Interview & Application Resources
When studying or working, we all have valuable experiences that we gain knowledge and insight through. Whether it is through group projects, volunteer opportunities, internships, or day to day functions of a job, there are things that provide you knowledge and experience. When preparing for a job search, it's important to know what your skills and abilities are to find a good fit for you and the employer.
Interviews typically consist of the hiring manager asking about your work history and relevant experiences to the position. While your work history can be easily documented and discussed, the experiences can be a little more tricky. Two types of interview questions you may receive regarding your experience are situational and behavioral.
Ones that ask about how you did react in a situation, such as
"Tell me about a time when…."
These questions help the interviewer explore what you have done in the past and actions you did take.
Ones that ask how you might react in a hypothetical situation, such as
"What would you do if…."
These questions help the interviewer understand how you would process a situation and the actions you might take.
Employers are typically curious about your past experience since it is said to be the best indicator of future performance, so most questions will typically be behavioral. While some of us may have great memory, everyone can agree that recollection isn't always perfect. Below are some things you can start doing today, whether attending school or actively working a job, that you can do to help when it comes time to prepare for a job search and interview. Below are some tips and resources to help with preparing for the next step in your career journey or landing your dream job.
Documenting Your Experience (Experience Tracker)
Format is Key
When asked an interview question, your first reaction may be to just start talking about a situation you experienced or how you would react if in the situation. While there isn't technically a right way to answer a question, there are ways to organize your thoughts in an easy to understand and consistent method. One way to structure your answers to these questions is STAR. It helps organize the main points of the example and tell a story about the experience.
Document your wins AND setbacks
The easiest way to begin developing a resume is to write down the experiences you've gained! These are a record of the experiences employers find valuable and they also give a basis for answering interview questions. Most questions will ask about a time when you successfully completed something, but depending on the position and company, they may ask when you failed at something. Gather a few examples of when you tried to complete a task, but were unsuccessful and what you took away from that experience. How you recover from a setback is sometimes just as important as how you succeeded and shows adaptability and growth.
I was leading a project and had a disagreement with my classmate on how we should divide work for a group project.
What steps were taken?
I proposed to ensure an equal division of work, each person took 1 item and the last one left would be divided among everyone. I then worked with the team to determine which item we felt could be divided evenly among everyone.
What needed done?
There were 4 items that needed divided among 3 people and the classmate wanted to ensure we each contributed equally.
What was the outcome?
This resulted in everyone participating and agreeing to the solution while having the same amount of work. All items were completed on time and we received an A for the project.
It's easy to get wrapped up in celebrating a win and forget that the experience you had could be great for an interview! The best details are ones that are captured within a day or two of the experience. It helps you better document what occurred in detail so when referencing your notes you have a better idea of the circumstances and actions taken.
Don't forget the small things
There are so many activities that happen in a day we sometimes see those as uneventful or unimportant. The truth is that many of those common experiences provide uncommon knowledge or expertise. One example could be that as part of a class project, you had to organize the group, create a plan, order materials, execute and create a presentation. While individually these actions may be small, but as a whole this is an experience with managing a project from creation to completion. When thinking about experience or interview answers, great examples come from a variety of places, both big and small.
A position is a step in your career journey
A job search can be about many things for people and you may find things that you like, but you may also find things you don't like. The path to a dream job often isn't direct and typically involves a few jobs that aren't what you consider ideal. To help focus on where you want to be, think about what experiences a position can offer to get you there. Speaking with a professional working in the field or position you want to be in can sometimes help you navigate what steps they took in their journey. Also reaching out to a recruiter for the field or position may sometimes offer great advice as well. LinkedIn and Glassdoor are great places to find both professionals and recruiters that may be willing to spend 15-30 minutes talking about what they do and how they got there.
Compensation is more than pay
While pay is a big factor in why many people accept a job, the quality of life in other areas is often determined by benefits. Some examples of benefits that have pay impact are healthcare, 401K match, and tuition reimbursement. These benefits could be worth more than a slightly higher salary offer. Look for companies that offer benefits in addition to pay to help cover costs that would otherwise come out of your paycheck.
Learning about the company
Finding your dream job can be thrilling, but make sure to research the company offering the job as well. A place where you feel valued and respected can be a huge benefit for your mental health and career. Check reviews, reach out to people working there, and learn what the company does. The information you learn may be something that comes up in an interview when asked what you know about the position and company you are applying for.
Job Search Resources:
Resume Writing Tips
Spelling and Format are Top Priority
When filling out an application, the quickest way to get noticed in the wrong way is to misspell a word or fill out a section incorrectly. The same applies to applications and ensuring that everything is spelled right and is in an easy to understand format. There are many templates you can use in Microsoft Word or available online, but the basic elements of an effective resume should consist of:
Name and Contact Information
Resumes aren't Always a One Size Fits All
There are many things that could be included in a resume, but an effective one should target the skills and qualifications in the job posting. Think about the skills and experiences that would help demonstrate you would be effective in the position. Reviewing the posting for responsibilities and tasks for the position can help determine what things you may want to include.
