When you’re preparing for an interview, I’m sure you’ve heard advice along these lines:
“Just be yourself!”
“Be sure you study the history of the company and culture to give them the answers they are looking for.”
“Know what they want in interns and own it.”
“Don’t wear a watch, dress up more than you think you should and always follow with a thank-you card. Or is it an email?”
While these tips may be well intentioned, what one person tells you can totally contradict what the next person says. It’s easy to get lost in all the do’s and don’ts so I’ve boiled it down to three main points. I also have advice from Lisa Bryant, the vice president of talent and organizational development at Method Communications, as well as from employees at Penna Powers Agency. It is their job to find the best of the best so they definitely know a thing or two about interviewing.
Show how you’re interesting.
“Tell me about yourself.”
I think this is the number one question asked in interviews. I always think, do they want me to say the obvious? Or say things they don’t already know? Or highlight my resume? Put yourself in their shoes. If you are interviewing someone and you’ve reviewed their cover letter and resume, wouldn’t you want to hear something unique?
Lisa said the best way to answer this question is to talk about a recent experience or internship that relates to the position you’re applying for. Tell the interviewer the area of work you want to focus on. Penna Powers asks this question in interviews to see how the interviewee answers it, rather than what the interviewee says. For example, is there a beginning, middle and end to the narrative? Are the thoughts well organized? The “tell me about yourself” question allows the person to be more at ease and take the beginning of the interview in their own direction.
Go ahead and prepare your “about me” pitch right NOW. Trust me, you’ll be asked this question a million times between all your interviews.
Share your soft skills.
Your future employer has read your resume so your interview is the time to portray your soft skills in the interview. Try to work stories into your answers that display skills in the following areas:
- Problem Solving
- Ability to work under pressure
- Time Management
- Conflict Resolution
Penna Powers explained that employers can teach an intern the necessary skills for day-to-day duties of the job but it is hard to teach soft skills. If a person displays crucial soft skills like excellent communication skills and a relatable personality in an interview, there is a foundation to build from. Penna Powers’ employees look for candidates who weave examples of soft skills into their answers without directly being asked.
Start preparing stories now that demonstrate your soft skills so you won’t panic on the spot.
Ask them questions.
In my experience with interviewing for internships, I’ve learned that we are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing us. Who wants to work in a company culture they don’t fit into? It is important for us to be true to who we are and not completely mold into who we think the interviewer expects us to be. Ask questions to see if your goals align with their company goals. Here are some examples of questions to ask:
- Describe the culture of your company.
- Where do you think the company is headed in five years?
- Who do you consider your top competitor and why?
- What do you like best about working for this company?
- What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
At the end of the day, interviewing is all about learning to be comfortable around strangers. If this doesn’t come easily to you, try practicing talking to strangers on a daily basis. Strike up a conversation when you’re being checked out at the store with someone standing behind you in line.
Lisa emphasized being eager in an interview. Make sure you come prepared with a printed resume, cover letter and writing samples. Be engaging and be yourself. The more personable you are, the more employers want to interact with you.
Now, go kill it during recruiting season.
Genny Hickman is a PR student at Brigham Young University. She is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma but loves the outdoor adventures Utah has to offer. She is a member of PRSSA and hopes to work within the nonprofit sector upon graduation.