Hunting for a job can be one of the most depressing and annoying things in the world. Every application form demands new essays, skills, formats and a little piece of your soul. After repeatedly experiencing the anti-climax that follows failed job interviews, everyone can become a completely wretched zombie. From time to time, you do get the miraculous call-back but what then follows is actually not much prettier: phone interviews, case studies, assessment centres, partner interviews and so on until, somewhere at the end, might be a job. Somewhere.
There are horror stories of people going through five or six interviews for the one job with all sorts of brain teasers and traps that are meant to make you nervous. Some case study groups even form as early as July to get enough practice before hoped-for interviews. However, aside from all the craziness (which should mostly be ignored, because you are awesome and will find something that is really great) prepping for interviews IS really important. Interviews are extreme stressful situations in which your brain often doesn’t function well because of the distracting urge to jump out of the window. To avoid blabbering, awkward silences or stupid answers, preparation is everything.
Lots of unis have great career services and consultants that will help you individually to work out your strengths and weaknesses and how to answer questions.
In the UK, this is vastly important and when I was looking for my first job, I had the wonderful Jenny Roberts to coach me before every single interview. We worked on likely questions and strong answers, as well as on cases that I would have to present. Whoever thinks this is over-preparing should realise that those who prepare religiously have a much higher chance of landing the job. When I got my first job after 6(!) pretty tough interviews I was so happy that I had Jenny on my side, – she really made a difference. So, if you really want to get your dream job, putting in some extra hours should be worth it.
If there is no great career service where you live, practicing with friends or relatives is a viable option too. It is important to have someone on the other side to simulate that element of surprise a question often entails. There are also lots of online resources on STAR answer schemes and how to work on a case study in a structured way (Kent University has a pretty detailed guide). Nonetheless, Jenny was nice enough to share some of her wisdom with The Trophy, so here is what the expert says:
- Know yourself – be able to walk someone through your CV, have reasons for why you chose the courses/internships/voluntary pursuits you chose; be able to talk about what you enjoyed in your work experience history, what has added value to you as a person and where you see your career going.
- Know the company – use the Internet – find out as much as you can about the organisation, its competitors, the issues effecting the industry as a whole, have three good reason why you want to join them (reasons that demonstrate your thorough research are the best), don’t simply use the company website – look further.
- Know what to expect – Look on student forums such as Wikijob, the Student Room, Glassdoor and others to find out what people say they have been asked at interviews. Check the web pages of the company itself and any emails/correspondence that you have had from them in order to prepare for what might happen at the interview. If you know you will be asked competency/strengths based/motivational/biographical questions think about the kinds of questions that might come up in relation to your CV and background. Don’t learn or rehearse your answers but think about where you might draw examples from – a variety of experiences some from your academic life, some your work history and some from extra-curricular activities you participate in. If the company gives the competencies they seek in the job description or elsewhere, then start there with your preparation – think about how you are able to demonstrate these.
- Know who to expect – if you have the name of the interviewer there is no harm in trying to find out a bit about them – LinkedIn can be a powerful tool, not just to look up the person who you are meeting with but potentially to contact someone in your network to find out more about the company and/or the interviewer. Alumni networks from your academic institution can be very helpful.
And most importantly: practice! Find career consultants, friends or family and have them ask you a million questions. Good luck!