Before The Interview
key concepts and action steps
FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYER'S NEEDS
As a job seeker, you naturally focus your energies on defining the qualities that you want in a job and an employer.
But in an interview situation, the employer is more interested in knowing what you can do for their organization and how you can fill the role they have available. Especially in a strong job market, it is all too easy for inexperienced job seekers to focus on their own needs and desires, while failing to address, in concrete terms, how they can meet the employer's needs.
At the same time, however, the employer wants to determine whether you are sufficiently motivated to excel in this job. While you should focus on the contribution you can make to the organization, you should also convey your interest in the job, the career field and the organization by asking well-thought-out questions and by clearly defining and articulating your career goals.
1. Attend An Interview Workshop
- Undergraduates may sign up with the receptionist in Room 101 of the Career Center, or by phone at 617-552-3430.
- Graduate students should make an appointment to speak with a career advisor.
- Available to students.
- Students must attend an interview workshop first.
International students: you may want to watch the video, The Employment Interview, American Style, available at the Career Resource Library, 38 Commonwealth Ave. Interviewing for a job in the US may present some cross-cultural problems for international students. This video will help ensure that your body language and words send the right signals to interviewers.
For the truly ambitious: We recommend the following interview books, available to read at the Career Resource Library, 38 Commonwealth Ave.:
- Knock 'Em Dead - The Ultimate Job Seeker's Handbook (With Great Answers to Over 200 Tough Interview Questions)
If you only read one interviewing book, make it this one.
- Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed
This is our favorite interviewing book; but it was last published when behavioral interviewing was just coming into vogue, so don't use it as your only interview guide.
2. Take A Personality Inventory
Analyze how your strengths, personal and academic experiences, as well as your interests can be transferred to the position for which you are applying. Click here for more information.
3. Create a Catalogue of your Successes
Every employer would like to hire people who can prove that they can do the job, and the best proof is prior experience.
To get a handle on how you have performed in previous roles, recruiters will often ask "behavioral interview questions", which ask you to relate a specific experience based on the criteria set by the interviewer. (An example would be, "Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.")
To successfully answer behavioral interview questions (as well as most other interview questions), you must be prepared to speak in concise terms about relevant experiences that reflect positively on your skills and your character.
We suggest that you create a written catalog of your successes. You will not give this list to employers, but you will use it extensively in preparing for your interviews.
- In creating this catalog, don't limit yourself to experiences at your internships or paid jobs. Whether you are a student or an alumnus/alumna, you should consider your volunteer experiences, your extracurricular activities and your projects for school. In some cases, it is appropriate to include experiences from your personal life (e.g. if you are a mother returning to the work force).
Many of these successes will already appear on your resume - especially if your resume is not just a list of your previous job duties, but also includes your accomplishments, projects you initiated or positive changes you made while on the job, at internships or in your extra-curricular activities.
But don't limit yourself to the items that appear on your resume, either. Take some time to reflect on each job or activity you have engaged in over the previous several years, and try to pinpoint those times that you produced a positive result or were challenged by difficult circumstances.
- As you enter items onto your list, write about how each situation reflects positively on the skills and qualities you want to convey to an employer. The most effective items will be those that reflect the skills necessary for the job at hand, as well as the personal characteristics that most employers seek (ability to work as part of a team; leadership ability; high level of motivation; positive attitude; ability to solve problems; ability to deal with adversity, to create new solutions, to follow through on a project to completion, etc.).
- Write down dates, names, quantities or measurements of success and other details that will convey the situation to the interviewer.
- Having generated a catalog of your successes, you should review the items on this catalogue and then list your five or six greatest strengths. Under each strength, list several key examples that demonstrate that skill or characteristic. This will provide you with a sense of the main points you would like to make in any interview situation.
4. Research the Career Field and the Company
Recruiters have sometimes said that BC students are "bright, and articulate, BUT often they haven't sufficiently researched the job, the company or the career field."
5. Review Potential Questions
- Think deeply about the various elements of the job description. (If you only have a brief description, you might want to call the Human Resources office and ask them to send you a more detailed description, which may go by a fancy HR name, like "Position Content Document.") Make a list of the main skills and personal characteristics that this job seems to require (five to seven items on your list is ideal, though you may have more).
- Next, read through your "catalogue of success." For each skill or personal characteristic that this job requires, try to find strong examples from your success list. Think about how you can demonstrate that you are a problem solver, a team player, a proactive seeker of solutions.
Practice answering potential questions. There are two ways to do this:
- Write out your responses to the most likely questions. This will help you to focus on creating concise answers.
- Practice answering these questions out loud. Don't memorize answers (you don't want to come off as wooden or pre-packaged in your interview), but do rehearse. You will feel much more articulate and be more focused if you've actually spoken your answers to anticipated questions.
TIP: Ask a friend or adult family member to read the questions to you - you may feel a little silly, at first, but you'd be amazed at how this will force to you shape your answers and be concise.
6. Generate a List of Questions to Ask the Employer
There are three reasons to ask intelligent and informed questions in an interview:
- You demonstrate your interest in the job and the company.
- You demonstrate that you have researched the company to the extent that you can now ask more detailed and probing questions.
- You need to gather information about this job and this employer to see if they really do match your career goals and needs.
- Read our Sample Questions to Ask Interviewer.
7. Gather a List of References
Interviewers may ask you for a list of references. You should create a single page listing three to five references several weeks in advance. For more information on this process, click here.
8. Find Out Time, Place and Interviewer
Be sure you have the correct time and clear directions to the interview. Obtain the interviewer's name and title.
9. Purchase a Good Quality Portfolio
To hold copies of your resume, a pen, lists of questions to ask, etc.
10. Check your Appearance