Interview Insights from ECS' Employer of the Year

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Curtis Brown in a black suit with a white button up shirt and brown striped tie smiling at the camera

This week’s blog is written by Curtis Brown, Engineer at MPR Associates, winner of our ECS Employer of the Year Award. Curtis is a 2016 Nuclear Engineering alum from Ohio State who shares his insight now being on the OTHER side of the interview.

An interview is inevitable for anyone looking for a job, and it has the potential to be super stressful. This stress can be overwhelming, and often hides the candidate’s true characteristics. In this post, I will offer a few insights into the interview process from an interviewer’s perspective. My goal is that these insights relieve some of the stress associated with interviews and, in turn, allow candidates to perform better during interviews.

It’s been ingrained in us that a good GPA, internship experience, and leadership experience are key items to include in your resume. I agree that these items will make you stand out; however, there are intangible characteristics that aren’t on your resume but assessed during an interview. These characteristics may make or break the company’s decision to make you an offer. I have first-hand experience of a candidate, who had a seemingly average resume, become our top candidate after an interview. Therefore, I’ve provided my two most impactful, intangible assessments I make during an interview.

Problem Solving

Whether it be at work or home, we are faced with many problems and challenges that require our attention to solve. Sometimes you immediately know the solution. Other times, the problem is more complex, and it takes some investigation, learning, and critical thinking to get to the solution. Many times at work, you are faced with problems you don’t know the answer to immediately. Therefore, it is your ability to work through complex problems that interviewers are trying to assess.

Here is my advice to candidates. Whether it be a question or a problem you have to work through, don’t sweat it if you don’t know your answer immediately. As an interviewer, it is actually my goal to get you to a point where you cannot recite the answer from memory. Relax, take a deep breath, and embrace the challenge. Remember, I am trying to assess your ability to solve a problem, so it is helpful to communicate your thoughts during this process. Layout what you do know and what you don’t know and start solving for what you don’t know. You may even find that you cannot get to the final solution. As long as you don’t totally give up (throw your hands up and say “I don’t know”), you are still OK. In this scenario, tell me the resources that you would use to figure out what you don’t know.

Interest/Curiosity

Companies are looking for employees that are motivated to do excellent work. Arguably, the most impactful source of motivation is interest and curiosity in the work the company performs. Typically, candidates that exhibit interest and curiosity in work are driven to perform well. Further, it is more likely the candidate will enjoy working for the company and be there long term if they exhibit these characteristics. Therefore, it is your interest and curiosity in the company’s work that interviewers are trying to assess.

Here is my advice to candidates; you should interview for each job like it’s the only job on the planet! If you are interested in the company’s work, express that interest. You can do this by staying attentive and asking thoughtful questions. Some of the best interviews I’ve had are when an interview feels more like a discussion with the candidate rather than a Q&A. It is perfectly fine to have a tangential conversation about a recent project I’ve been working on. If you want, ask about the technical details of the project, and allow your curiosity to run wild.

My hope is that these insights into the interview process will alleviate some of the stress that that is associated with interviews and allow you to perform better during interviews. Remember, you are an interviewer as well. You are making an assessment on whether this company would be a good fit for you. Most important of all, relax and be yourself. The right company will make an offer to you for who you are.

“The best in business have boundless curiosity and open minds.” - Robin Sharma