A couple of months ago, I drove my oldest daughter to an interview at our local hospital. Through her school’s Medical Sciences Club, she learned about “PrepU,” a 14-week volunteer opportunity. Competition for the coveted spot was fierce—60 spots for 200 applications.
While Molly is only a 14-year-old freshman, she has been surprisingly consistent about her career aspirations to become a neonatal pediatric surgeon. I’m not sure this program will give her the opportunity to watch an open-heart surgery, but true exposure in a hospital environment would be worth exploring before considering the years (and tuition) required for medical school.
So, Molly prepared. She’d filled out applications, received her flu shot and requested letters of recommendation. She’d thought through the days of the week that would work with our family schedule to ensure she could make the commitment. But one area where she didn’t have much experience was interviewing. She’s a social kid blessed with big green eyes and a wide, bright smile (thanks to our orthodontist!), and I knew she would look the interviewer in the eye and carry on a conversation. But I was not as sure she’d have what it takes to ace the interview.
As a recruiter for 20 years, I can tell you that I’ve seen far too many candidates completely miss their opportunity due to lack of preparedness. So, from the “other side of the table,” I share with you some tips to help you effectively prepare.
Do your homework. Understand what you are applying for, both in the role that you’ll be doing and what the company does overall. This means you need to do some exploring in advance, whether that is researching the company website or sitting down with a friend who works there. Prepare yourself with an answer to the question, “What do you think a day in the life looks like in this role?”
Dress to impress. This doesn’t mean you must wear a three-piece suit, but you want to ensure professionalism as first impressions are made. When in doubt, dress up rather than down, and leave your chewing gum at home.
Contain your accessories. Tuck them away during the interview. Take your sunglasses off the top of your head, put your phone on airplane mode and stow it away and pick up your takeaway food after the session. The only thing you should bring is a portfolio/notepad and a working pen in case you need to jot anything down during the interview.
Think through your answers. While interview topics can range from personal, case study, behavioral or skills, consider how you might answer the questions in advance. Think about your accomplishments, the role requirements and your personal aspirations—and determine how you might work them into the conversation appropriately.
Have questions ready. The majority of the time, your interviewer will allow time for questions. It is important to have a question ready to ask! Not one that has already been answered, but rather one that demonstrates your insightfulness and interest in the position.
Yes, you are good enough, smart enough, and well qualified—but you might find yourself in a situation of odds, like Molly did. Interviewers need to make tough decisions, and preparedness may be just the thing that sets you apart from the others.
By the way, Molly aced her interview and she got the job. I wish the same for you. Good luck!
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