How to Kill Any Interview
Seven easy to follow steps for success
Throughout my college career, I likely applied to over 500 different opportunities. I applied for anything that looked remotely interesting or would allow me to travel on someone else’s dime.
I applied for internships, jobs, externships, fellowships, research positions, student teaching opportunities, on-campus leadership roles, ambassador programs, conference presenting opportunities, thesis programs, leadership organizations, social clubs, travel programs, and more.
Now, was I successful in each of my applications? No, not even close.
In fact, in my first year of college, I tracked my applications in Google Sheets. After applying for 50+ leadership positions, internship openings, and travel experiences, I was only accepted for three total opportunities.
That’s a measly 6% success rate.
With each rejection, my next one stung a little less, and I learned a little more.
I’m grateful for the amount of rejection I faced that year. At the time, it was frustrating to face constant rejection because I genuinely believed I was deserving of each position I applied to. Rather than let it get me down, I decided to learn from the rejection and each unsuccessful application or interview.
Over the years, I’ve developed a system for myself before any interview. Below is my approach that allowed me to claim $200,000+ in scholarships and grants, land seven internships, and study abroad for free.
Memorize your application materials
Always write down your application question answers in a separate document. Once you’ve received notice of an interview, go back and find your application answers, the resume you applied with, and your cover letter.
You will want to review these materials thoroughly. The recruiter or interviewer will have looked at them, and you should be able to reference them in your answers.
Additionally, knowing what information you have already provided the interviewer will help you not repeat the information during your interview.
Memorize the job description
The interviewer may ask you to describe the job listing in your own words. Be sure you can do this succinctly before your interview by studying and memorizing the job listing description.
Furthermore, if you have the description memorized, you can tailor your answers to incorporate elements of the job description. Go through the job description and highlight keywords you can include in your answers.
Pro Tip: If the interview is over Zoom or the phone, I recommend printing out the job description to have in front of you for reference.
Anticipate likely questions
Most interviews start with a few “HR questions” that you can easily anticipate. Common questions are; “tell us a little bit about yourself” or “tell us why you’re a good fit for this opportunity.” These are easy questions to predict, write thoughtful answers to, and nail in the interview. You are setting yourself apart from others by simply practicing and sounding coherent and well-spoken.
Some interview questions may be more specific to the opportunity you’re pursuing. In these cases, look at the application questions and scour any other materials (webpages, informational graphics, social media links) to foresee what questions may arise.
Pro Tip: Always look for a company’s mission and values.
Reach out to former successful applicants
Reaching out to past applicants is arguable the most impactful step of the interview preparation process. Former successful applicants are almost always happy to share their knowledge with you.
Was the opportunity worthwhile? What helped them get accepted? What would they do differently if they were applying today?
This is your chance not only to learn more about the interview process but also about the opportunity. With this knowledge, the information discrepancy between you and the interviewer shrinks, allowing you to answer questions with insight and ask more relevant questions.
Furthermore, interviewers love to see that you took the initiative to reach out to former applicants. It shows you care about the opportunity enough to take some extra steps that aren’t necessarily required.
Pro Tip: If you hit it off with the previously successful applicant, they may put in a good word for you. They might even receive an incentive if you’re accepted via their reference if it’s a professional opportunity. Keep this in mind and get to know them as a person in addition to learning about the opportunity.
Research your interviewer
You know that the interviewer is doing a deep dive on you before your interview. They’ve likely looked at all your socials and done a Google search on your name at a minimum.
What nobody tells you is you can do the same. If you know who is interviewing you, give them a quick search on socials.
Why might you want to do this?
They’re going to remember you if you’re relatable.
You found the interviewer’s Facebook, and it turns out they were in the same sorority as your older sister?! Find a way to weave that into the conversation. Oh, they previously worked as a teacher!? Suddenly you have a passion for lifelong learning and believe teaching others is one of the best ways to learn about yourself.
I cannot stress enough that you don’t want to lie and must be clever in incorporating your findings into the conversation. However, if done correctly, it can be tremendously beneficial.
Pro Tip: Use the awkward beginning of the interview to get to know the interviewer. Ask them about their weekend and when they ask about yours, provide a little substance.
Know the company or sponsor
It’s not enough to know the job listing. You should also know about the company or sponsor of the opportunity.
If it’s a larger organization or school opportunity, their webpage likely has further information about their executive team, recent organizational initiatives, partner organizations, founding story, etc. It also may be beneficial to look at their LinkedIn and other socials to see what they are posting about and understand the company culture.
Staying up to date with their organization demonstrates you care enough about the opportunity to dedicate your valuable time to learn more about their operations.
Doing this step properly allows you to determine better if the opportunity or role suits you. And if it is, you’ll have an easier time meshing during the traditionally awkward learning curve phase.
Set yourself up for success
This last step seems like common sense, but the hustle and bustle of life often muddies our ability to show up to the interview as our best selves.
You want to make sure that you’re mentally sharp. Make sure you get ample sleep the night before. Do a one-hour information brush-up before the interview.
You also want to make sure that you’re physically looking sharp. Get a haircut ahead of time, iron your clothes, shave, put some cologne or perfume on, pluck your eyebrows, etc. Whether you like it or not, appearance makes a difference, so ensure you’re looking your best.
Interviewing can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have much experience. However, by adequately preparing, you are giving yourself the best chance at landing the opportunity.
In my experience, missing out on an opportunity stings a lot more when I know I could have prepared better. Do the work ahead of time so you can be at peace regardless of the outcome.
If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out some of my other pieces on maximizing your college experience. Feel free to follow along for more personal and professional development advice.
Thank you for your time and attention!
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