This week, I’m going a new direction on my blog by offering some *hopefully* useful interview tips. Why this topic, and why now? Well, I got a job, and I went through a lot of interview preparation to get it. So, since I’ll probably be leaving the world of interviews behind for a while, I wanted to share some advice on the subject before forgetting everything completely.
Since graduating with an English degree in 2012, I’ve had at least 14 interviews–all of them painfully stressful to my introvert self. I still remember my first official job interview after college. As you might expect, I didn’t get it–not surprising, considering my “I’m gonna wing this” attitude. For the next few interviews, I tried harder. The more interviews I had, the better I became. Instead of having 20 minute interviews, I could make them last a full hour. Interviewing for jobs in my field also helped me some because I had something to talk about. (By the way, I actually got a few of the jobs I interviewed for, so I must have done something right).
This last interview I had was for a job I really wanted, so I prepared for it every way I knew how. For example, immediately after I applied for the job, I read the book Ace the Interview, Land a Librarian Job, by Robin O’Hanlon, which proved to be very helpful. Contrary from the “wing it” attitude of my first interview so many years ago, my attitude this time was more like “If I don’t get this, it’s not because I didn’t try!”
In all of my research on interviews, I’ve come across SO many tips, and I won’t list all of them here. Instead, I’ll list some that I’ve learned through experience, sessions, and reading–in other words, tips that aren’t found all over the internet. Without further ado, here are five interview tips that you won’t find everywhere:
#1) Research the organization FIRST.
When I first started interviewing, I mainly focused on reviewing interview questions about myself. Now, I’ve learned not to focus on this. It’s better to put energy into researching the company first. This way, when you do practice interview questions, your answers might be geared more to the specific organization. Plus, there are usually opportunities during the interview to subtly drop in some information you learned during the research time, and it will make you look good.
How can you research? Well, you’ll mainly do this online. Look up the company’s website. Click through the various links on the web page and see what is offered. Read about some of the people you’ll be working with. Look up the mission statement and what the organization is trying to achieve. Furthermore, look up the organization on Facebook and other social media, since this might be updated more often. You might also try googling some of the people you’ll be working with. You might find some blog posts or newsletters they’ve written about the organization.
As a last note, your interviewers will already know a little bit about you through your resume and cover letter, so maybe you should go into the interview knowing a little bit about them!
#2) Come up with a personal mission statement.
What is a personal mission statement? Well, it is simply a statement that expresses what you’d like to accomplish in the long-run. This will be different for each interview, since you’ll want to gear your statement to what you’ll accomplish at the particular organization.
You don’t have to state your mission word-for-word during the interview, but having one will guide the “theme” of the interview. My interview was all day and having my mission statement always in mind gave me focus throughout the day.
Furthermore, having a mission statement means that you’ve done research on the organization, and you know what your role will be at the organization. It also helps keep the focus on how you can help the organization, and not vice versa.
#3) Review your own experiences, and don’t make up answers.
Don’t lie. Okay. Great advice. But isn’t it difficult going into an interview where you don’t really have experience? In this situation, how will you stand a chance unless you tell an outright lie? That’s what I hope to answer.
This is easiest to explain with an example. Let’s say someone asks me what experience I have with teaching or leading programs with college students. Well, I don’t have any. So…that’s what I tell the interviewers, BUT I don’t leave it at that. Instead, I might say, “I don’t have any experience with teaching college students, but I have led programs for other age groups.”
See where I’m going with this? Don’t string the interviewers along with false information, but DO give them examples of why you would be good at the job even though you might not have the exact experience they’re looking for. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about your lack of experience, look back over the skills you do have that will be useful for the job. Also think of specific examples to use from your work experience.
Along with this, feel free to ask for clarification. If you don’t understand a question, simply ask them to explain their question. That simple.
#4) Prepare questions to ask.
Okay, so you might have seen this tip in various other places, but what questions should you ask, exactly? Here are a few possibilities:
- Ask about the position itself. Is it a new position? If so, why was it just now created?
- Ask the interviewers about how the organization makes them proud.
- Ask about what projects the organization is currently working on.
You don’t have to have a long string of questions, but do have some. You might even think of some during your research of the organization. Just go ahead and jot them in a notebook. It’s not okay to read off your interview answers from a notebook, but you can review some questions from there.
#5) Prepare for these difficult questions you know will be asked.
Following are a few of the most vague and difficult questions to answer:
- Tell me about yourself. ~For this answer, you’ll simply tell a story about yourself. How did you get to be where you are? What experiences made you want to be [whatever you’re applying for]?
- Tell me something about yourself that isn’t found on your resume or cover letter. ~In other words, what has influenced you outside of your work and school experience?
- Why do you want to work here? ~DON’T say “for the money,” no matter how tempting it may be. Instead, think about why you feel drawn toward the position, organization, and community. For this answer, also make sure that you’re not too “me” focused. Throw in ways of how you think you could help the organization. This also goes for the “Why should we hire you?” question.
- What are your weaknesses? ~Yes, this is possible to answer without losing the job, as long as you do it right. Just don’t say something that will knock you out of the running. For instance, if you are applying for a children’s librarian job, don’t say you’re bad with children. Rather, think about requirements for the job that maybe you don’t have much experience with yet, but use this to highlight how trainable you are. Also think of an area you are growing in. Perhaps you’ve struggled in one area in the past, but you can change. You are adaptable.
The Mr. Library Dude blog helped me with more questions to review. This is a library blog, but a lot of the content could be useful for any type of interview.
And with that, I am–God willing–leaving interviews behind me for awhile. Good luck to the rest of you. 🙂