Danielle: Welcome to Live and Learn, a production of the Honors Program at the University of Connecticut, I’m Danielle Chaloux and this week we’ll hear from the interview team at the center of career development on what to expect and how to prepare for an interview.
Tara: Hello my name is Tara Watrous, toady i am here with the practice interview team from the center for career development. We work together to offer practice interviews to students from all class years and majors, preparing them for upcoming interviews. Today, we are sharing some of our best interviewing tips based on our experience working at the CCD.
Waseema: My name is Waseema Bhura and i have noticed that one of the first questions asked in almost every interview is the dreaded “tell me about yourself.” This is a tough question to answer because it’s hard to tell what the interviewer is looking for. But there is a structure you can use to address this concern. We recommend in including 3 main components in your answer “tell me about yourself.” Which are explain your background or your story, describe your experience and relative skills, and discuss your future plans. Explain your background focuses on why your interested in this field and this opportunity. This is where you can include a background story if you have one, explain how you chose your major. Next, talk about your relevant experiences including internships, on campus involvement, academic projects, volunteer experiences, and jobs where you gained relative skills. Try to match these skills with the job you are interviewing for. Treat this as giving a preview of the experiences you will be expanding more on later in the interview. Finally, discuss where you see yourself in 3-5 years and how this opportunity fits your goals.
Tara: Your answer to tell me about yourself is extremely important because it is part of the first impression you make in the interview. Other ways to make a strong first impression, are behavior in the waiting room and the way you greet the interviewer. Before the interviewer comes to you, make sure that you are friendly and polite with everyone you encounter. Keep in mind, you don’t know who’s watching you. Then, when the interviewer comes out you want to greet them with a firm handshake and direct eye contact. These tips may seem small, but first impressions impact how the interviewer is going to remember you.
Wasima: It’s also a good idea to be prepared for other common traditional interview questions, like strength and weaknesses. For strengths we usually recommend using a transferable skill such as interpersonal skills, that you possess and is relative to the position. We recommend you stay away from personality traits such as hardworking and dedicated as those describe who you are rather than a skill you have gained or learned based on your experiences. Back up your answer with an example based on your past experiences of when you used this skill. For the weakness question we do not recommend the common advice of turning a weakness into a strength. Instead, pick a trait or quality that is not necessary for the job or program, but is not completely unrelated either. You only want to briefly describe your weakness and then spend time discussing how you’re improving the weakness. You should be describing active steps you’re taking and in detail.
Amanda: My name is Amanda Masciadrelli and I have some tips for behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interview questions is any questions on how you’d behave in a specific situation in the past because that is typically a good indicator of how you will behave in a similar situation in the future. We recommend using the STARmethod to answer these types of questions. STAR is an acronym that stands for situation, task, action, and result and allows you to tell a whole story without missing any important details. You’ll start off your answer with a situation piece, which is explaining a little background to the story in order to provide the interviewer with some context. Then, you’ll move on to task and you will discuss the problem you were tasked with solving. The situation and task pieces should be the shortest parts of your answer. And you should save the bulk of your details for action and result. Action is where you’ll discuss the action steps you took to solve the problem. If answering a team-oriented question, it is important to note what you did rather than what the team did. Finally, we’ll end the answer with result and discuss the outcome of the story. It is also important to relate the story you just told and the skills you used in it to the position at hand.
Liam: My name is Liam Williams and one of the best ways to prepare for behavioral questions is to form a self assessment. This includes reviewing your past experiences and the skills you have developed through those experiences. Having a well crafted resume comes in handy at this step because you can easily determine if your skill set and potential examples, based on the experiences, activities, and involvement that you have listed. Also check the job description for desirable traits and preferred skills Because you can explain experiences on your resume that involve those skills. However, sometimes what you don’t know is as important to what you do know in an interview.
Amanda: And that’s why it’s important to have questions prepared to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Some potential topics to ask questions about include training opportunities, current events impacting the company, projects you’ll be working on from the beginning, and the next steps in the interview process. Some topics to avoid are any sort of company criticisms, questions about salary, travel, and housing accommodations and any controversial topic. In total, you should have about 3-5 questions prepared and it is recommended to take notes as the interviewer is answering your questions in order to show interest and engagement.
Liam: If you are interested in conducting a practice interview with our office, visit career.uconn.edu to schedule an appointment. On that website you will also find all of our online interviewing resources including a professional interviewing guide, which goes over all the information we shared with you today. Thank you for listening.
Danielle: Here’s Amanda Masciadrelli again with her response to “tell me about yourself.”
So, Amanda, tell me about yourself.
Amanda: Well people who know me best would describe me as a great communicator, a team player, and great at giving advice. I definitely feel as though I have cultivated those skills through my college curriculum as well as my work experience. Currently I’m a junior at the University of Connecticut majoring in marketing and minoring in psychology and I decided to major in marketing because I’ve always been a creative person, whether that be through creative writing or drawing. And I definitely wanted to choose a career path that would really encompass that part of my personality. And I decided to add psychology onto that because I definitely feel as though psychology and marketing go hand in hand a lot and marketing at the end of the day is just understanding the consumer and psychology definitely provides you with the necessary resources to understand people so they definitely complement each other very well. As far as relevant experience goes I am really involved with clubs on campus such as marketing society and the Honors in Business Association. Both of these clubs have been really invaluable in providing me with resources connect with different employers within different business fields as well as networking with students that have similar interests in mind. As far as work experience goes I worked as a marketing intern with United Health Group this past summer where I primarily worked in the marketing department to come up with creative ideas for different promotional items and worked with the marketing team to support the brand image and basically work with daily administrative tasks to support different marketing initiatives and events that we had going on. Currently I am an intern in the center for career development where I work in the practice interview project area and for this role I primarily conduct practice interviews for students and as a career intern role I critique resumes for graduate students as well and give different career related presentations on certain topics. As far as future plans goes, I’m really excited on the prospect of obtaining another marketing internship. I definitely feel as though, in marketing, it is important to learn by doing hands on experiences or basically doing it by yourself and I am definitely excited to obtain another marketing internship to really hone in on my marketing skills.
Liam: One of the things to notice with that response is that it may have seen to go on for a really long time, but that was just around 2 minutes and that is typically the length we recommend for the tell me about yourself question. It’s typically your longest answer, around a minute and a half to two minutes because you’re trying to get across so much information. So always keep the time in your mind when you’re answering these questions.
Danielle: That’s all for this week. For previous episodes and a chance to win an honors program long sleeve t-shirt visit honors.uconn.edu/podcast. The code word is career.