When recruiters post positions, they often get many replies for the post. Due to the number of responses they have to review there is a short window of time for your resume. To ensure they have the best picture of what you can do in the position try to limit your resume to 1 page. It focuses your image and helps your best experiences stand out.
Preparing for Interview
Practice makes perfect
Interviewing doesn't come easy to everyone or even to most people. It is a skill that is developed through time, practice, and focus. One way to get practice is to start by asking someone who you're comfortable with for a development conversation. Ask that they focus on your body language, eye contact, voice tones, and answers you provide. This will help identify the things that you might not notice and help guide where you want to develop to improve your interviews. Once you are comfortable with feedback received, you can start to practice with others you may not know as well, such as a teacher, counselor, or even your current manager if working. They will likely provide some different perspectives on the things you can improve.
Similar with learning about the company, you should prepare for the types of questions you may be asked for the position. There won't likely be a guide or a sample of what is coming, but you can get an idea by looking at the job responsibilities. Each industry is different with the types and format of questions they may ask. It may be asking about experience, how to react, or a demonstration/description of how to solve a specific problem. Review the responsibilities and your experiences and think about the things you've done in the past, and how they relate to what you want to do in the future.
Develop your network
When preparing to interview for a position you may speak with a lot of people working for the company or holding a similar position. This is a great time to build your network of professional contacts for this position or others you may apply for! A professional network are people you meet that can help be an sponsor, advocate, or even mentor to help with your career journey. Below are some high level descriptions of what they do and where these contacts can be found:
Speaks positively about you and helps promote you though their contacts. These contacts can be someone you have worked with or is familiar with you professionally, such as a teacher, manager, or co worker.
Helps support your career through providing influence or support to help you in your career journey. This is someone who will help you to further business or professional goals that are mutually beneficial. This is typically someone in a position of leadership in the company or industry that you are part of or support.
Provides guidance and one on one professional and/or personal development. This can be someone who is or was involved in your professional career, academic career, in a position of leadership from one or both, or someone you personally connected with.
A few places where you can build your network is at a career fair, the Alumni network for your school/college, or through your work. Another great option is using LinkedIn since you can search for professional from your high school/college and is a great platform to stay in touch. If using LinkedIn, don't be discouraged if you don't get a reply. Social media isn't used by everyone and some have a profile they don't check often. These contacts can help describe what their journey was and help support you in your journey. Not everyone will fit neatly in each of these areas and oftentimes you may find people fall in one or more categories.
Interview Best Practices
On Time and On Point
You finally got the interview and now you want to make each impression count. The first impression the employer will have is if you are there at all. Be sure to plan on arriving to the interview at least 5-10 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. This helps in the event there is a traffic jam or other unexpected delay and gives a great first impression of being dependable. When dressing for the interview, be sure to avoid clothing that is ripped or frayed and dress business casual for every interview. You can never be overdressed for an interview!
Take Your Time
So you made it on time and in style and you're sitting across from the hiring manager. Keep in mind that this is a conversation and not a race to get information out. The hiring manager will likely need to write down your responses to help recollect key details when reviewing the interviews. So when answering the questions it's ok to pause, ask for clarification, or even repeat the question. It is better go slowly and fully understand and respond than to rush through it to finish.
At the end of the interview there will typically be an opportunity to ask questions. Come to the interview with a few questions that you may have wanted to know or weren't able to ask prior to the interview. If you aren't sure what the next steps are or the timeline around when they may contact you, these are great questions to close with as well. The first impression is important to get in the door and the last impression you have will be the one they remember when reviewing the interviews.
On the Job
The one thing you want to be sure to do after starting a new job is to be yourself! You were hired into the company because of the unique skills, abilities, and experience you bring. You may be nervous your first few weeks and strive to be perfect or similar to what you think they want to see. Mistakes will happen and are part of learning, so be genuine to who you are and share your honest opinion on how you're doing.
Diversity of thought is what makes great companies and being yourself helps contribute to their success. Your employer chose to hire you for a reason. They believe you are capable of doing the work and your time is valuable. You can do this because you are AIBL!
Whether you are in training, meeting with your boss, or talking to a customer, be sure to take notes. Taking notes helps capture your thoughts and important information for use later when recollecting details. Similar to how you write down your experiences, it is a good habit to keep in and outside of the workplace. Sometimes the only instruction you may receive from a customer or manager might be in a meeting and your notes could be the difference between a successful project and one that needs work.
Learn to Adapt
Companies are unique in the way they work and can take some time to adapt to the culture and expectations. There isn't one right way to operate so learning what the company does and how they do it can help advance your career. There are typically formal and informal expectations. Formal expectations come with guidelines and are often discussed during orientation or training. Informal expectations are established without guidelines, but is how employees operate.
If you were provided a uniform or instructions on the types of outfits to wear, this is considered a formal expectation. If nothing is provided around dress and you notice everyone in the company wears business casual, it may be part of an informal expectation. Some organizations have clear guidelines around dress code and appearance, but others may have an informal code. If you're unsure, ask your team lead, manager, or human resources representative on suggested dress. They may tell you not only about the look of the company, but how to navigate daily tasks and tips for success.