At last, all that you have worked for has led to the highly desired interview. Congratulations! The interview process can feel daunting, but don’t let it. At the heart of all interviews is an exchange between two or more parties about shared interests and desires to determine “best fit”. Hopefully, by this point you have done some self-assessment and know yourself well enough to effectively communicate your fit for the program, school or organization. If not, now is the time to reflect. Consider clarifying your strengths, areas of expertise and desires for your future. Re-evaluating your interests, values, and skills helps to enhance confidence that you are on the right track in applying for specific programs or positions. Ask yourself:
- Why do I want this job?
- How am I prepared to take on the responsibilities being asked of me?
- What do I have to offer them?
- What do they have to offer me?
Answers to these and other questions help you prepare to respond confidently to the interviewer in ways that show your fit for the position or program.
Preparation is the key to successful interviews. Interview candidates who fall short of receiving offers are often ineffectively conveying confidence in their skills and expertise as related to the position they are interviewing for. The more knowledge you have about the organization you are interviewing with, the individuals interviewing you, the mission and vision of the department or program, and/or specific duties and responsibilities involved, the better able you are to connect your strengths to their needs. Often individuals engaged in an employment or educational search believe their skill set will win them the job or offer. Although indeed that may look great on paper, it doesn’t always lead to an offer.
Not long ago, a trainee shared their interviewing experience that reflected success in obtaining interviews, however, they had not yet gotten an offer. In this case, the interviewee found themselves problem solving for the interviewer – asking questions that may have laid seeds of doubt in the interviewers’ minds. As an individual skilled in analysis and problem solving, it was easy for them to do so. However, it wasn’t the candidate’s job to figure out solutions to potential problems they saw in their being hired, simply to convey confidently how they could help. Reflecting on their interviewing experiences and brainstorming alternative strategies for responding to interview questions allowed the candidate to more effectively convey their fit at the next interview. Soon after the candidate received an offer which they accepted. Success!
You too can come across confidently in the interview. Consider this as you prepare:
Know Yourself – Re-clarify your interests in the position, as well as your values and skills to allow for connections between yourself and the employer or program. An OITE Career Counselor or Graduate School and Pre-Professional Advisor can help in this process: https://www.training.nih.gov.
Prepare for the interview – Research information about the organization, institution, or program so that you are confident about your fit and can effectively communicate this as related to their core values, mission and needed skills and expertise. We also suggest that you watch the OITE Interviewing Techniques workshop to learn and practice your skills.
Interview the Employer – Be prepared to ask questions in an interview if time allows. Choose questions that help you determine whether there will be a good fit for you such as: “What opportunities for advancement are in place?”, “What type of mentorship is available for new hires?” or “What resources are available to help students engage in career planning?” Knowing what is important to you will help you generate questions to ask.
Breathe, Relax, and Enjoy – Most interviews offer you the chance to meet new people, see different places and experience new things. Take the opportunity to do so. Whatever happens, this kind of mindset will help relieve worry and nervousness about the interview, allow you to stay focused on the big picture, and encourage confident communication in the interview.
Interviewing can be difficult, especially if you feel unprepared. Preparation will help you feel more confident about the unique things you offer and encourage a focus on where you fit with the employer, institution or program. Remember, the absence of an offer after an interview doesn’t mean you were not qualified, simply that you were not the fit that the employer was looking for. Keep in mind that getting an interview is evidence of success in the search or application process. Be sure to give yourself credit and acknowledge your successes along the way. Before you know it, you’ll have an offer too!