Alex Austin is a Graduate Administrative Associate with Engineering Career Services.
When meeting with students I frequently get asked these two questions in regards to interviews: “How can I make the best impression?” and “How can I avoid giving damaging answers?” While these are great questions, usually a hiring decision is not based on one thing that went really well or really poorly. Oftentimes the final decision is a combination of pros and cons given throughout the interview. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help you demonstrate how you are the best candidate.
Research the company – Every company has different goals, values, and ideals that shape the culture for their employees. A large part of landing a job and ultimately being successful is your fit within the company. Doing research on the employer means learning about what they find important. Look at their mission statement, corporate values, and recent news events. Then, you can show how you would be a good fit by incorporating the values into your answers.
Give specific examples – Employers want to know if you will be able to do the essential duties of a job. The best way for them to know this is by learning if you have ever done something similar before. When the interviewer asks a behavioral based question (“Tell me about a time when…”) make sure you give a specific event that demonstrates your abilities. Following the S.T.A.R. method will help make sure you are focusing your answer on a specific example. Giving vague answers or speaking about what you would do is not advised.
Answer the question being asked – When people get nervous in an interview, they tend to start talking as soon as the question is asked. They may not have an example yet, but they hope to find it along the way. This often leads to an answer that completely misses the mark and does not address the question at hand. Take some time after the interviewer finishes asking their question to think of a situation. Don’t be afraid to say something like “That is a great question. Let me think of a good experience.” The employer would rather you take the time you need so you can come up with an answer that actually answers the question.
Ask good questions – When the employer ends the interview with “Do you have any questions for us?” this is not actually the end of the interview. Make sure you come prepared with quality questions for the employer. These questions will most likely come in the research portion of your preparation but could include: “What kind of projects have previous interns/employees worked on?”, “How would you describe the culture of your team?”, “What have you most enjoyed working at this company?”. Ask about things that you are really interested in learning more about. Make sure that you pay attention to the answers that are given and you can start a dialogue.
Following these steps will help ensure you are making a positive impression on companies during the interview process. Practice in-person by setting up a mock interview with ECS or practice online using your Big Interview account located in CareerEngine to make sure you are giving the best impression every time.
“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson