Many college students and recent grads do not know how to prepare properly for an interview. Even those who read the website of their prospective employer and manage to rattle off facts about the company aren’t interview-ready. To wow your interviewer, you really need to research, practice, and prepare until your responses to your interviewer’s questions are organic and do not sound rehearsed.
Not only must your answers not sound robotic, but they need to be well thought out, specific and relevant to the role for which you are interviewing. To be a convincing and serious contender for a job, you absolutely must be able to answer the following three questions:
- Why are you interested in this company?
- Make no mistake; this question requires research. Reading the website, you ought to be comfortable discussing the business and its operations, but you also need to Google the key executives at the company, understand the current issues they face, and the perspective of the top management.
- You ought to be able to comment on the business’ direction, the issues it faces, its key competitors and its recent hires and their background. Spend some time on the company’s LinkedIn profile, if it has one, and start following it on Twitter and like it on Facebook. These tools will give you additional insight into the company and help you develop a deeper, better informed and more impressive answer to this question.
- Why are you interested in this position?
This question relates directly to the responsibilities of the role you are pursuing. It requires that you speak about relevant coursework that you enjoyed, internships or work experiences that show your interest in the primary responsibilities and other skills you have developed (i.e. social media). You might also address readings you have done that support your interest in this role, as well as the direction it will take you in your career.
- Why should we hire you?
This question pertains more specifically to the job description’s requirements section. Here, it is essential both to discuss your technical qualifications and to give examples to support your responses. If a position requires a strong understanding of marketing, cite specific examples of how you have demonstrated your abilities in this area. And then there are the “soft skills”–those that relate to your behavioral competencies. Just saying you can “multi task” or are “team oriented” is far too vague. You must support each of the behavioral qualities you mention with specific examples that demonstrate ownership of these traits.
It’s natural to feel excited when you’ve secured an interview, but it’s important to remember that’s just the beginning of the process. Once you get in front of company representatives, you must be thoroughly prepared to present a compelling case for why they should chose you–one that is coherent and relevant; and demonstrates excitement, enthusiasm, and commitment for the company and the job. If you do that right, there will be time to celebrate after you’ve received your offer letter.
Lesley is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs. Previously, Lesley spent more than 25 years in executive search, working with candidates from entry level to C-Suite executives in organizations ranging in size from small, family owned businesses to large international organizations. Her fundamental knowledge of what hiring manager’s look for is the core of what Priority Candidates does to prepare college students/recent grads to get hired now. An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, ABC’s New York Viewpoint with Ken Rosato, ABC News with Art McFarland, The New York Times, NY Nightly News with NBC4’s Chuck Scarborough, eCampus News and John Tucker’s Small Business Report on Bloomberg Radio. Lesley always welcomes connections via LinkedIn, on Twitter or by email or phone, available on her website.