My Two Cents on Interview Advice

New Year’s is right around the corner, and I while I am in the 2013 graduating class, I know many in the 2012 graduating class! So I felt as though this was an appropriate post.

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As compared to previous years, I feel as though I was not as prepared or enthusiastic during my meetings with potential employers this month (though probably my excitement as been at an all-time high for the positions I applied and was granted interviews for). However, it was also the first time I was pressed to schedule to meet either during or right after finals. And how could I ever forget how unattractively sick I was during this time. I usually have winter break to rest up and do some research.

For the most part, my interviews earlier this month for my last official undergrad internship went pretty well. Minus one research position at a very prestigious medical university who’s name I will not mention (okay, I’ll stop being bitter. But had I not been in finals week AND super sick, I would have TOTALLY hardcore brushed up on my previous molecular and cellular projects and definitely have performed better during interview).

So I have a few interview tips I’d like to share with you, from one budding scientist to another (or just one student to another).

1)      Research

As you can see from my previous parenthetical exclamation, it is very important to be well researched before going to the interview. I’m talking about the company background, their overall view, what the position entails based on the posting, ect. It’s good to look up your interviewers in advance if you know their names. One of the engineers who I used to work with advised to search via Linked-In to see if you may have mutual connections. It’s good to know what your interviewer’s position is and what they studied. If for example, you are applying to a lab position, it’s good to look at your previous project notes so that you can efficiently and concisely answer any questions they have from your previous experience in experiments or talk about techniques you are acquainted with.

2)      Mock Interview Questions

If your school offers mock interview sessions, I highly suggest going to them, especially if you nervous about interviews. I haven’t gone to one yet, but I probably will before the graduation job search begins. Believe it or not, employers really do ask canned questions, all prepared one a sheet or two, ready to fire at you! So think in advance what questions could be asked and prepare your “story” you would like to recall from your past experiences.

Examples of Questions:
– Explain a dilemma you faced and how you fixed it?
– How would you deal with a situation you where you are unsure what to do? Provide an example.
– Why do you want this job?
– (My least favorite -___-, and yes they do ask this!) Give a five minute sales speech of yourself. Why should we hire you for the job?

3)      Dress appropriately

One of the number one complaints of employers to our school with their interns is apparently dress code. I’ve been fortunate enough because my first internship was casual and basic lab rules (long pants, no sandals or shorts), and my second internship was business casual (I love business casual attire! So comfy!), so I haven’t really dealt with this problem. However, during interviews, your appearance is the first and maybe the only impression the employer gets of you even before you open your mouth for questions. I think it goes without saying that a good interview suit or nice business outfit does the job just fine. Nothing provocative (Girls, that crap doesn’t work. And if it does, then I wouldn’t want a job granted for me for such lack of merit). Nothing sloppy, keep it clean, ironed, simple, and as professional as a student can be.

If you look on the younger side, I recommend a touch of makeup and DO NOT wear super baggy/oversized outfits. Even with makeup, people still think I’m still in high school, although they clearly read on my resume  I’m almost an university graduate. Your interviewers probably realize you are still in school, but make-up can add a little bit of a finishing gloss, which can subconsciously relay a sense of maturity and reliability.

4)      Be happy

For the love of God, you want this job right? Be enthusiastic and happy to be there. Even if it takes up time in your “busy schedule,” your interviewers are probably just as busy (but most likely 1000 times more). Now, I’m not advocating being fake, but no one likes a miserable looking applicant. Speak up, laugh a little when appropriate, smile, give hardy handshakes, and don’t freak out. Letting some personality peek through helps you stay memorable in their mind.

I’ve experienced a lot of different types of interviews before. Some are more typical one-on-one type of meetings. Other times, I have had to sit and talk to a lab team, one member at a time. Another time, I had to talk to a whole conference room of people at once for a scholarship interview. Then, there are also interviews while being on tour of the work site. One of the weirdest interviews I attended had me physically try to do the job I was applying for before I was hired/trained (and no, I ended up not getting selected for that coop).

You never know what could happen, but it’s nice to ask other friends and family for advice whenever you are nervous. Hope  my little blurb on the matter helps!

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