“If you fail to plan, you [plan] to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
Never have these words been truer till last week when I failed to prepare for an interview.
So here’s the story: I have been looking for summer internships for months now and I received an email that invited me to apply for this entrepreneurship-related internship at my university. All I needed to do was send an email and then go in for a casual interview. Now there’s where I made my mistake. I assumed that a casual interview meant that I could go in, have a regular conversation about myself, and then leave. I assumed that my skills in B.S. would be all that I needed to get through this interview. I was DEAD wrong.
Normally, I am quite well-spoken (at least that’s what I have been told). So imagine my surprise when I went in for the interview and started stuttering, and blubbering like a bumbling amateur. I kept on repeating phrases, hesitating awkwardly and at one point, my fingers started to shake. In total, I was a HOT MESS.
In my mind, I kept repeating to myself: “Stop talking. Breathe. Don’t say that. You REALLY said that? What’s wrong with you? Stop. Argh! God take me away.”
Why did this happen? Because I forgot that no matter how casual or informal an interview is, one should always be prepared. If I can’t go into an interview confidently and with an idea of what I plan to say, then how can I expect something good to come out of it?
For those of you who haven’t attended many interviews, these are a few questions that you should keep close to your heart, and consider before entering an interview. Just take 15 minutes of your time, and draft (on paper or in your head) answers to these questions that you can easily pull up when asked.
- Tell us about yourself – I’ve always despised this question because I never know what, or how much to say. Do you want the bare minimum: my name, age, class year and major? Or do you want an in-depth story or a funny anecdote? Nevertheless, think of something. Who are you as a person? What parts of your identity are important to you?
- Why do you want this job/role/position? – For the love of God, please do not say because of the money. I have never said this – although I may have thought about it a couple of times – but if this is the case for you, resist the temptation to say it. Are you passionate about the industry, the organization, its goals? Is there something you wish to learn or gain from this position? Do you want to help in a certain aspect?
- What are your qualifications? – What makes you qualified and deserving of this position? This question gives you the chance to talk about your past experience, either in past jobs or positions at clubs? Your soft skills could also count as a qualification. Many organizations look for passion in their interviewees because they want to determine that you would actually do your job properly instead of slacking off if you simply don’t care.
- What questions do you have for us? – Ask at least two to three questions at the end or during the interview. The questions would vary depending on the role you wish to occupy. However, it is always good to ask about the organization’s future (where do they see themselves in the next year or five years)? If you noticed something lacking in their business structure, ask them how they intend to fix it, or suggest solutions for them? You could also ask for clarification on the duties that you would have to fulfill if you get the position. Perhaps even ask the interviewer why he or she started working at the organization, what drew them to their role, or even their favourite thing about the organization. You could also ask them about the dynamics between the employees or volunteers, so you could envision how you would fit in.
Nevertheless, the moral of the story is that you MUST ALWAYS prepare for your interviews. Prepare answers, take your resume with you to the interview, but also remember to remain calm. If you are truly prepared then you have nothing to worry about. Take a deep breath before talking and if you ever feel yourself freak out, just pause. If you have water in the room, take a sip of water.
I truly hope that you don’t find yourself in the situation of becoming a bumbling mess like I did.
UPDATE: Surprisingly, a few days after my interview, I received an email congratulating me as the executive team had decided to offer me the job.
I definitely know that it wasn’t because of my performance but rather, because of God’s favour. Nevertheless, always remember to PREPARE!