In the recruiting process, there are usually two stages – stage one, pass the initial resume screen for interviews; stage two, nail the interviews to get the offer. In Part A, I touched on a few points that could increase your odds of being invited for interviews (stage one), with the condition that you already have a solid resume. For international students, many couldn’t pass stage one, as a result of work visa restrictions, lack of work/leadership experience, etc. Thus, if you have been invited to interviews, congratulations, you are half-way there! The actual interviews are equally important if not more, because if you fail, all the extra effort leading up to the interviews ends with nothing. In this post, I am going to share a few interview tips based on my experience of serving on the recruiting team and what I have learned from the others. To excel in interviews, you should prepare for a few highlights when answering the “Tell me about yourself” question, develop a portfolio of stories, and strictly follow the STAR technique.
Include a few intriguing points when answering “Tell me about yourself”
“Tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume” is generally the first question interviewer asks. Since this might be the only question that you have full control over (versus answering the behavioral questions later with given situations), you need to make a good first impression. What’s more, because the interviewer could read your resume, you can’t just list off your experiences again. You could add more color to the resume bullet points by explaining the progression of responsibilities and the “why”s behind some major decisions. To prepare for the answer, think through questions such as:
- How did you decide on the major?
- If you have been working part-time for one year, are you always doing the same thing or have you asked for additional responsibilities?
- Why did you decide to take a part-time internship with employer A not B?
- Why did you decide to study abroad, etc
By addressing some of these questions in your answer, you show your motivation and qualities (eager to learn, willing to take on challenges, etc). You could also highlight a few accomplishments that you are most proud of, which could pique the interviewer’s interest and probe him/her to follow up with additional questions. As a result, you will be more in control of the conversation. Last but not least, remember to keep the answer under 2-3 minutes.
Prepare stories that show your qualities in different scenarios
After “Tell me about yourself”, recruiters usually will ask behavioral questions. As a greeter for on-campus interviews (company representatives who interviewees could talk to before the interview), I remember vividly that one interviewer commented “I wish he could speak to more than fundraising for his fraternity!” Truth be told, I used to be that applicant who couldn’t stop talking about organizing a 5K event. As I could completely relate to, during the interview, you get nervous and do not have extra time to consider the portfolio of stories. To avoid this issue, develop a list of stories that covers various aspects of the college life, such as internship, part-time job, extracurricular, and class project. You could build a grid that looks like this:
Follow the STAR technique
Once deciding on the story to answer the question, you are expected to walk the interviewer through Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Interviewers from my company use a booklet to keep notes for each candidate. In the booklet, the note sections are divided exactly into the four parts mentioned above (S-T-A-R). This example indicates that you cannot be wrong explaining each component. Two other points I would like to emphasize regarding STAR are: 1) spend more time explaining Action and Result; 2) focus on the actions you take and the results associated with your actions. When talking about situations of working on a team, interviewees sometimes fail to communicate what their roles are on the team. With STAR, You could further enhance the grid:
In conclusion, once you prepare the introduction (“Tell me about yourself”), list out the stories for the behavioral questions, and address S-T-A-R components of each one, all you have left is to practice, practice, and practice!
Best of luck!!
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