My breath gets shallow and butterflies rumble my stomach as I wait for the Skype call on my computer. I get hot and red faced (no blush needed for this gal) when it begins. I’m asked some version of “tell me about yourself” and a flash of panic comes on my face.
Then things begin to shift. I take a breath and start in on speaking my truth. I seek to make a connection with my interviewer and say what I know is true of my skills, personality, and reasons for wanting this job.
“Well, I’m excited to be here talking to you about the role of academic advisor. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working with college students in various roles of advisor, mentor, teacher and coach. The undergraduate experience was pretty transformational for me, and I am looking for an opportunity to help others have a positive experience. College is also very complicated. I know I was stressed about the credits needed, course plans and getting it all in before my scholarship expired – oh and avoiding the 8am classes if at all possible. (smile). So I can see my skills being applied here at ABC University and it being a fulfilling role on your team. I look forward to hearing more about your staff and what you’ve got going on this next year.”
This is about 45 seconds long and is a sample of the kind of answer I would really give if interviewing for the role of academic advisor.
I’ve been in a lot of interviews – some in groups, some on camera, some on phone, some while in my car, some in a full suit – and if I can start out with confidence in my answer to their first question, the interview will go well.
The stakes are always high in a job interview. They have the power to give me a job or NOT. The power differential between the interviewer (aka employer) and me is obvious. It’s no lunchtime small talk.
Most of the interviews I’ve had or helped others prepare for start with a question such as “tell me about yourself” or “what interests you in this position?” or “why do you want this job?”
This is your time to shine; your time to engage the question with enthusiasm. Nobody else is going to advocate for you or cheerlead on your behalf. While they may have a preconceived notion of you – the interview experience solidifies whether they want to give you an offer of employment.
I want you to nail it.
There are a few things I’ve found in my own experiences with interviewing as well as gleaned from being in the employment space for over 10 years that I want to share.
1. Create your own template.
START WITH YOUR PRESENT: Say why you’re currently sitting in front of them.
- I just graduated
- I am interested in this new industry
- I’ve recently moved to the area
THEN SOMETHING NOTABLE ABOUT THE PAST: Share what brought you to this point.
- I’ve cared about this kind of work since middle school
- I want to work with your clients because I had this unique experience with them
- I’ve had success in this kind of work before
THEN GO TO THE FUTURE: Finally bring it to a close with why you like their company or organization and how you can see yourself there
- Your impact in the community is admirable and I would be honored to align with your vision
- I am putting down roots here and look forward to impacting more people through your organization
- After reviewing your values and mission, I believe we are a good fit. I too care about x, y and z. (this one is great because it also shows you’ve done research!)
2. Get clear on your reasons for wanting the job.
Then decide which reasons they will care about and develop those. You may need this job to pay next month’s rent. The company isn’t going to care about that. Analyze the job posting and take notes on what key skills they want and why you have them. Note any interests that you have which align with the industry, the reputation of the company or the position you would fulfill. What did you include in your cover letter? What do you think they noticed from your resume? Perhaps these are clues to what information you want to include in your intro. You can translate whatever questions they start with to “why do you want this job?” This filter will keep you from sharing how much you like long walks on the beach or cooking for your friends.
3. Say it out loud, more than once.
I just typed up the example above. Then I went to the voice memo on my phone and recorded myself to know it was about 45 seconds. If I was really interviewing for this position, I’d also go stand in front of my bathroom mirror without the notes, and say it again. Then I might ask my partner to pretend to interview me and say the main points again – not scripted, but familiar with what points I want to make when the pressure is on. This practice is going to keep it at the forefront of your mind when you enter the real interview.
4. Trust your preparation and just go for it.
This final point is critical. So much of confidence is the delivery of the content. Feel the fear and do it anyway. When my body tells me this is high stakes and I get nervous – I have a choice of how to respond.
I can get distracted by thinking about what questions I want to ask them at the end (hack: write them down and bring them so you don’t have to remember them).
I can share whatever pops in my head at the moment and then regret how disconnected it feels from the rest of the questions.
Or I can translate to my mind “they want to know why I am the best person for this job – just tell them.”
If you follow these steps – I am sure you will start your next interview off on the right foot!