How to Interview for a Job: Take My Advice

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A previous internship I’ve been at

If you’re like me starting out, interviews were kind of a “wing it” event. You didn’t know what to do or how to prepare. I had to learn from experience. I have been the recipient of 7 different internships, selected as an ambassador for World Vision International, the foreman for a local junior jury, received two scholarships to attend a young leaders program in Santa Barbara, and was recently selected to be a crew representative for a boutique in Florida (more on that to come!) Needless to say, I have been through a lot of interviews! I want to share with you real information and tips on how to win big in your next interview.

The first thing I learned was that if you’re interview is over the phone (which many of mine have been) it is crucial that you maintain a positive voice and don’t make comments that could possibly be taken the wrong way. The interviewer can’t see your face and therefore cannot tell how you feel or whether something you say is meant to be taken as humor or not. In other words, don’t try to be funny. Be pleasurable and personable, but don’t try to be funny, because you never are when you have to try.

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My surprised and annoyed face!

The next thing I learned is to be prepared for the unexpected. Do you know how many questions I’ve been asked that I did not have a prepared answer for? Too many to count. I’ve been asked things such as “What United Stated economic policy was, in your opinion, the least effective?” My first thought was “Uh, what? Come on, who asks this stuff?” Well, because it was a think tank in Washington, D.C. they will always have questions to throw at you that weren’t expected. If you are interviewing for a position that you feel unsure of, then have someone else pretend to interview you and ask questions you aren’t prepared for.

A third thing I have come to expect is to be asked what my weaknesses are. For heaven’s sake if it’s punctuality don’t say that! I’ve learned that the safest answers are either worrying, perfectionism, or impatience.

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Group outing to Mt. Vernon!

Something else I have picked up on in the corporate world is that companies are putting new emphasis on team work and group cohesion. Group activities such as bowling or a cook out are becoming a very important part of building a team-centered atmosphere. If you’re hoping to get a new job, expect this to be part of the company culture and say so in your interview. Employers want to hear that you like working in teams but can also work alone. Both are important.

In your first interview, I do not advise that you talk salary or benefits unless they bring it up. Most companies will set up a series of interviews with you and the first one is typically where you go through your resume and explain everything in detail (make sure to have your resume with you) and they get to know you as a person. After that, the questions get much more specific. The second or third interview is when you might start talking about salary. Be sure not to make that your very first question.

Here’s my final piece of advice- ask questions! At the end of every interview an employer will ask if you have any questions for them. You better have some! This shows you are interested in their company and not just getting the job. Some of my favorites to ask are:

1. What’s a typical day like in the office?

2. What do you like most about working for the company?

3. Is the company active in the community (i.e. do they support any charities, do volunteer work etc.)?

You want them to think you’re interested in what your life will be like if you worked for them. It also shows that you have actually thought through why you would like to work for the company.

Go forward with all the confidence in the world! You can do this! As the saying goes, “Hold your head high gorgeous, there are people that would kill to see you fall.”

P.S. Wondering what to wear for an interview or even to work? Check out this helpful post! Signature

 

10 Things I learned in College

Hint: Academics didn’t make this list. 

 

1. You’re on your own

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My university’s campus

No one will be holding your hand through this experience. Get used to it. Your advisors are not there to register you for classes or create your life plan. They are there to advise you on what you should do. You have to decide what you will do. 

2. All nighters are stupid

All nighters seem to be a staple in college. On Facebook people are all like “Yeah, pulled an all nighter and drank so much Red Bull!” This is bad for you. Don’t do it. I admit to doing it on several occasions (particularly around mid terms and finals weeks). Unless you’re doing it with friends to keep you awake and totally wired (in this case you probably aren’t getting anything done anyway), then you will end up writing something completely incoherent. I distinctly remember writing a paper that had a paragraph of nonsense that I was thinking about and didn’t realize I was actually writing it down. I was that tired! 

3. Money doesn’t grow on trees

No, Seriously. It doesn’t. Learn how to budget the little money you have so you aren’t running to mom and dad for a loan. I wish I had been smart enough to figure this out. 

Bonus tip: If you think you can afford something expensive, then you probably can’t! 

4. Get a schedule

I cannot tell you how important it is to have some sort of a daily schedule for yourself. It really helps to know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it at least during the day. I preferred to keep my days really busy (i.e. homework, exercise, classes) so that my nights and weekends were mine to enjoy. 

5. Work out

Just do it. Besides the freshmen 15 you have the chances of gaining you will be building up stress. Exercise of some sort helps with this. My sophomore year I went to a YMCA across the street from my campus and I would run or lift weights. My stress levels were a lot lower than the year before. I also succeeded in losing some of the 15 pounds I gained the year before. 

6. Be involved

College is a hub of activities, clubs, and committees. Get yourself involved in one of them. Its a great way to be connected to your school and also find people that have the same interests as you. Plus, when you’re looking for summer internships (see next point) you will have something to put on your resume that says you are involved and dedicated. 

7. Intern, intern, intern!

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Semester in DC (in line for tickets at Supreme Court, we pulled an all nighter)

Internships are a God send. Sometimes. As long as they are paid (all of mine have been) and offer you substantive work to do then you have hit the jackpot. Don’t be afraid to branch out and go to knew places. You really don’t need to be at home with your high school buddies every summer. Just go and make something of yourself to improve your chances of being hired after college. 

8. Read the textbook

I hate reading (thanks to college) but there are definitely times when I wished I had read the textbook. Particularly in my freshman year when I was fulfilling my general education requirements. I found that the best time for me to read was when I had gotten in my pjs for the night with a cup of hot cocoa or tea and just read. Not only did this slowly chip away at all the reading I had to do, it also helped me go to sleep a lot quicker because the material was so boring (bet you didn’t see that coming). 

9. Build your professional wardrobe

After you graduate the world you will be entering is full of suits and pencil skirts. Prepare early. If you see something work appropriate on sale, buy it and save it for your not so far off future. If you do those internships I recommended, then you will be needing these a lot sooner! 

10. Make memories

Don’t live your life in your dorm room. Get out, make friends, take pictures, and savor every last minute of this awesome time in your life. The college years (for most people) really are the best time in their life. It goes by so quickly. I know, everyone says that about something. But its so true. Have fun and live it up!

What were the 10 most important things you learned in college or even high school? Comment below!

-Liz