Interview Advice from Employers
Career Center staff asked corporate recruiters interviewing at Berkeley, "If you could give Cal students one piece of advice on interviewing, what would it be?" Here's what they said:
Part 1: Preparation, resume, and asking appropriate questions
"Nothing is more of a turn-off than a candidate who knows nothing about the company and asks you to tell them about [it]."
The most common piece of advice offered was: Do your homework and be prepared to talk in specific terms about your interest in the job and the employer. This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many students come in to an interview and do not know what the job they are interviewing for entails. One question I ask is, "Why are you interviewing for this position?" I want to hear a well thought out, articulate response. Not, "I thought it looked interesting and you are a top tier company."
The student who has read about our firm on the website and has put some thought into it ("I really identified with a few of your business principles and it made me feel as though I would be a good fit for your firm because...") is the one I'll remember.
Research both the company and the position before the interview. As a recruiter, this extra step impresses me because it shows motivation and interest in my company and position. When a candidate comes in and just says, "Oh, I just want to work in a bank, it doesn't matter what I do," it turns me off immediately.
"What have you done to prepare for the interview?"
Answers that interviewers like are ones that show that the student is really thinking of how to be resourceful and ferret out information beyond that readily available on their website. Initiative and resourcefulness are critical skills that most employers view as key desirable attributes.
People who look up alumni and make contact with them, attend presentations, read the Wall Street Journal, watch the markets, are involved in investment or other business-related clubs on campus or possibly even invest in their own portfolio are the ones that show the necessary dedication to really get noticed in an interview. "When I do interview workshops," said one interviewer, "I tell students that none of what I am telling them is terribly difficult -- but it does take time and dedication. So the students who take the time to do these things have an increased chance of coming out ahead."
Don't claim any expertise or skill on your resume that you do not feel comfortable discussing in an interview. Be aware of all the information you have included on the resume that you submitted for a given job (you likely have more than one version) and be prepared to explain it.
Show Interest by Asking Good Questions
I would recommend that students come to an interview prepared with a series of questions that demonstrates their interest in the type of work that the company performs as well as their personal knowledge about the field. Good, informed questions indicate that they've researched the company ahead of time and have an idea about how they might contribute to it.
Part 2: How much of yourself to show through an interview, how to frame effective answers, and what to do after the interview.
What do "You" Have to Offer?
Employers aren't simply in search of a specific "bundle of skills." A number of interviewers responded that students should think hard about what they want out of the job and how they can contribute outside of a specific set of skills or competencies. What other qualities such as initiative, attention to detail, and reliability do you bring to the table? Said one,
"Be prepared to have a conversation with the interviewer detailing your experiences and accomplishments working with people, projects, and events during [your] academic and extracurricular activities. Technical and professional skills are only one of the dimensions that we evaluate candidates on, and [they are] not the only aspect [we use] to gauge the individual's potential."
Expand on your Answers & Give Examples
Short answers are rarely effective answers. They may answer the specifics posed by the question but they don't shed any light on the larger issue of what kind of person you are and whether you're a good fit for a certain organizational style or culture. Recruiters suggest that you:
"Have five stories about your resume that you would like to talk about in the interview that demonstrate some of the qualities that we are looking for - teamwork, leadership, etc. Don't memorize them. Just have them in mind to discuss with your interviewer."
"Expand on your answers. Do not answer a recruiter's questions with as few words as possible; instead, offer examples without being asked for them. Don't answer questions in one sentence; use the answer period as an opportunity to tell the interviewer anything you want about yourself. Personality is what distinguishes one candidate from another, not how he or she appears on paper."
"Think out what your goals are, and where you would like to head with your career. The most disturbing thing to happen in an interview of a very young person is for them to have no idea of where they are headed or what they want to accomplish in their career. Those who have set goals are much more well received."
It's not simply what you say; your manner and presence often count more than your words.
"My advice would be to be confident, exude energy and enthusiasm. We know that we are going to have to train new hires in the basics of their profession, and so while grades and subjects studied are important, there is not much a candidate can do at the interview stage to change them. However, an enthusiastic person who demonstrates that he/she wants to learn the profession and to contribute will do a lot to convince an employer that he or she is worth investing in. A candidate who can 'engage' the interviewer has a good chance of getting the job offer."
"Attitude is always the best seller. An applicant with a positive attitude will rate higher than others. In general, your resume gets you the interview and tells the employer you can do the job. For employers, the decision-making factor after the interview is not only qualifications, but the 'right' fit for the position and department."
Don't be shy or worried that recruiters are much too busy to want to hear from you. They can't gauge your level of interest or readiness to follow through unless you show them.
"My best piece of advice would be to ALWAYS follow up. If I don't hear from a candidate after I have interviewed them, that will significantly impact my desire to make them an offer. I personally don't mind if the follow up comes in the form of an email or a written note -- although I know there are very distinct opinions about this -- just as long as it comes."
Get the Offer
"I would tell students that all interviews should have one common goal - getting the job offer. Regardless of the company, regardless of the position, regardless if the student decides within the first two minutes of the interview that the job is not right... you should leave each interview with the interviewer saying 'Wow, I want to hire that person.' They should remember that they always want to be in the decision-making position. They can only achieve that position if they receive a job offer first."