Five Tips for Interviewing

There was a time when I considered myself a pretty clever guy. I thought I had a lot of things figured out. Then last week came and went and I made the biggest oversight of my life: companies are already interviewing May 2007 graduates for full-time positions in September.

That’s right. What month did we just finish? September. We’re interviewing a year in advance? Wow. There’s no time to lose then! I gave a presentation the other evening about interviewing and here are my five key tips.<table width=100%>

1. Be Prepared

This one is so essential I figure everyone should know it. Truth is, most don’t. Before going into an interview you need to sit down and take some time thinking about yourself. What are your strengths? Can you give specific examples and stories of times you worked as a team player? Can you think of a time you recognized a problem and solved it? These are just a few of the very basic questions you should already know.

Additionally, you should know about the company, the position, and maybe even the people interviewing you. This seems common sense but if you want to demonstrate your desire to work for this company make sure you do your homework.</td> </tr> </table> <table width=100%>

2. Show your personality

We know you’re qualified, that was the resume’s function. But who are you, really? Can you fit in and feel comfortable with this company? Be sure to show your personality and do your best to get a feel for theirs. Remember, the interview is not soley for their benefit; it’s for you, too. Do your best to answer questions that talk to your character (humor, attention to detail, trustworthiness, etc.).

I’ve interviewed with some of the big four public accounting firms and they all have you do the same thing: go to a social event before you go to the office, interview with a bunch of different people, sit in on presentations about the company and then go to lunch. There is no secret to this: they’re really trying to find out who you are. Culture is a big thing (even between the big 4, they differ) and this is the time to recognize that. They’re not just taking you to lunch to feed you, they want to see how you interact outside the office.</td> </tr> </table> <table width=100%>

3. Always use specifics

When talking about yourself nobody wants to hear unsubstantiated generalizations. Back up what you have to say about yourself with details, facts, and best of all, stories. People relate to stories, they’re easier to follow. Interviews are a great way to practice your oral communication skills because you have to captivate your audience and sell yourself. BMW doesn’t talk about it’s speed without mentioning how long it takes to get to 60mph. Jewelers don’t sell diamonds without telling you the dimensions, right? Why would you tell a future employer about your ability to learn quickly without mentioning that one time when…

Just make sure you’re not long winded. Brevity is the soul of wit.</td> </tr> </table> <table width=100%>

4. Stay positive

Want to know how to ruin a great opportunity? Answer the following question: what is it about your peers that annoys you the most? Trap question. How about: what was the one thing you hated most about your previous boss? Yikes. Sure, these are probably the questions you can answer the best, right? Don’t do it! If you’re talking about how incompetent your last employer was why would I want to bring that upon myself? Why do we want someone on our team who has no problems finding faults in co-workers? In the interview, try hard to find and answer but come up short. Stay positive like: I guess I get along with people pretty well!</td> </tr> </table> <table width=100%>

5. Know thyself

This goes back to my first point. If you go into an interview and you don’t know what people think about you, you don’t know what your biggest strengths are, how are you going to be able to convince the person on the other side of the desk? Take some time to talk to peers, friends, co-workers, family and friends. Find out what they’d say about you and, of course, ask for the specifics.</td> </tr> </table>

Hopefully these help. I was approached by a few people and they said that having been to a few interviews these all make a lot of sense. So, as Sam put it:

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can