I recently had my first major interview for an academic scholarship. Considering that I’ve gotten most of my jobs through references, this was a major nerve grater. I called my sisters to discuss potential questions, and then I practiced and practiced, doing a tonne of research. #Whew. Look, it’s not beans. Who would have thought that a simple question like, ‘tell me about yourself?’ could have such a complicated answer. #Sigh. It made me realise that despite all the companies I’ve worked for, and in spite of my skills and exposure, I did not know much about tackling interviews, and worse, many of my peers were not sure too.
I’m so glad I had the opportunity to interview and prepare. If I had gone there thinking it was just vibes and inshallah, it may have ended in tears. Lol.
Anyway, after my nerve-jittering experience, I drew up a list of pointers for potential college job interviews.
Present yourself as the perfect person for it.
Think of it this way. You want the job or scholarship. But are you the candidate they are looking for? Applicants have been turned down for many reasons including being overqualified for a job. So, do your research on what type of candidate they are looking for, and try to be that person without lying or exaggerating the truth. Saying you have 10 years of experience when you only have 5 could be a disadvantage and not an advantage to you, if the company or job is looking for a person with the 5-year mark. For a college interview, answer questions highlighting what you truly love about the school and what impact it can make on your future. Do not include answers that say the college is close to home or you had no other option.
Prepare template answers.
Interviews are largely conversations, yes. But there are some questions that are more likely to show up in interviews and being ill prepared for them will make for a very poor impression on your interviewer. Focus on questions that are usually asked and come up with answers to those questions that will impress the interviewer without coming off as brash, arrogant or cocky. Also, these answers can differ based on what the job or college is looking for. You can only know what they want by doing your research beforehand. Find out what skills they are looking for and what their perfect candidate looks like and present yourself as such.
Questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “what makes you perfect for this role” are some of the common ones.
Build a Rapport. Be yourself. Have a conversation.
As much as you’re trying to answer the questions correctly and present yourself as the perfect applicant, don’t forget to build a connection with your interviewer. Loosen up, try not to be stiff, boring or monotonous with your answers and interjections. Don’t be afraid to make small talk, take charge of the conversation when necessary, and give and accept polite compliments.
Prepare a question to ask the interviewer.
After a series of questions, it is not unusual for the interviewer to give you the floor and ask that you throw some questions at them. Prepare an intelligent and relevant question that gets the interviewer thinking.
Pay attention to your non-verbal cues.
Non-verbal cues are any communication signals that do not have to do with actual words and do not have a verbal translation. Pay attention to yours and your interviewer’s. Do not furrow your brows, do not frown or fiddle your thumbs because they just increase your anxiety and make it obvious to your interviewer. Try to maintain a bright, optimistic look and attitude throughout.
Dress nicely and comfortably.
The first thing a person sees before you start speaking is how you look. Always dress for the occasion. Business wear and business casuals are often the requirements. They are the safe options for nearly every situation. Also, try to dress comfortably, because discomfort can be obvious in your expressions and make you seem distracted.
Now you know my favourite interview tips, I hope you practice them properly and smash those interviews.