Whitney’s thoughts on Interviewing

campus757 interview of a female candidate

Whitney Lester

As the most long-in-the-tooth member of the Campus757 team, I think what I can offer in terms of career advice will stem from many years of having seen it done (and done it) the right way as well as the wrong way. There are lots of sites out there offering advice, and you will likely find them helpful and a bit redundant. A simple search on “interview tips” brings a wealth of counsel. Do your diligence and scan through lots of those lists; you never know when you can pick up on a tip that isn’t on every one of them.

As for my own advice, here are a few tips that come to mind over many years but more freshly than ever after interviewing and/or hiring 10 great people over the last year and a half:

  • Nothing beats preparation. This means knowing precisely what you submitted about yourself in a cover letter and knowing what’s on your résumé backwards and forwards. I’ve seen it happen more than once where an interviewer digs up that little nugget on page 3 (another reason not to have a 3-page résumé… most recent college grads won’t) and inquires about it, only to realize the candidate hasn’t even thought about that line item in years. Hemming and hawing ensue, which is never good. Know yourself.
  • Preparation includes research. I’m always impressed when people have done their homework. They’ve not only looked at our website but also looked into our annual reports. Or social media. Or marketing efforts. Those who can’t really tell me anything about our organization come off seeming like they aren’t all that interested.
  • Right answers include style points. Please keep in mind that you, the candidate, are interviewing us as well, and you’re looking for that oft-used intangible called “fit.” The simplest way to think of it is to say look, I’d have to work [pick a #] hours with these people every single week… do I want to?

One of the most helpful tidbits that I can offer is that the hiring entity looks at it the same way. Once we get past the “Can they actually do the work?” question, we quickly move to “Do I want to work with this person?” That’s where the age-old be yourself advice kicks in. Not after, but as you demonstrate your skills to accomplish the tasks in the position description, keep in mind that we want someone with whom we’ll enjoy working.

  • Read the room. A skill very hard to capture without years of experience is reading an audience and responding accordingly. It’s something I see done deftly and poorly every day, not just in the interview room but well into the daily execution of a job. That means listening to every word interviewers say – making notes doesn’t hurt – and keying off what they give you. Assessing their personalities and moods (light-hearted? solemn? sarcastic) accounts for so much of how to answer questions.
  • Pivot accordingly. Research may tell you a little something about your interviewers. (LinkedIn and the like help.) Often, you’re going in blind when it comes to who’s firing questions at you. If you’re reading the room, you can tailor what you’re saying and how you’re saying it accordingly. Sometimes you need to pivot mid-interview as you start to understand what the interviewer(s) are all about.
  • Breathe. This is not a speech you’re offering, it’s a conversation. Sure, a pressure-filled, intense one that could dictate your future! It’s still a conversation with one or more other human beings. A little get-to-know-you exercise. There’s stress and anxiety on both sides of the table sometimes. It gets loads easier the more interviews you take. All of this is easier said than done. But that’s where the next one comes in very handy.
  • Practice. Have a friend or a family member grill you. Throw you some softballs and then move into the unexpected. Have a mentor interview you. Capitalize on the knowledge of someone who’s been down the road a few times… people are often more than willing to share it.

Please reach out to the team at Campus757 for more thoughts and ideas, and maybe even some practice time.

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