The semester may have just begun but interviewing is always on our minds at the Career Center. This is because it is such an important part of the job search process. Developing strong interviewing skills is as essential as perfecting your resume and crafting a compelling cover letter. Below are the top five tips that we recommend for a successful interview experience:
1. Remember an interview is a conversation. It can feel like you, as the interviewee, are doing most of the talking, but actually an interview is a two-way street. That means there are opportunities for both you and the employer to ask and answer questions to determine if the position will be a good fit. It is helpful to research the company before the interview and have a list of questions to ask on hand, especially if you think that you may forget on the spot.
For example, you may want to ask about what a typical day looks like in the position or even ask the interviewer to tell you what they like best about the organization. Here are some sample questions to get you started.
2. Have your 30-second commercial handy. A 30-second commercial - otherwise known as an elevator pitch - is a quick and easy way to introduce yourself and share an overview of your accomplishments and career goals. Imagine you have stepped onto an elevator with your career hero and only have the time between the ground floor and the floor above to introduce yourself. This is when your elevator pitch will come in handy. It is essential for the interviewing process and is also useful to have on hand during our networking events, such as the Career Fair, UMBC Connects, Career Corners, and Employer Info Sessions.
Check out this link for some tips on developing a 30-second commercial. Create your own and practice with friends - or share it with us at the Career Center during drop-in hours before the next event! You can also practice your pitch using Big Interview. A good place to start is with the universal question: "Tell me about yourself."
3. Listen to each question thoroughly. An interview is a great time to demonstrate the good listening skills that are important for any job. Be sure that you fully understand the interviewer's question before starting to answer. Feel free to jot down notes to help you remember the question or to ask for clarification before responding. Often questions have multiple parts, such as: "Can you tell me about a time when you experienced a challenge, how you overcame it, and what you learned from the experience?" In this case, you will want to respond to each of the three parts of the question using the same example of a challenge. The good news is that you get to pick the challenge that you will share, so choose one that demonstrates your resilience and growth mindset and shows you in a favorable light.
4. Support all of your statements with examples. When responding to interview questions, support each response with details that demonstrate your capacity in that area. For example, if you state: "I pick up new technology very quickly." You will want to add a concrete example such as: "When I started my internship, I was completely unfamiliar with Buffer. Within the first week, I was using Buffer to post simultaneously to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram." Not only does this response fully answer the question, but it also provides further insights into the skills, qualities, and capacities that you can contribute to the new position.
5. Use the STAR method. Lastly, the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Results) method can be a great way to provide the additional detail in your responses that the interviewer is looking for - and which will help you stand out from the crowd. By going beyond a simple description of what you did and including the results of your work, an interviewer can start to visualize your level of effectiveness and how you could make a significant impact on their organization.
Here's a breakdown of the STAR method to help you begin crafting sample responses:
S - Situation - what was happening?
T - Task - what were you doing?
A - Action - what did you do as a result?
R - Result - what happened? (Including your analysis of it).
For further information and practice on the STAR method, check out the Answer Builder feature in UMBC's Big Interview platform which takes you step-by-step through applying the STAR method to your own responses.
If you are interested in learning more, join us at the upcoming "Keys to Success: Ace the Interview!" session on Monday, September 12 from 12- 1pm in Commons 331. Learn more and sign up here.