How to Interview like a Pro: Tips from a Local Recruiter
For most people, an interview creates a lot of stress and anxiety—it is an intimidating way to make a great first impression. For most employers though, the goal of inviting an applicant in for an interview is to get to know them. It’s a meeting based around discovery. We want to know who you are and if you could successfully fit in with the culture of our organization, the position, and the department. We also want you to ask questions that can help you make a decision about whether our company is the right place for you.
Quick tips for standing out & having a successful interview:
Dress for the job you’re applying for. It’s okay to ask what the dress code is when you’re scheduling the interview.
Make eye contact, smile, and shake the interviewer’s hand.
Bring a few copies of your resume with you to the interview.
If you have a samples of something that relates to the position you’re applying for, have it on hand (i.e. for a graphic design position, bring some of your design work).
Don’t over-think things. Trying to perfect every sentence comes off as robotic.
Be natural and be yourself; it is okay to smile and laugh! We can sense when an applicant is putting on a façade.
Work experience and qualifications are important, but they’re not everything. We’re trying to find someone who “fits” in with the department and the company as a whole. Try to find something in common with the interviewer and make an emotional connection.
As the interview wraps up, ask what the next steps are. In most instances, recruiters are happy to let you know where they are in the hiring process and when you should expect to hear back.
~Myra Fundis, UVM ‘11
Human Resources Wellness Specialist with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont
Whether you are going through the interview process for a first time or fiftieth time, the interview is an intimidating process. As a student and active job seeker, I have found interviews to be the most troublesome. Not knowing what lies on the other side of the door or phone call is the scariest part for me. Also, I am not entirely sure about how to “sell myself” or answer some simple questions. Luckily, the Career Center at UVM helps with these questions, how to dress and even how to behave. I have a few short tips that help me with my job process.
Personally, I always have a problem with “selling myself” because I believe it is not my place to judge my performance. Since I am a Mechanical Engineering major, I have chosen to bring CAD drawings, MATLAB scripts, and various class projects along with extra copies of my resume to show and verify skills from job descriptions. Clearly everyone will not be able to bring these specific items to an employer, but consider similar project work to demonstrate your industry’s skills.
Another valuable technique involves practicing responses to possible questions in order to see what types of responses interviewers are expecting. Big Interview is a resource that allows you to follow video tutorials and read articles to prepare for your interview, as well as allowing you to practice interviewing by recording your responses to general and industry-specific questions. These recordings can be saved for personal and/or professional feedback. A sample recording I prepared can be seen below:
One more option, the Career Center website, provides information on general interview preparation. Additionally, you can schedule mock interviews or review Big Interview recordings in an appointment with a career counselor.
The inside scoop from a local public relations firm
What is an employer looking for?
Here’s what you should know about applying for a position: we are looking for professionalism and creativity above all when sifting through the many resumes. Please do not try to be cute or funny, stick to the basics and tell us what you could bring to our office.
What do employers notice in an applicant?
Do your research, look at our website, read our blogs: you will gain tremendous insight into who we are and what we do. Then take that research and apply it to your cover letter. I look for cover letters that demonstrate an understanding of the business in a clear, concise way.
The most common mistakes I see in cover letters include grammatical errors and misspellings. Always have a trusted person edit it with you. You might think it sounds fine, but it never hurts to have another set of eyes look over your work. (This practice continues even in the working world; all of our work goes through several rounds of revisions, no matter what our title may be.)
How and when should I follow up?
Don’t panic if we don’t respond to your email the first day. We read every application and cover letter closely, but we also have our everyday jobs to tend to. However, if it has been more than a week, it is fine to send a quick follow up note just reiterating your interest. Tell us something different about yourself or your interest in our company, rather than just saying “Did you get my application?” Be creative, professional and persistent. The application process is a lot like pitching to the media, it might take two or three follow ups to finally get that big hit.
As the semester gets underway, assignments, class schedules and long-term projects get your attention. One course you may not have realized you also have on your plate is Job/Career Prep 101. It is always part of your load, even after graduation. Managing your career and taking advantage of opportunities continues throughout your life. Make sure you understand the basics now and treat your professional development like a class or research project.
Here are your assignments:
Weekly Homework: Add Job/Career Prep time to your weekly schedule, even when you have a job or a very full plate. Taking three small actions a week adds up!
Extra Credit: Take advantage of meeting people, being curious, finding out more ~ be it a conversation in a coffee shop, a follow-up email with a presenter in class, or attending events on and off campus. Get involved in conversations and activities that will support your own learning beyond your assignments. It will pay off.
Vocabulary: Choose language that motivates you! “I gotta get a job” or “I have no clue,” is Eeyore-think. We can all get discouraged, but don’t get stuck there! Practice the language of possibility: “I wonder how that person got started;” “I am going to contact X organization;” “I am exploring career options “ (vs. being lost). Keeping positive is essential to moving forward in the world of work.
Final Project: Reflect on what you learned, what the next step is and take action! The 4 Year Plan can support you each year at UVM.
Daunting? Come drop in at the Career + Experience Hub to meet with a career counselor to help develop your strategy!
Photo: An example of a good internship (where there is communication and feedback), and an example of a less-than-good internship (repetitive tasks that aren’t related to career goals)
At this time of year, many students are applying for summer internships at a variety of different companies and organizations. With so many internship postings out there, how can you find one that provides a quality experience?
Whether paid or unpaid, or if you’re earning academic credit or not, there are several qualities that characterize an effective internship:
Your internship has direct relevance to your career interests and goals. It also provides opportunities for learning skills and knowledge that can transfer to other work environments.
The internship takes place in a supervised environment. The intern has the opportunity to ask questions, as well as receive training and feedback.
There is clear communication, and expectations for both the intern and the internship site are clear.
Optimally, interns are given the opportunity to see the “big picture” of how the organization operates. This might happen through meetings, events, and resources provided by the internship supervisor.
In contrast, what makes for a less-than-good internship experience, and should you avoid?
Repetitive, menial tasks that don’t relate to your career interests and goals. We hear jokes about interns whose sole tasks are to deliver coffee and make copies, but that obviously doesn’t create a valuable experience. As a side-note, we all end up making coffee and copies once in a while – but those shouldn’t be your main responsibilities.
Commission-based work (that is, being paid based on sales). As an intern, you are new to the company and are just learning about the organization and how it works. It isn’t fair to put you in a position of pitching products that you don’t know much about, and it likely won’t connect to your career goals.
Paying for an internship. In specific circumstances, it might make sense to pay for a comprehensive program (interning abroad is one example, when your money goes towards housing and travel), but be wary of any company that asks you to hand over money for the opportunity to intern.
A quick Google search can bring up a lot of information about former interns’ experiences, as well as more information about a specific company. Do your research before applying, especially if an opportunity sounds sketchy or too good to be true.
Still looking for more resources? Come for the Internships 101 workshop, every Tuesday at 4:15 in the Career + Experience Hub, or stop by our Drop In Hours at the hub Hub, Monday – Thursday 1-4, or Friday 1-3pm.