I had a whole different post planned for today but life took over and I just had to go with the flow. I spent the entire day at a university doing job interviews. I met a lot of impressive students sporting resumes that were filled with good grades, exciting internships and extracurricular activities. Some of the people I met today were so inspiring - I read through the resumes and I kept thinking "How can you be just 21?" I am telling you, students are the ultimate over achievers!
I wonder what it is about graduating university and finally entering the real world that spells the death of our ambitions, motivation and creativity. Why is it that in university we are so eager to spend every second of every day to better ourselves? Then we start work and we are somehow satisfied with surviving the working day, going home to watch some tv, having dinner and going to bed?
We can all learn a lot from students - or rather, we can remember a lot about ourselves and who we used to be. Our dreams, desires, insecurities, energy and spark, the belief that if you work hard you will be successful and the drive to get "there", even though no student knows how "there" looks and feels like. That never stops them and it never stopped us when we were students, did it?
The whole educational process is supposed to ensure that when we graduate we can find a good interesting job. If you worked hard at school the only thing standing between school and a good job is the job interview process.
Interviewing is a very stressful business - you are given as little as 30 minutes to tell your whole story, inspire the people who were sent there to judge you and evaluate you, and convince them that yes, indeed, you are the one! Interviews can take many different forms so please note that I am focusing here only on the personal part of the interview. The part where the interviewer wants to get to know you, understand you and believe in you.
In order to be able to convey an accurate (if slightly exaggerated) picture of yourself so you can get that elusive job offer, you have to prepare in advance. I know, explaining who you are should come naturally but the truth is, very few people can respond, on the spot to the most basic questions: "What are your greatest strengths, what are your greatest weaknesses, where do you see yourself in 10 years?" We should all know the answer to these, shouldn't we?
Some of us do, some of us don't but during an interview you cannot just say the first thing that comes to your mind. Well, in 10 years I would like to be travelling the world full time. Come again? Why are you applying for a consulting job then? No, during an interview you absolutely need to be yourself but you also need to tell a story, convey a message and ultimately get that job offer.
Some interview questions are very common and rather basic and you can read all about them and prepare using the Vault guides (I swear by these!):
- Why should we hire you?
- What would you do if you are the CEO of X company?
- What is the biggest challenge facing X industry today?
- How many traffic lights are there in Manhattan?
- How many wedding dresses were sold in Bulgaria last year?
Clearly the last question could not be found in a Vault guide but was helpfully customized by one of my interviewers (back when I applied for my first job) for my peculiar circumstances. It couldn’t have helped that my response began with the words “Let’s assume there are 395 days in a year”. Clearly, I know how many days are in a year and I quickly corrected myself. The interviewer though had decided just as quickly that I am no good so he proceeded to question me how many days were there in each month of the year (honestly, he took me through January, February, March, all the way to December) just to ensure that I did not leave the interview without being appropriately humiliated for my earlier slip.
My point is, you should prepare for job interviews. Read the vault guides, practice summarising your life in 5 minutes, think about your goals, what you are good at, what interests you and sets you apart. Do all that and just remember - you might still end up making a fool of yourself. It happens. We all make mistakes especially when we are nervous and under pressure. It is not the end of the world. Smile and move on to the next interview.
How To Ace A Job Interview 102 coming up soon!
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