Finding a Job After College – Part 3 – The Interview Process

In Part 1 of this series, My Money Blog – How to Get a Job After College – Part 1, I showed everyone several tips on how to create a resume and cover letter. In Part 2, My Money Blog – How to Get a Job After College – Part 2, I discussed several places/resources that can be used to find target job opportunities.

In the final chapter of this series, I wanted to guide everyone through the interview process, as I have experienced it over the past few years, and offer several tips that I have picked up along the way.
employers want you, believe it or not

Overview of Interview Process
From what I have seen over the past few years, the interview process basically has three phases.

1) Pre-screen interview

This type of interview is the first formal interaction between the potential employer and employee. It usually is done in one of two ways: either through on-site interviews (conducted by Human Resources or Technical reps) at the students university or at a career fair or a telephone interview (usually conducted by the companiy’s Human Resources department).

Due to the fact that these pre-screen interviews are conducted by someone other than the hiring manager offering the position, major gaps can exist because the HR reps can be looking for a different set of pre-reqs than the manager. For example, I have seen that sometimes, HR places too much of an emphasis on the name of the school from which the candidate comes, while hiring managers tend to care more about experience.

During this interview, the questions will be very general (not technical) with some situational/experience questions. However, in my experience, I have found that this interview is more to just get better acquainted.

2) Pre-screen interview with hiring department

After getting through the first “get-to-know-you” interview and if the HR rep finds you eligible, your resume and contact information will be forwarded to the actual department where the job is being offerred. The department will then elect a representative (may or may not be the hiring manager) to call you for another pre-screen interview.

The questions in this interview will also be fairly general, with the purpose being for the department to decide if you would be a good candidate to invite for a set of all-day in-person interviews.

3) On-site interview

As you can imagine, the on-site interview is really where the decision gets made of whether or not to hire a candidate. And, vice-versa, it gives the candidate an opportunity to decide if the company/location is a good fit for him/her. The key here is to focus on one simple truth – as much as you want the job, the company needs to find and recruit talented individuals. Therefore, you should see the interview process as a two-sided discussion to make sure that a good fit for both sides is found.

The on-site interview usually consists of an all-day marathon interview session. Typically, you will talk with 6-7 people for anywhere from 30 min to 1 hour. The majority of these people will be from the functional area in which you would be working. However, you will most likely interview with one HR representative as well.

What to Wear During Interviews
From what I have seen, the safest bet for how to dress the day of your in-person interview is to “overdress.” What does this mean exactly? It means that if you are a guy, wear a suit and tie. For girls, I have no idea – wear the equivalent of this.

This applies even if the place you are applying is a plant site where everyone wears jeans. It is just the safest way to dress to make sure you are prepared to meet with anyone from a line manager to the plant manager.

What to Eat During Lunch
Because all of the interviews and “thinking on your feet” that you will be doing, you will most likely not have the world’s biggest appetite. However, it is best to be sure to order something for lunch that is easy and not messy to eat. You don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself during lunch.

For me, I have some pretty interesting lunch habits (examples – eating fruit straight out of the can), but I would want to make sure to hold these back and stick to more normal practices until after I obtained the job.

Interview Questions / How to Prepare for the Interview

So, you’ve gotten through all of the pre-screen interviews, your bags are packed, and you are ready to go to bed the night before your on-site interview. But wait, hold it right there! You’ve still got to do several more things before heading to your big day!

1) Study the company

Because stepping in to the interview room(s), you will want to be armed with some broad knoweldge about the company’s products/services and any major recent events related with the company.

Why do you want to do your homework on the company? Easy! Because having this knoweldge will make the interviewers feel that you are truly interested in what they do and want to get a job with the company as opposed to being forced to be there by your parents.

2) Print out 20 copies of your resume on resume paper

You will want to make sure you have plenty of extra copies of your resume on hand for the interviewers to be able to talk through with you and in the case any additional people you meet during the day ask for a copy. Resume paper is very nice because the textured appearance makes your resume stand out in a pile when potential employers are doing their final pre-requisite reviews.

3) Make sure your personal networking business cards are in your briefcase. See the previous post titled, My Money Blog – Promote Yourself with Free Business Cards, for more information on this.

4) Make sure you leave your hotel and/or house with PLENTY of time to spare the morning of your interview. You want to make sure you have extra time in the likely event that you get lost (whether or not you have a GPS in your car). This will also ensure that you remain relaxed for your interviews.

5) Prepare pre-formed responses to general question types

Similarly to the way that a comedian has practiced material that he or she delivers to audiences during performances, you should also have pre-formed responses to certain general types of questions that get asked ALL OF THE TIME during interviews.

What are these questions you might be asking? The ones that I created pre-formed answers to are listed below (I was asked these in pretty much every interview for my current job):

  • Tell me about a time that you showed leadership
  • Tell me about a time when a you failed at a project and how you handled it
  • Tell me about a time when you showed technical skill proficiency
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult person and how you handled it

Once you get your list of questions written out and your 1st draft responses, have them reviewed by someone you trust, preferably, a supervisor that you work with, a professor, etc. Get your opinion on how the responses can be improved to increase your chances of being hired.

6) Prepare questions to ask interviewers

One of the most important parts of the interview process is the very end of the interview where the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me/us?” The worst thing you could possibly do is say, “no.” Why is this? Simply saying “no” indicates a lack of interest on your part in what the department and/or company does for living. The interviewer wants to see that you are legitimately interested in working at the company.

What are some good types of questions to ask at this time? Several of my favorite are listed below. I usually just take this list to my interviews and have it handy whenever I need it!

  • What types of activities are there to do in the area?
  • Are there people my age around here?
  • Where would I live?
  • What types of responsibilities/tasks would I do in the department?
  • Is there an opportunity to _______ (fill in with something I am interested in)?
  • The list goes on….

I wholeheartedly wish everyone good luck in their interviewing and job finding exploits! And, as always, please don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Keep on learning!


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