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Interview Advice from CO-OP Employers

Two women and a man walking together. The man is looking at a cellphone

The interview question we all dread: Tell me about yourself? Job interviews are often nerve-wracking, especially as a CO-OP student hoping to stand out. During this round of CO-OP interviews, I decided to ask employers what made students memorable, and the underlying theme was personality.

One employer stated, “grades are necessary to establish competence, but we are looking for a connection. That sometimes means focusing not only on grades, but also on extracurricular and character-building activities.” Easier said than done, right? In addition, I have often found myself trying to show that I am the perfect candidate for the job and forgetting that it is also the other way around; interviews are an opportunity to find out if I want to work for them.

Below, I have compiled a list of tips to help you loosen up to be yourself.

Listen to the question and answer without a rehearsed script. 

Let’s start off with how we answer questions. According to several employers, students often miss answering the question because they are too focused on reciting a script they memorized. Instead, listen attentively to exactly what the interviewer is asking (jot it down if you can). Take a moment to formulate a concrete answer with a relevant example. It is suggested to have a list of various professional stories in your pocket. Doing so will provide you with flexibility to answer questions candidly.

Throw in relevant personal anecdotes when you can.

Gathering your thoughts to prepare a response may trigger a related memory. For instance, you may recall how during your trip to France you only spoke French. Feel free to toss it into your conversation. Not only will it highlight your bilingualism, but it may spark a conversation which reveals your interests. However, don’t forget to return to your interview if you and your employer ramble on about France. Use your time wisely to build a memorable connection with the employer.

Research the company.

To demonstrate your passion for the job, research the company. Subtly demonstrate how your values match the company’s and how you can add to their vision or goals. Of course, if it doesn’t come up naturally don’t force it! However, if the employer mentions a company initiative that you have read about online, jump in with: “Oh, when I was researching your departmental plans, I read a little on that project. Would you be able to tell me more?” Small additions to the conversation show the employer that you are interested. It ultimately demonstrates your desire to be a part of the team!

Remember, interviewers are just people. Who are trying to find a candidate whose personality and ability will add to the team. Toss the idea of trying to be what they are looking for, and instead be genuine. Either way, your true personality will surface; better that happen during the interview and not the first day on the job.

Happy job hunting!