Ten Tips to Help You Ace the Interview
by Elaine Fernandez
As college students and recent college graduates applying to internships and jobs, preparing for interviews is critical. Interviewing for many people can be something that leads us to overthink what we’re going to say, how we want to act, what we might wear, and so much more.
As a college student who’s been there before, I know looking for ways to gain knowledge on how to interview is not easy. Many places give you the information, but in such a broad context that you might not have an idea of what they meant until you have your interview.
This article will be a little long because it includes ten detailed tips that helped me in my interviews – and that can hopefully help you too!
1. Dress appropriately, even in a virtual interview
Regardless of what the organization’s culture may be, it’s best to have a good first impression with the interviewer. To help you see what attire may be best, you can look up if the organization or company has a dress code or even ask prior to the interview, which can make a difference!
2. (For virtual interviews) Make sure that you’re virtually presenting your best self
Try to be in a quiet space that will be free from interrupting noise. Make sure your background is free of distractions (for example: a messy bed, clothes all over, etc.), or make use of the blurred background option provided. Also, have good lighting so that the interviewer can see your full face.
Pro tip: Make sure to test out the platform you’ll be using so that there are not any last-minute hiccups that may cause you to be late or to have to miss the interview.
3. Think about the interview as more of a conversation, and be clear and concise
The best way to put it: think about the interview as if you were simply meeting someone new. Don’t overthink it!
Don’t try to throw in big words just anywhere, as it may come off as scripted or ungenuine. Make sure to try your hardest to not ramble. Some people may say that it’s not a good sign if you ended the interview early, and personally, I would say that this is not true. Being as clear and concise as possible will always be preferable over rambling and lots of words that will lead your interviewer to lose focus on what you’re trying to relay. Plus, having time left means you have time to ask questions and to get to know your interviewer.
Pro tip: To help with conciseness and to prevent rambling, take a couple seconds before you answer your question to think about how to answer it. Simply tell your interviewer, “Could I take a second to think about that?” and take a moment to come up with a clear answer.
4. Make a 30 seconds and 90 seconds pitch about yourself
Be ready to share about who you are, your background, skills, and interest in the opportunity confidently. Prepare and practice this pitch as it can be your answer to the most common prompt: “Tell me about yourself.”
Be sure to mention your name, major, career aspirations, why you want to work at the organization/company, skills you have, unique experiences, etc.
Pro tip: When discussing skills, or experiences, make sure to use the internship or job description as a cheat-sheet to showcase ways in which your specific skills and experiences pertain to what they specifically need.
5. Be ready for questions
An interview might vary depending on whether it’s behavior or technical. If it’s technical, make sure to have prepared knowledge of the applications that the job requires. If it’s behavioral, some general questions to be prepared for include:
- What do you believe is your greatest strength (or weakness)?
- How do you manage your time?
- How have you shown that you’re a team player?
- Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker (or someone you know) and how you managed to resolve it and still get things done.
- Tell us about a time you received an assignment you did not know how to do, and how you navigated this.
Pro tip: Be aware that some questions you may not have answers to, which is totally fine! If you can’t answer it because you haven’t had that experience, answer the question as if it were a: “what would you do…?” For example, instead of “tell me about a time you had to fix a said issue,” think about it as “what would you do or what steps would you take to fix a said issue?”.
6. Believe in yourself when speaking about your experiences
Don’t feel like you must go into the interview without feeling nervous but be ready to believe in your experiences and skills and share about how you know you’re a fit for this position. To help sound more confident, avoid filler words (e.g., just, like, um, uh, etc.).
Also, know what skill you’re trying to showcase when speaking. This should be clear and should be one of the main things they take away.
Pro tip: When sharing your skills, make sure to tie them back to the role. For example, if you’re talking about your ability to be a fast learner, you can discuss how that ability will allow you to learn x, y, and z skills or programs needed for that position.
7. When answering questions, use the STAR method
The STAR method stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This method allows you to share your value in outlined steps and can help you in making sure your answers are full of substance. The Situation is what you had to deal with, the Task is what you had to do, the Action is what you did or the Action you took, and the Result is what happened as a result of your action and what you learned from it.
Note: I’ve met people who prefer other methods, and it all comes down to personal preference. I will say, if you feel like you do not have substance in your answers, the STAR method is best!
8. Always ask questions
Asking questions to the interviewer shows your interest and engagement. For some, it may sound a little scary to ask questions, but doing hard things is what allows for growth.
Here are some ideas of questions:
- Ask more information about specific projects you’ll be doing in the position.
- Ask about how can you succeed or reach success in the position.
- Ask if there are any other questions they have about you and your application.
- Ask when you’ll receive information on next steps.
- Ask the interviewer about THEM (what they like about their role or the organization, etc.!).
Generally, people love to answer questions, share about themselves and their experiences, and about the opportunity. Hearing the interviewer talk about their experience while working at the respective place can give you an insight into the culture, role, or management style.
9. Write a thank you note for your interviewer within 48 hours
Sending your interviewer a note to thank them for interviewing you is crucial as it shows appreciation and respect for their time. This note can also serve as a chance to reiterate your interest in the role, while thanking them for considering you as an applicant.
Only about one of four interviewees send their interviewers thank you notes, so by sending one, you’re already standing out. Be in that 25%, not the 75%.
Plus, if you don’t end up getting the position, that thank you note can serve as a connection to ask that interviewer about future opportunities or tips for a future interview, so send that thank you note!
10. Reflect on the experience
The best way we learn is by doing. Once you’ve completed your interview, take the time to reflect on what you did, what you said, how you acted, and much more. Then, think about how you can do what you did better, reflect on how you improved from past experiences, and highlight areas in which you feel you excelled.
Experience is the best teacher and as you interview more, you will only get that much better. Take the time to reflect, and you will see that through reflection you will learn and grow.
Now that you have read these interview tips, you’re ready to go and rock that interview. Remember that as time goes by, you will only get better and better at interviewing, so go in ready to learn.
I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors, and I know you’ll do amazing in your interview. Good luck!
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At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 500 college students.
Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.
Our alumni network includes more than 600 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 84% graduating debt-free.
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