Job interviews are often nerve-wracking, especially as a CO-OP student who is hoping to stand out. The interview question we often dread is: “Tell me about yourself?” During my last 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 sacrificing CGPA for personality and extracurricular involvement.” Easier said than done, right? I have often found myself trying to be the perfect candidate for the job, and forgetting that it is the other way around. Here’s a list of tips to help you loosen up, to be yourself:
1. 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 actual 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 the flexibility to answer questions candidly.
2. Add Relevant Personal Anecdotes When You Can
Gathering your thoughts to prepare a response may trigger a related memory. For instance, you may mention that during your trip abroad to France, you forced yourself to only speak French with locals, even though it made you uncomfortable. Not only will it highlight your bilingualism, but it may also spark a conversation revealing potential common interests. However, don’t forget to redirect the conversation if you and your employer ramble on about France. Remember, use your time wisely to build a memorable connection with the employer.
3. Conduct Research About the Company
To demonstrate your passion for the job, research the company. Subtly demonstrate how your values match the company’s values, 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 company objectives that you’ve read about, jump in with: “Oh, when I was researching your departmental plans, I read a little bit about 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 their team. Toss out the idea of trying to be what they are looking for, and instead be genuine. Either way, your true personality will surface; better that happens during the interview and not on the first day of the job.
Happy job hunting!