Confessions of a Peer Advisor (Vol 1): My 3 Interview Mistakes

job_interview1

Presenting a workshop to a group of 50 students? No problem!

Giving a classroom a tour of the Career Center? Easy peezy.

…..

Interviewing with 1 recruiter? Uhh… um… Yikes! Someone help me!

I have been a peer advisor at the Career Center for two and a half years now. I’ve critiqued student resumes, helped with internship searches and provided many with interviewing advice. Giving advice is one thing, but sitting in the seat as the interviewee is a completely different experience.

My first OCR interview was far from what I had expected and though it was filled with various blunders, I’ve learned my biggest interviewing lessons from making these wrong decisions.

Mistake #1: Rushing/Not giving myself enough time to prepare before my interview

As a full-time student, there are going to be occasions when school conflicts with your career plans. It just so happened that the day of my big interview, I coincidentally had a midterm in Bunche right before it.

By the time, I arrived at the 3rd floor of the Career Center I was covered in sweat, out of breath and looked completely frazzled. My mind raced as I tried to straighten the wrinkles in my professional attire. Thankfully, I had a few minutes to spare before the interview so I bolted into the restroom to compose myself.

Rookie lesson #1: Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your interview

Yes, sometimes scheduling conflicts happen. Apart from those coincidental instances, make sure you have prepared appropriately for your big day.

  • Get your professional attire ready the night before– Did you iron? Lint-roll your items?
  • Make sure you have all your materials – Portfolio? Pen? Extra copies of your resume?
  • Leave plenty of time to get to the location of your interview – being late is not a good first impression. Getting to your interview on time allows you to collect your thoughts, review your resume and feel mentally prepared.

Mistake #2: Winging the interview/Not researching appropriately

As a college student, there will be many occasions when you are forced to improvise your way through a presentation, guess your way through a pop quiz – but an interview is not something to seamlessly breeze through.

Days leading up to my interview, I spent all of my time cramming for my exam rather than researching more about the company, the position or even why I wanted to work there. I walked into the interview thinking I could wing it, couldn’t be that bad right? Wrong, BIG mistake.

I was not prepared to answer the questions being thrown at me:

-Out of the 4 available opportunities, which are you most interested in working in?

-How do you think your experiences will contribute to the role you are applying for?

-Why do you want to work for us?

If I didn’t even know what type of position I was applying for, how could I discuss my relevant experiences to that role? I realized immediately what a huge mistake I made in not researching more about the company. I gave weak answers and could hear and feel my nervousness in my responses. I was disappointed in myself and knew that I was not confidently presenting myself as the best candidate to the recruiter.

Rookie lesson #2: Research, research, research!

It is so so so important to do your research before the interview.

  • Research the background of the company. Knowing more about the organization will provide you with a better idea of their values, products, company culture and even their prospective growth outlook. Not only that, understanding what the company stands for gives you a more confident idea of why it is YOU want to work there.
  • Research the position/role you are applying for. When you know exactly what you are applying for, you can accurately convince  the employer how your experience and qualifications directly match and align with the position they are looking to fill. Try reaching out to someone working directly in that position via LinkedIn or researching similar job descriptions to better understand the position’s responsibilities.
  • Research your resume/past experiences. Be prepared to clarify and expand your previous experiences during the interview. Know your resume like the back of your hand and come prepared with a few examples ready for behavioral questions like “Tell me about a time you had to make a last minute decision” or “Give me an example of when something you tried to accomplish failed”. Understand and identify your strengths- this will give you confidence in articulating your achievements to employers.

Mistake #3: Rushing & Panicking during the interview

It’s normal to feel nervous during an interview; however it’s also important not to let that take over one’s entire interview. My nervousness was on full-drive and quickly intensified when I was asked unexpected or surprising questions. Flustered, I would respond as quickly as possible, unsure of what I was actually saying or trying to convey. I’d start to stumble on my words, stutter a bit, and ramble when I wasn’t sure what to say.

Rookie lesson #3: Relax & Take a second to collect your thoughts if necessary.

Take it easy, no need to freak out. It’s completely okay to take a few seconds to collect your thoughts. Give yourself time to think more clearly about what you want to say. Rather than saying whatever pops into your head, a quick think pause will help you produce more coherent and well-thought out responses. Even if you don’t know the specific answer, it can be helpful to dissect the question in your head – explaining your thought process out loud shows interviewers how you mentally break down and solve a problem.

Looking back now, I wish I had utilized these 3 highly beneficial and recommended resources at the Career Center:

  1. Mock interviews. Take advantage of these practice interview sessions with professional career counselors. Whether you’re preparing for a scary graduate school interview or trying to secure a summer internship, come in for a practice round to prepare yourself for the actual interview.
  2. Career Center Library. There’s a section dedicated to interviewing skills in the Career Center library with a variety of sample questions and scenarios to familiarize yourself with. There are targeted interview books on coding, case interviews, medical schools and many more.
  3. Career Guide. The Career Guide has a full chapter dedicated to addressing interview questions and debriefing you on all types of interviewing concerns.

http://career.ucla.edu/Files/PDF/CareerGuide/2013/CG_2013_2014_Chapter7_091313.pdf

Though there’s no easy solution to guarantee a perfect interview for anyone, I can tell you one thing- preparation and practice helps to establish the confidence necessary to thrive in any type of interview setting. Take advantage of the resources around you to better equip yourself with successful interviewing skills.

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