How to Ace That Interview
What perfect timing, because Caleb and I just aced our interviews and said YES to our new jobs! So we know exactly how you feel: nervous as hell because you'd do anything to get this job, anxious because you know you’ll stutter or ramble, and scared because well, the fear of rejection is so real. But you're not alone in this. Realize that you have the power to do everything you possibly can to prepare for this interview - after all, you made it past the resumé portion, so you just have to charm them into hiring you! Easy right? Jk.
We know it's not as easy as it seems. That's why we're sharing our best tips so you can ace that interview and get that offer! So try these tips, from a (soon-to-be) Labor & Delivery nurse and a Mechanical Engineer, so that you feel and look confident and excited walking into that interview room with your future employer and coworkers.
1. Look good.
This may seem superficial, but studies show that most employers make their decision within the first couple of minutes. Nearly 30% decide within the first 5 minutes, and 59.9% decide within the first 15 minutes. With this being said, realize that the first impression isn't always everything. If you stumble on your words in the first couple of questions or you forget to shake hands with 1 interviewer, it's not the end of the world. Some interviewers may make their decision in the first 15 minutes, but this leaves it up to other interviewers who may take the entire interview to sway 1 way other the other.
In terms of actually looking good, I'm not saying that you need the most expensive suit to land a job. Sure, clothes are important: don't wear anything revealing, or anything that requires you to sit/stand in a certain way to be comfortable. You should look professional and put together in terms of your outfit, hair, makeup, and jewelry by keeping it simple and natural, and pull away any hair that may get in the way during the interview. Apart from your apparel, wear your personality by smiling often, opening up your chest to show that you're confident, and don't fidget with your nails. Walk in with a smile, give a great, firm handshake to every interviewer, and be confident.
After all, if it's between you and 1 other applicant who has the same exact work experience, GPA, and skills, but you were dressed appropriately and he/she wasn't, I'd hope that they'd choose you!
2. Practice. Again. and Again.
Both Caleb and I practiced a ton. And then some. We practiced in the shower, during our commutes to work and school, while laying in bed trying to fall asleep, you name it. Some employers have an awesome HR reps who can help you prepare for your interview with sample questions, but if your future employer doesn't provide you with this information, here are some questions we've both been asked over multiple interviews.
"Tell us about yourself." This is your opportunity to explain your unique attributes and characteristics that can't be found on your resume, application, or cover letter. For example, you can mention an unrelated work experience you may not have added onto your resume, but one that has impacted your perspective on things and the way you work. Other things you can briefly mention are hobbies or interests that are in line with what you will do as an employee. This will show your interviewers that you're well-rounded.
“Why do you want to work here?” Here, you can mention the research you did on the company and what you liked about them, and why you think you’d be a good fit within the company. Never mention other companies, and never say it’s because you need a job (even if it’s true). Basically, kiss their butts! Tell them how you could see yourself growing in this position because of how much their values align with yours. Or something like that ;)
"What are your strengths and weaknesses?" This is one of the most common interview questions but it can trip you up. You want to focus on briefly mentioning a strength, and then explaining how that benefits you and the company. Same with the weakness - mention the weakness, then turn it around to make it an opportunity for you to improve. Don’t ever mention that your weakness is something related to a core characteristic that this position requires. For example, if you’re interviewing for a position that depends heavily on group work and team efforts, don’t say that your weakness is your inability to work with others. Also don’t say that you don’t have any weaknesses. Because we all have weaknesses.
"Tell us about a time when you experienced conflict with a coworker or patient/client. How did you deal with it?" This question helps interviewers determine your conflict resolution skills and self-awareness. I try to pull from school clinical rotations, work experience, or even circumstances in the school setting. The answer that they usually want to hear is that you were aware of the conflict, tried to massage it out with the coworker or client, and managed to remain civil, respectful, and harmonious without bringing it up to management unless absolutely necessary.
