Acing the Interview

By Kelly A. Dumke

The job search for spring graduates and the internship hunt for first years is now in full swing.  Don’t be caught off guard at your next job or internship interview; do your homework, prepare an arsenal of responses, and demonstrate your skills. Ace the interview with these simple suggestions from seasoned Tufts alum, who offer tips from personal experience and advice from an employers’ point of view.

Remember the 4 P’s

PLAN

  • Research the company or organization for which you are applying.  By exploring a companies website or brochures you can gain a better understanding of the organization’s mission and tailor your interview answers to meet those criteria.
  • Investigate your interviewers.  Don’t be afraid to ask who is going to be interviewing you.  It helps to understand perspectives and beliefs of individuals who will be questioning you to both become more comfortable and avoid offending anyone.

PREPARE

  • Prepare an arsenal of past experiences that demonstrate the skill set you can bring to the position.  Behavior-based interviewing is common and based on the idea that past performance is the best indicator of future performance. To prepare, list out your skills, values, and interests in addition to strengths and weaknesses.  Next, think of examples from past experience that demonstrate these skills and emphasize how you can benefit the company rather than simply stating your interests.
  • Interview questions are targeted at eliciting responses that demonstrate a tangible skill that you can offer to a company.  Although oddball questions such as, “If you were a tree, what type of tree would you be?” may seem meaningless, the questioner is actually getting at a creative skill set.  The explanation, not your choice of tree, is what interests the company.  For example, you might say an oak tree because they are strong, can withstand pressure, and seek to continue to grow within the environment.  Here you are suggesting you can handle the pressures of the job and grow with the company.  Picking a palm tree because it’s pretty might not be the greatest choice.
  • Prepare a list of questions about the company or specific position you are applying for.  Remember that you are also interviewing the company to assess if it is a good fit for you.

PRACTICE

  • Practice your responses to specific types of interview questions.  Know the past experiences you plan to use to exemplify your tangible skill set.  Ask a friend or advisor to listen to a response and ask for feedback as to whether a tangible skill came across.
  • QUICK PRACTICE TIPS:
    • Record yourself with a digital camera or Garage Band (free on Mac computers) and watch how you come off.
    • Simply practice answering questions in a mirror to get comfortable delivering prepared responses.
    • Check out books or websites that have frequently asked interview questions such as the Tufts Career Services website: http://careers.tufts.edu

PERFORM (during the interview)

  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Think and answer questions thoughtfully.  It is okay to take a moment to organize your response to a given question in your head, rather than blurting out the first idea that comes to mind.
  • Focus on the position you are applying for and the skills you can provide.
  • Ask questions from your prepared list.
  • Remember your manners and thank the interviewers for their time and consideration.
  • Relax and stay calm.

Whether you are applying for a summer internship or venturing out into the workforce, consider these four tips as you prepare for interviews.  Good luck, remain calm, and ace the interview!

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