The ability to effectively manage a summer employment interview is crucial for securing that summer job which will give you the relevant experience you need to land a great career job after graduation. Yet, it is often the part of the job search process that job seekers say is the most difficult.
Some people have the interview “jitters” and they are not able to let their strengths and personality shine through. They have trouble helping the employer see how they fit with the job and the company. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those candidates that are not worried enough to do the required preparation. They don’t realize that in this job market, all of the candidates who come for a second interview could likely be successful on the job. All will bring different strengths to the interview. Employers often use the second interview to determine who would be the best “match” or “fit” for the position, their team, and their department.
This is why it is so important to have a carefully planned strategy with multiple targets and not just rely on one or two hopeful submissions. Whether you tend towards under-confidence or over-confidence, the most important task is preparation.
If you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to steer the conversation into your strengths. Have a sharp answer for why you want the job, why you would be an asset, and how the job fits into your long-range career plan.
Next, learn as much as you can about the company and the job. Use your informational interview contacts (if appropriate) to find out more information. Those undertaking extensive web research including bios, researching the interviewers, company, department and position will have an edge over other candidates. This kind of research will allow you to understand more about the kind of match they are seeking. It will also enable you to ask intelligent questions about the job. The more you can help the interviewer talk about what they want to achieve by hiring a successful candidate for the position, the better able you will be to help them see how you match.
It is important to understand that it is all about “the match.” It’s a mutual assessment. Many interviewees don’t see it this way and they go into the interview like someone going for an oral exam with their professor and a panel of experts. You are assessing both the employer and the role to see if you will be able to soar in the job. If you accept a job that you know is not a match for your strengths, then you will have a harder job being successful. Know your strengths to be successful with your applications for career jobs after graduation.
On the employer’s side, if they accept you when you are not a match, it can be more trouble for them than the value you would add to the company. If you can wrap your head around the idea of “match” or “fit” then it will help to reduce your jitters. It is often wise to see an interview as being no different than an audition. Do your best and hope that you are a match but if you don’t land the position just let it go and move on to the next interview. Elizabeth Kaye, in the New York Times, describes Robert DeNiro’s advice on auditions which can be equally applied to interviews.
“If you don't go, you'll never know,” he would tell her. “You have to not look at it like a rejection. There are so many reasons you're not picked that you can't even worry about it.”
Once you know yourself and the company, you will want to get ready for questions that pertain to what strengths and skills you will bring to the job. The easiest way to do this is to list the qualifications and your best guess at the most important duties and skills the job will require; then look at your experience and be able to describe at least one past situation from work, school, home, sports, or volunteers work, where you achieved something relevant to do with this job requirement. You should be able to tell it in a story of when and where you had the experience: what happened, and the result.
Next, get ready for behavioural questions. Make a guess at the five leadership skills that you think will be important in the job and create a twoto three-line story that describes when you best used this skill, what happened and the result. At a minimum, be ready to talk about how you have handled conflict, multitasking, teambuilding, problem solving and stress. Remember the processes that made you successful and be ready to use this information if they choose to ask how you would handle specific situations.
Once you have practiced answering your questions out loud, practice with a friend so you don’t sound like you are rehearsing a script, but you do want to be able to answer the question in under a minute.
A 2012 survey conducted for Career Builder that included more than 2,600 hiring managers in the U.S.A. reported the top detrimental mistakes in job interviews: appearing disinterested; answering a cell phone or texting, dressing inappropriately, talking negatively about a current or previous employer and body language including failures to make eye contact and smile, bad posture, and weak handshakes. To this list, add talking endlessly and failing to show up a few minutes before the interview to sure-fire ways to get quickly de-selected.
It sounds complicated, but if you prepare well and carry yourself in both dress and etiquette – the way you would if you were representing the company at an important event – you will be managing yourself well in the interview and may earn a job where you can soar!
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