be asked to describe work experiences where you solved a problem or worked with a team. Come up with a list of different stories you can mold to whatever they ask.
Finally, be sure to research the organization’s mission and history; they should be easy to find on their website if they’re important to the company. Interviewers might ask how familiar you are with their organization, but even if they don’t, you can still impress them by referencing key facts in your answers to other questions.
Ask Your Own Questions
At the end of the interview, there’s almost always a moment when the interviewer will ask if you have any questions of your own. Don’t lose an opportunity to make yourself standout by quickly replying, “no.”
Engage your interviewer in conversation to show them that you want to learn as much as you can about the job. A good way to do this is to ask them about their own experience at the company. I’ve included a few examples below.
“Why do you love your job? What would you say is your favorite part?”
“Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started working here?”
“What would you say is the hardest part about working here?”
“What’s the company culture like?”
Not only are these actually good things for you to know, but you’ve shown that you see yourself at this company and you want to do your best to fit in and excel.
This is also your chance to express your willingness to go the extra mile to secure the position. For instance, ask the interviewer to describe their ideal candidate for the position. As they answer, prepare a response detailing how you fit that description. Try to think of a story from your past work experience that shows you both understand and match the role perfectly.
Above all else, be calm! Think things through and don’t just talk to fill dead air. Take your time answering so only quality sentences come out of your mouth.
Choosing the right job is important, too. Don’t get so focused on nailing an interview that you forget to make sure that the job will make you happy. This is important even if you’re just working a retail or food service job—if you don’t like the work, you’ll leave and end up back at square one.
Yes, interviews can be scary, but they’re honestly not so bad—especially if you keep these tips in mind. Just think of learning how to interview well as a new skill; it takes research and practice to perfect.