6 Secrets to Acing Job Interviews

Recruiters are already collecting resumes in RICElink: Powered by Handshake, so that means interview time is almost here! Have you started practicing? It’s never too early to start.

What do I know about this topic? Not everything. However, I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews during my time at Rice and actual first round (or, screening) interviews in my former role as a Campus Recruiter. I’ve observed some consistent trends and offer you six pieces of advice:

Your interview begins before you say a word.

Arriving early to an interview (10-15 minutes is appropriate) is generally perceived as a positive behavior. It indicates that you might show up to work on time (if not early). There’s never an excuse though, for showing up late.However, arriving 20-30 minutes early can make your interviewer feel rushed to complete a current task so as to not keep you waiting, so be mindful of your timing. 

This next point seems obvious but I’m going to write it anyway – be nice to the receptionist. I have overheard a “tone” talking to receptionists that tells me something about the candidate before I even meet them. Also, smile and/or be friendly. Not like this:  

It’s an interview for a potentially exciting time your life – it’s not punishment.

You have to nail the question: Tell Me About Yourself.

Disclaimer, I don’t know what questions your interviewer will ask you…but, chances are, you will be asked this question by someone during the hiring process. 

This answer sets the tone for the interview. If your answer is all over the place (and/or rambling), the interviewer may tune out or think you’re unprepared. You don’t need to give up your whole life story in this answer – save some examples for future questions. Alternatively, if you’re too brief in your reply, it may seem like you’re unprepared as well.

So, what’s the sweet spot?

Structure your answer and practice (not to the point of sounding scripted, but rather, you feel confident in your answer). It should have a firm beginning, middle and end.

  • The beginning:  Introduce yourself (include class level and major). If you already met the interviewer, you don’t need to re-articulate your name here.
  • The middle: Highlight two or three skills or experiences related to the opportunity
  • The end: Why are you sitting in that chair across from the interviewer (or on the phone talking to that person)?

“Walk me through your resume” is similar – structure it. In general, when asked that question, your interviewer is looking at the top of your resume. So, if you start referencing an experience in the middle of the page, help them understand where you are on the document. Don’t be like Michael Scott.

Michael Scott 

Prepare an answer about why you are interested in the company for which you are interviewing.

Seems obvious, right? It’s not. Some students tend to talk generally about their interests in a particular field or industry but not about a particular company. Look, your interviewer knows you’re interviewing elsewhere (just as you know they are interviewing other candidates). Help your interviewer understand why you are interested in this company (without bad mouthing any others). Remember, it’s not all about you and what you’ll learn, it’s also what you bring to the table (if hired).

Differentiate yourself and prepare.

How? Use examples. Even if you know the other 10 candidates are your peers within your academic discipline, and you have overlapping roles in student clubs, your experiences are unique to you. Leverage those experiences and articulate them in a structured manner. If you have a behavioral interview, consider utilizing the STAR approach.  Interviewers are often trained to listen for that structure in answers.

Ask good questions.

What constitutes a “good” question, you ask? One that demonstrates you have done some research on the company. It doesn’t have to be in depth research – a cursory reading of the company’s website is the minimum effort here. You need to take something you discovered from the website, a conversation, an article or press release about the company, a tweet, etc. and craft a question that will not only demonstrate you’ve taken time to do a little research but also that you’re interested in learning more.

Follow up (but don’t stalk).

Write a thank you note. Email is, of course, acceptable but handwritten notes stand out from the high volume of emails in any given inbox. It’s a best practice to send a brief thank you via email (within 24 hours of your interview). 

What should you include in said note?

Be grateful. You are thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to interview for a role but also for their time. Mention something you learned about the role, the interviewer’s career path or the company overall that you didn’t previously know. Reiterate your interest in the role and the reason(s) why you remain interested.

Side note: you know when you think of the perfect response to something hours after the fact? If you wish you answered a question differently, include what you wanted to say in the thank you note (this can be accomplished in a sentence or two). The thank you note might be your final chance to shine before a decision is made for you to proceed in the hiring process.

If you are seeking a work experience (whether internship, full-time, part-time or research), you will interview. Practice. Need help or want feedback? The Center for Career Development and our Peer Career Advisors are here to help you articulate your story so you can shine during your interview! 

TakeFlight: A blog for Owls by Owls

Authored by: Michelle Passo, Experiential Education Program Manager at Rice University, Houston, TX

Schedule an appointment for a mock interview with Michelle or any of our other career development professionals in RICElink: Powered by Handshake today!


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