3. Be Overly Eager.
Research the company beforehand, let it be known that you want to work there, research your roles, and gain at least a basic understanding of the company and the employers. They know you’re nervous. And believe it or not, they know that no one candidate is perfect. Instead, most employers want to hire someone who is excited about the job, eager to learn, and adaptable.
Now, don’t go in there skipping and giggling and burst out into laughter about every little thing they say. Be professional and keep it simple, like saying, “I’m so honored to be here,” and “Thank you so much for your time.” If you are showing that you truly desire being a part of this company, it will show!
4. Be Prepared.
Now if you notice that this part of the blog sounds like someone who’s never taken a collegiate level English course wrote it, It is because Clara asked me (Caleb) to write this part. For those of you that don’t know me, I am Clara’s fiance and I recently got a job at Viasat Inc as a mechanical engineer. The reason Clara asked me to write this part is because my interview process consisted of an hour long phone interview followed by a 6 hour long interview with various department managers within Viasat. In total, I probably spent about 15 hours in preparation for this interview.
15 hours is a lot of time to spend on a single interview, so how did I spend this time?
Well, one of this first things I did was make my portfolio. Clara tells me that medical professionals do not typically make portfolios, but for other professions it is an essential document that will set you aside from your competition. Fill your portfolio with projects you completed in school, internships, and personal time. Along with bringing my portfolio, I brought copies of my resume, cover letter, and all documentation that my interviewers sent me (schedules, benefits sheet, etc).
I spent another portion of my time researching what my role within the company would be, as well as the company itself. Some of what was listed in the job description for the job were things that I was not familiar with- believe it or not they do not teach mechanical engineers RF theory in school. (Clara here. I don't know what RF theory is either, so don't be alarmed. Just engineer talk.) I researched what I could online to gain a basic understanding of some of the things I didn’t know and even went to professors who gave me resources to read and study.
Along with some of the more technical aspects of the job, make sure you know what the company does, their mission statement, number of employees, etc. Once you gather all of this information and have a better understanding of the job and the company, make sure you mention that you did this research in the interview! The time is wasted if you do not display the knowledge you gained to your interviewers.
Lastly, use the internet. It’s a wonderful resource. Go to Glassdoor and look at user submitted interview experiences, google the company's name along with “interview questions”, and reach out to employees that currently work at the company through LinkedIn and ask them what to expect. This will help you develop questions to practice and ensure you aren’t blindsided in the interview. It also doesn’t hurt to have some connections going in!
5. Eat the Right Things.
I think that people are quick to think that they need lots of caffeine before an interview so that they can be energized and excited. However, do you really want your heart rate to be higher than it already probably will be? Eat something that will sustain you for however long the interview is going to be. Usually a combination of a complex carbohydrate, healthy fat, and protein will keep you full and focused and keep your blood sugar from dropping.
Don't forget the brain foods, too! Some are: blueberries, salmon, avocado, eggs, nuts, and broccoli. I like to have avocado toast with an egg and a handful of berries before an interview or a test. You can also have a yogurt bowl with fresh fruit and granola, a slice of toast with scrambled eggs, and a minimally processed granola bar with plenty of nuts and fats, like a Kind Bar or Luna Bar without all the sugar like in a Clifbar. When your stomach is satiated with foods to fuel your brain, you can focus on remembering the answers you've prepared, rather than how hungry you are.
6. Be Positive.
I get that you're your own worst critic. Caleb and I are the same way. But realize that your self-criticism isn't wanted here! Yes, even when you're talking about your weaknesses, because you should be mentioning your weakness but quickly flipping that around to talk about it being an opportunity for you to improve. Smile often, and make it be known that you’re excited to be there. If you’ve prepared adequately, practiced over and over again, and given everything to be the best candidate for the job, then you’ve done everything in your power.
Walk in with confidence, own your experiences and characteristics, be respectful, maintain eye contact, and you’ll be amazing. Good luck! We are rooting for you and we know how you’re feeling. But it’ll pass and hopefully you’ll be raking in the offers and popping some champagne like we did!
Clara and Cale