Continued Learning | June 1, 2019

Knocking Your Job Interview Out of the Park: Part II


These days, the amount of experience required in job postings can be downright ludicrous. If employers are in no rush to fill a position, they might put up a wildly ambitious posting in the hopes that a “unicorn” candidate responds. In small companies where the whole team works together on the job posting, they might get carried away dreaming up the ideal candidate. Whatever the circumstances, if a company is hiring for an entry-level position and asking for five or more years of relevant work experience and an advanced degree, it’s hard not to count yourself out of the running when you’re fresh out of college.


The good news is that it’s a job hunter’s market. With the unemployment rate at the lowest level since 1969, companies in all kinds of industries are having trouble filling vacant positions with the talent they need to get ahead. Because of the shortage of qualified workers, many organizations are opting to hire and train less experienced candidates who show potential and promise. If you can demonstrate a desire to work hard and make a difference in a role, you’re much more likely to land an exciting opportunity that can jumpstart your career. Your best chance to convey those qualities? The interview.


If you’ve landed a job interview, congratulations! Make sure you start by reading our last post about how to prepare for the interview ahead of time. In this piece, we’ll cover how to perform at your best during the interview and leave a company’s hiring managers truly impressed.


1. Know how your experience is relevant

Especially if you’re just graduating from college, you might not think your work experience is all that relevant to the position at hand. Nonsense. If you have any work experience at all, you have many of the skills that employers are looking for in a prospective employee. Worked as a barista for two summers? You know how to juggle multiple tasks in a fast-paced work environment, and your customer service skills are impeccable. Maybe you’ve sold magazines door-to-door to raise money for your school. Sales positions teach incredible lessons about perseverance and grit. Even experience as the captain of a sports team demonstrates valuable leadership skills – skills that will no doubt come in handy in the workplace.


2. Focus on your strengths

Are you incredibly organized? Self-motivated? You have lots of qualities that look good to a potential employer, but Instead of trying to convey them all during your interview, look at the job description to figure out what the company needs most. Maybe they’ve had problems with people missing work or showing up late, and they’re looking for someone dependable. Focus on your dependability, perhaps by highlighting an impeccable class attendance record. Leave no doubt in their minds that they can rely on you. Maybe they really need a team player. Explain how important a team sport has been in your life, or how you’ve volunteered your time to help start a new college club (or on campus chapter of the SCLA!). Your interviewers are looking for specific qualities – no matter how you choose to convey them, make sure you’re aiming at the right targets.


3. Ask a few questions

Most interviewers will wrap up by answering any questions you might have. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker to end your interview here, but you can get a few bonus points by asking one or two thoughtful questions that show you were paying attention. Can’t think of anything in the moment? Ask a question about your interviewer. You spend most of the time in an interview talking about yourself, and turning the spotlight on the people you’re hoping to work for shows a level of emotional intelligence they’ll appreciate. Plus, you might find a connection with your interviewers that you didn’t know existed, which will help them remember you when they’re discussing candidates.


4. Follow up with a thank-you

You should obviously thank your interviewers on your way out, but it’s important to go the extra mile and follow up with a thank you note. It’s an easy gesture, and one that a surprising number of candidates overlook. You can certainly follow up with an email (and here are some guidelines for doing so), but a handwritten note will stand out even more. While a thank you note isn’t going to get you a job that you weren’t qualified for, it will help you and your application stand out in a crowded pool and demonstrate how much you want the job.


The interview process can feel stressful, but it all depends on how you look at it. If you view it as an obstacle to overcome, it’ll be just that – an uphill battle that you’re trying to get through without messing up too badly. Instead, look at it as a golden opportunity to show your interviewers why you’re the right candidate for the job. With a little bit of preparation and practice, you’ll be acing interviews and getting job offers before you know it.