Job Interview Tips from Hamilton Alumni
by Alicia Wright '10
February 7, 2011
An interview serves as one of the most important interactions between you and your potential employer. In an interview, you stand in the spotlight. That means the interviewer is listening to every word you say, and even the best orator can make some potentially fatal flaws in his or her personal presentation. Just like after a first date, if you mess up an interview, there is a good chance the employer will not call you back.
Erin Kibbe '06 works as a Campus Recruiting Senior Associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP. Kibbe notes some major turn-offs she has witnessed in an interview. Students who come over-prepared with canned responses do not impress employers. Interviewers want to hire you for the knowledge you will contribute to the company, not what you can memorize from the company’s website. At the conclusion of an interview, if a student does not have any questions to ask, the employer will not want to hire the candidate. Kibbe points out that the student should not bring the questions written on paper. Many employers strongly advise against bringing notes to an interview. Finally, a student should never talk about future career plans that do not include the company.
"The best interview," Kibbe says, "is a conversation with questions and answers passed back and forth." Reiterating Kibbe's point, Tom Jasinski '81, Vice President of Talent and Organization Effectiveness for MetLife, frequently sees interviewees who are over-rehearsed. Rather than selling themselves to the company for what they will bring to the table, students tend to focus too much on presenting what they have done.
An interview works much like a sale pitch, says Jasinski. A sale occurs when the need of the company is filled for the product or service, so an interview candidate should know the goals of the organization, why the job is available, and with whom in particular they will interview. Use all resources possible to find out as much about the company as possible so that you can find out how you will be a good fit and prove to your interviewer that you are ready to join the company. "The employer wants to hire you for you," noted Kibbe.
When hiring a new employee, Jasinski initially looks for three things in the candidate: a good education, a purpose in the college studies the candidate pursued, and some sort of experience that the candidate has gained. This does not necessarily mean internship experience, but simply signs that the candidate spent his or her time doing something significant or at least kept learning.
Jasinski wants three questions answered in an interview: Can this person do this job? Will this person do this job? Will this person fit with the company? "The interview is the first opportunity to handle a stressful situation with someone in the company," he explains.
To avoid displaying obvious physical stress and offering a bland first impression in the interview, Jasinski recommends taking a "highly focused, action-oriented approach." Do your homework: know yourself and the business. A candidate must also display a high degree of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, self control, awareness of others, social astuteness—in order for Jasinski to consider the candidate for a position.
Jasinski credits Hamilton for providing much of these facets in the comprehensive nature of its education, but warns students should not be overconfident in their abilities. Jasinski suggests practice interviews to become more comfortable in the interview setting. The Career Center also suggests that students practice conducting informational interviews with professionals in an area of interest. These settings provide the pressure of an interview and can help you develop the skills of a back and forth conversation in an interview setting. Hamilton prepares students to approach the starting line of the rest of their lives, Jasinski said. "Now it really begins."