After months of searching, applying, and agonizing over finding a job, you’ve finally been called in for an interview. All you need to do now is make a killer impression, and you’ll be off to the races.
You and I both know however, crushing an interview is easier said than done. How are you going to ensure you do well? If you’ve got an interview coming up, and you’re scared, be calm and bear with me. Let’s walk through what needs to be done in preparation. It’s work, but you’ve made it this far so don’t slack now!
Getting Started: Guiding Thoughts for the Journey
There are two things you should keep in mind before getting dirty. Keep these at the forefront of your mind throughout the process:
- Interviewing is thee most important step in the job-seeking process
- The moment you get tired and don’t feel like it–suck it up, and keep pushing for at least another 20 minutes.
Interview prep is very important. It’s a pain, but if you’re serious about the opportunity, it shouldn’t matter. Unsurprisingly, the world has a way of exposing the weaknesses you want kept a secret. So, slack on any part of your story, and prepare embarrass yourself (especially if your GPA is sub-par).
In an effort to clear your mind of the mental juggling, take a look at the breakdown below.
Preparation can be broken into 5 phases:
- Story Craft
- Question Gathering
- Core Experience Development
- Questions and Answers
- Game Speed Practice
1. Story Craft
Your story will be the guts that give your character, fullness, texture, and purpose. Without the story of your life, your audience won’t connect with or understand what drives you. Your story gives them reason to care about you and the fulfillment of your journey. It should frame your college experiences, current job or circumstance, and why you’re applying.
An example of a good story:
“After my post-Junior year internship, I was offered a full time gig after graduation. They made it clear they didn’t want me hunting around and pressed me to make a quick decision. I took a chance on the company and took the offer, especially given the economic climate. I reasoned, they were good to me and the work was enjoyable.
However, after working for about a year and a half, I felt it was time to move on. I wanted to pursue something more in-line of my passion. Here I am! Ready to take on the challenge.”
This story captures their history, describes what lead to the current job and circumstance, explains why there’s interest in the next job, and encourages the listener to root for him or her.
Take a minute to craft your story. Contrast the bad bits with something positive and inspirational. No matter how embarrassing you think your “true” story is, there’s a way to make it attractive. Framing your experiences in a positive light is the focus and ultimate goal of this sequence.
2. Collecting Your Interview Questions
Now that you have your story in mind, we can begin collecting interview questions, both generic and specific.
After you begin, you might think, “Some of these are difficult!” or “These are corny and annoying. What are my strengths? I don’t know, brushing my teeth?!” Trust that I couldn’t agree more, but that line of thought is fruitless. Unfortunately for you, everyone is preparing for these questions, so don’t be the one unprepared.
I’ve put together a set of interview questions to jump start your search. As you read and research, ask yourself how you’ll answer each question. Jot down what comes to mind. Your notes will function as scaffolding for later. There’s a lot here, but don’t be intimidated. You’ll be answering them in bulk by the end of Step 3. See the questions below:
Download: GPAU Interview Questions
3. Collect Your Core Experiences
The exercise of collecting potential questions should have primed your mind for generating some good answers–here’s where those notes will come in handy. The key to breezing through an interview is your bank of 5-7 Core Experiences. A quality core experience functions as an endless pit of material with which to answer your questions.
You’ll discover in time that molding your experiences into impressive answers is a cinch.
An Example Core Experience
An example to get the ideas churning,
“For our end of year group project, our team went a step above and beyond the usual call of duty. We built a prop to demonstrate the Fourier analysis / sinusoidal superposition concepts we were studying. A Ruben’s Tube is a pipe lined along its length with holes filled with propane. It’s lit on fire and fed a stream of sound waves with a speaker. By doing so we could visualize the pressure waves, and resulting peaks and troughs. Calculating and experimenting with different frequencies, we found the pipe’s set of natural and resonant frequencies. We integrated our findings (with picture and video) into our presentation and wooed the class. We received an A.”
This sort of experience can answer an assortment of questions, e.g.:
- Name a time you displayed leadership.
- When working on a team, what role do you usually take? Why?
- Give an example of a time you were innovative.
- Describe a situation you encountered an unexpected obstacle. Then explain the steps taken to overcome the obstacle.
- Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of?
The key here is to form, bend, and stretch the experience to your needs. This doesn’t mean to lie or deceive, but to mold the experience to the situation. Describing it properly is essential. If you cannot speak to the nuances of a core experience, then it’s not a core experience. This step requires really flushing out the details and ensuring you don’t leave yourself open to attack.
4. Answer the Interview Questions
Now that you’ve got your core experience, it’s time to generate your answers. This will be easy. In fact, you’ll probably be able to mull them over in your head without writing much detail. Do not take this step for granted. Answer questions explicitly and completely. Just having a general idea of what you’ll say won’t work when it’s game time–don’t neglect proper preparation.
A few guidelines:
- Be short and sweet. It sounds significantly more professional when your answers are terse and matter of fact. Save the detail and excitement for the follow up questions.
- E.g. Interviewer, “Give me an accomplishment.” You, “We built a Ruben’s Tube for a class project. It spit fire in locations that depended on its input frequency. We ultimately shocked the class and teacher, and received an A.” “Oh, wow. What’s a Ruben’s tube?”
- Leave out the negatives. Don’t admit that you really only got a B, or you never took the lead. Simply mention what you did well.
- If you are asked for something you’re not sharp on DO NOT LIE. However, do not admit defeat. Answer with something you DID take charge of–no matter how small. “I lead the charge on procuring the materials, transportation, and assembly of the tube.” That sounds a lot better than, “my friends spearheaded the project, but did the best I could!” no matter how true.
- Trust your gut. If in your gut it doesn’t feel impressive, then it won’t be in the interview. Keep digging. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve done in your past if you just think. Keep in mind, some usable stories are personal, just be careful and ensure it’s applicable.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
This is the bittersweet end. You’re done, but not quite. This might be where it hurts most.
You must mock interview with another human being before the real interview. This can’t be stressed enough. You’ll learn significantly more getting through a mock interview than preparing on your own.
When it’s over, be sure to go back and fill the holes and correct the flaws. A few tips to maximize your effectiveness:
- Review your notes and new self-findings.
- Use a voice recorder to hear your intonations and fluency.
- Use a mirror to inspire good posture and body control.
- Focus on knowing your answers so well, you never say, “um, well, uh, so..”
- Practice at game speed and intensity; don’t break the tension.
- Ask for strong critiques–be sure to go back and make your modifications.
- Repeat as time allows.
Resist the temptation to break mode during the interview. If you’re with counselor, then they’ll likely do this for you, but don’t allow yourself to back down regardless–it’s for your own good. You want them to poke as many holes as possible in your answers. The more rigorous the mock interview, the better you’ll perform in the real thing. Don’t expect to perform perfectly the first round.
Congratulations. You’ve made it to the end of the process. The work is over for a moment. Take a breath but don’t let your guard down. There’s much more to come.
A Final Word of Advice
One final nugget that just might save your life,
Don’t care so much. Be indifferent.
Have a second, equally exciting, opportunity lined up and waiting after your interview. It’ll dampen the pressure and thus allow you to relax and focus. By caring less, you’ll be under less pressure to do well. There’s no better substitute than not caring to squash some nerves.
Please share and let me know how you did in your interviews. I want to hear your success stories!