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Interviewing Tricks of the Trade, According to Sarah Todd

Like most college seniors around this time of year, I am preparing to wrap everything that I learned in college in a nice little package with an extravagant bow on top.  Most are focusing on the right now with the future staring in the rearview mirror from the backseat.  This scary presence is still looming, but it is something that should be exciting instead.  Therefore I turned to Eastern’s one and only Sarah Todd to get some tips as I move into the near future full of interviews.

Let us say that you have done your applications, and you have landed one of the all-hallowed interviews, now what?  Todd says, “Research is your friend.”  Not that you need to write another 50-page paper detailing various aspects about each company you apply to, but have at least a general understanding of the job that you are applying for.  Todd says, “[Employers] want people that know what their work is.”  Essentially, know what you will have to do, should you actually get this job.  Know your stuff about the company.

Okay, the day has come, you are putting on your dress slacks, pressed shirt, and tie.  How do you actually go into the interview?  First thing is first, do not be late.  In fact, show up early.  As Todd says, “Not creepily early, not an hour, but 15 minutes is good.”  This means, judge for traffic, especially if you have to take the blue route for any stretch of time.

You have arrived slightly early, something important to remember that the first five minutes of the interview are possibly the most important part of the entire interview.  First impressions matter.  Be dressed “appropriately for that culture,” as Sarah Todd says.  Meaning sometimes you will have to wear a suit, but sometimes a polo and khakis are more suitable for the business.  Also, remember the lessons that were taught by your elders: have a firm handshake, look the interviewer in the eyes, and treat everyone nicely.  After all, you never know who might be the actual person that you have an interview with.

After the few minutes of sitting in the lobby that seem like hours, your interviewer appears and is pleasantly surprised by your timeliness and invites you into the office.  This is not the time to freak out, but undoubtedly, you are.  As Sarah Todd tells me, treat this interview “like a blind date.”  Keep in mind that “the interviewer does not want you to fail.”  They want you to be the Mr. or Ms. Right.  That would make their job easier, and who does not want that?

Eventually in the process of the interview, the interviewer(s) ask a question that starts with the words: Tell us about a time when….  These are called behavioral questions, and you should be able to answer these.  Do not be extraordinarily worried about these questions, the interviewers just want to hear you tell a story.  As Sarah Todd says, “They want to make sure that you can tell short, related stories.”  In other words, do not ramble, just tell a concise story that applies to the work that you will be doing at this potential job.

Typically after this point in time, one of the interviewers will undoubtedly ask, “Do you have any questions for us?”  The answer should be yes.  This goes back to the research that you have done.  If you have done your research, then you should be able to come up with at least one question about the company.  Sarah Todd says that you should always ask, “Do you have a timeline in mind?”  This gives you an idea as to when you should hear whether or not you got the job.

This leads into the post-interview period.  The first thing to remember is that you already know the timeline, do not call the business a week later asking if they have made their decision yet.  It does not improve your chances.  Instead, send a thank you, whether you handwritten or via email, send it.  It is considerate and makes you look like a better person.  Also, move on and keep applying places.  You should be always prepared to either be offered the job or not.  Thank them again either way.  Also, do not think that this job will be the one.  Sarah Todd says, “Most first jobs out of college last, on average, 18 months.”  This will likely not be your dream job, but another stepping stone into the future.

Now you are ready.  Get on and get out there.  If you want more tips and info about jobs and whatnot, Sarah Todd says to go to askamanager.org, a job blog by Alison Green, or go up to the third floor of Walton and make an appointment with Sarah Todd.  Happy Job Hunting.

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