Landed a job interview – now what?
The new semester has started and literally all of us are looking for “study related” work – myself included. We all probably have different strengths and weaknesses when job hunting. Whether it’s writing a killer cover letter, formatting your CV to stand out or nailing the interview. Today I will focus on the latter, giving you guys some tips on interviewing after having endured my fair share these last couple of months. CBS and organizations like Djøf have very good workshops and aids available on how to build a CV and cover letter, but I feel like no academic guide can really prepare you for a real-life interview. I thought I’d share my own experiences and ups and downs when searching for a student job at bachelor level, not by giving you a ‘how to’ but simply a few tried and tested tricks that have worked well for me.
Fake it ‘till you make it
Don’t feel like you have enough – if any – relevant work experience? Search your brain for what you’ve done so far and try making it sound a lot fancier than it actually was. When I first started applying for student jobs during my second year at CBS I had worked for quite some time prior but with nothing that was particularly relevant to the fields of business, marketing or human resources which were my job areas of choice. I struggled a lot in the beginning, not getting any interviews until one day I got two. I then researched both companies thoroughly, studied the job ads again and started preparing for my interviews by choosing which things I wanted to highlight about myself for each one. Because they were quite different! One was in marketing and the other within HR.
No matter what job you apply for a few things remain common: always draw elements from your past experiences, professional as well as personal, and think of a way they could be applied for the requirements set by the employer. A simple way to transform somewhat boring and irrelevant previous job tasks is to focus on what skills you gained from each one. Being a cashier at a supermarket will for instance have developed your customer service and communication skills when dealing with people on a daily basis. Filing documents and sending out letters will have equipped you with good organizational and time management skills, and that is what an employer is looking for. Don’t just explain what you did at a previous job or project, but focus on showing them what you learned from it and how it made you grow personally.
More is better
This is of course not always the case, but when it comes to talking and selling yourself try to keep a good flow of conversation. It’s often better to add a few extra sentences than to pause awkwardly and wait for the next question. Show proactivity; interviewers like to hire sociable people who can keep a conversation going and don’t feel uncomfortable in formal settings. I’ve come a long way since my first ever real job interview at the age of 18. I applied for a sales job at an event organizing company and I was so nervous when sitting at the actual interview, that I forgot what I wanted to say. If you have a fear of public speaking or tend to go blank in situations like these, write down a short list of things you wish to showcase about yourself prior to the interview.
“Present yourself shortly”
Do exactly that. Shortly. No one wants to hear about what subjects you did in high school or about your backpacking trip to Asia last summer. Keep it simple, explain what you are studying at the moment, what you have been doing prior to this interview (work, exchange or any volunteer activities) and why you are interested in the job. Make sure to use clear language and keep a positive tone. Even if you don’t believe in your capabilities 100%, don’t let it show.
My top do’s:
- Research the company, the culture and the environment and dress accordingly. Most companies will not expect you to show up in a suit, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt.
- If you are really nervous, try having a mock interview with a friend first. This will help you manage your time and help you recognize any areas you may have trouble elaborating on.
- Prepare a few possible questions for the employer. This will show that you’ve done your research and that you are genuinely interested in the company.
- Keep eye contact while the interviewer is speaking, smile and nod in agreement to show that you are following the conversation. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand about the job. Better do it now than later!
And a few don’ts:
- Don’t over sell yourself and say you master skills and languages you in reality do not. No one likes a show off and if you end up getting hired, people will sooner or later find out that you actually don’t speak Chinese or are an expert user in Excel.
- Don’t always wait for the interviewer to ask the next question. Steer the conversation into a way that is favourable to you and flow smoothly from one topic to another.
- Don’t immediately ask for practical information such as salary, perks and workload. Usually this will come during a second interview or in a separate phone call if they decide to hire you. By asking straight away it might make you seem impatient or that you’re there for the wrong reasons.
Those were just some of my own experiences and key advice I would like to pass on to my fellow students. Hopefully you guys find it helpful and trust me, landing a decent student position takes time. Sometimes you get in on the first try, sometimes on the 10th, but doing well during the interview is the final and most crucial step in the process. Best of luck to all the prospective job seekers!