Another year, another job search – welcome to Northeastern University. Thanks to the incredible co-op program Northeastern offers, students are given the opportunity to spend six months working at companies across the world, gaining first hand knowledge in their area of expertise.
But with this comes the dreaded interviewing process. Always intimidating, no matter how many times you do it. While I can admit that this year it was slightly easier because I had learned from last year, it was still nerve-wrecking (and this year extra tiring as I had seven interviews within five days!)
Much like last year though, I am happily walking away with not only a co-op for January (working as the Brand, Creative, and Content Intern for VMware in Palo Alto, CA!) but also more tricks and tips when it comes to interviewing. Below are seven interview tips that helped guide me throughout my process.
Research, Research, Research
The number one thing everyone should do every single time to prepare for an interview is to research the company. When I was working at Rapid7 I had the opportunity to interview future co-ops and I was blown away by the number of people that didn’t even attempt to understand what we did.
I personally love research, so I tend to go above and beyond when it comes to looking into a company. But on a basic level you should be able to say what the company does (even for companies that are more technical or confusing!), and understand their basic values.
Another important part of your research should be related to the job itself. All the jobs I applied for were in marketing, with most focusing on content creation or branding. It therefore made sense for me to check out the different kinds of content the company was producing, from their blogs to their webinars. This not only helps when coming up with questions to ask (more on that later) but also gives you a sense of whether you would even enjoy doing something similar.
Tailor Your Resume
Your resume is going to be the first thing that an employer sees and will determine whether or not you even get an interview. Whenever possible make sure you can tailor your resume to the specific job you are applying for.
In my case, because I was only applying to jobs in marketing at technology companies, I focused more on the individual jobs. If the job title or description included ‘inbound marketing,’ I made sure that my HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification was being highlighted on my resume. For jobs that were more closely reliant on website design and creation I made sure to have my webpage design work at Rapid7 called out, as well as including references to my own personal website, which someone could go visit to see firsthand what I can do.
Sometimes it makes more sense to include this in your cover letter (which for co-ops is not always necessary). This year I only had to write one, for a job that was heavy in video production. I have limited video production experience, and while I did get the opportunity to learn the basics at Rapid7, I definitely want to learn more. For this job I used my cover letter to go into more detail as to why I was interested and what skills I had to show that I was still qualified.
Connect With People
One of the biggest benefits I have found from Northeastern is being a member of NUMA, the marketing association on campus. Here I have not only learned a ton about marketing, but I have also met amazing people. Another benefit I experienced this year is that when I was talking to my friends in the club, a few had either worked at a company I was applying for, or knew someone who had.
Because of this I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to people who previously had the job I was applying for. I was able to get a clearer picture as to what the job responsibilities were beyond the description, and was able to hear honest evaluations.
This was invaluable. I was able to ask questions I wouldn’t normally feel comfortable asking during the job interview, and could get answers from someone who could be completely honest. Not only that, but I was lucky enough to have some of my friends put in a good word with the person that would be interviewing me, as they knew I would be a good fit. This can make a tremendous difference, as they are all but assuring the interviewer (usually their old boss) that they trust your skills and think you’ll be successful.
An interviewer can tell if you are interested in the job or not. This can become an issue when you’re applying to multiple jobs and fall in love with a specific one. While it’s perfectly fine to have a top choice (in fact it makes choosing later down the line so much easier!) it can make you less excited about the other jobs.
It’s important that before each and every interview you get yourself re-excited about the job. Read the job description again and find out what made you want to apply to it in the first place. Check out the company (because you have to research it anyways) and figure out what makes it amazing. Does it have a social responsibility program you are interested in? A company culture to die for? Responsibilities that will make you love going to work? Discover which qualities make it special to you and rally around those.
You should have questions about the job. When you are first reading the job description you should write down what you want to know more about. How much time will be spent doing particular tasks? What opportunities do you have to learn/work on a new skill? How does the job description tie into the overarching goals of the organization?
But you can also get beyond the job and focus on the company as a whole. You should have already done research on the company at this point, so ask about recent news related to it. Was there a merger, IPO, or purchase of another company? How is that affecting the company as a whole, and how is it affecting the job’s role and responsibilities? Ask about whatever it is that makes you excited about the job. Is there a great mentoring program? Ask for more specifics. Social responsibility? Ask the interviewer if he or she has ever been involved in any programs relating to it. When it doubt ask about company culture, and how that shapes the organization.
Interviewers expect you to ask them questions. Not only does it give you the opportunity to show that you did your research, but it’s also your opportunity to show your interest. If you aren’t excited about the job and wanting to know more, why would they want to hire you?
Ask For What You Want
A couple of years ago I read Kate White’s ‘I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This‘ and walked away with one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read. She says, when talking about interviewing, to flat out ask for the job. “It’s the hot tamale that gets the job, not the girl as cool as a cucumber.”
If you want something in life, you can’t just wait and see what happens, you have to go after it. While you can’t do this for every interview (in fact you should only do this for the one you want most) I am a big fan of telling an interviewer that they are my number one choice. I tend to phrase it in my last question, asking them what I can do to prove to them I’m the best candidate for the job, as they are my number one and I’m willing to do extra work between the end of the interview and when they make their selection to show I’m the right choice.
While it feels a tad desperate to openly admit wanting something badly, in part because it hurts that much more if you don’t get it, an interviewer is looking for someone who is passionate. They want someone excited about the company, excited to start working, and having a job applicant confirm that they have that excitement is not only amazing, but also slightly comforting.
Keep in Touch
I will first and foremost say that I love talking to new people, so keeping in touch comes easily to me. To start it is very important to send a thank you email after your interview. This is your last chance to sell yourself, to show your passion for the job. It’s also considered rude to not send a thank you, so even if everything had gone perfectly up to this point, if you don’t send a thank you note it can give the interviewer a cause for worry.
Even after you accept a job however, I’m a big believer in remaining in contact with your interviewers, even for the jobs you did not get or had to turn down in favor of an alternative one. Just because a job isn’t a good fit for you now doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good fit for you in the future. This is especially prevalent in cases like co-op at Northeastern where you could be applying for the same job the next year.
If you are interested in a job I don’t think there is any harm in asking to keep in touch. To what degree is up to you. I know that I ended up hitting it off with one of my interviewers, so at HubSpot’s INBOUND conference this year we met up to chat more about marketing and our jobs. Another interviewer I had a phone call with a month after the interview to learn more about the projects he is working on and how it is affecting the company’s long term goals. In general I’m a fan of keeping in contact with interesting people who are working on interesting projects – and if the people you meet throughout the interview process fall into this category, why not ask to keep in contact?
Job searching can be intimidating, but it also presents a great opportunity. You are able to learn about interesting projects and jobs within a field of interest, and have the ability to sit down and talk to the people running them. Better yet, it’s a chance to start working on your interviewing skills, which will help you tremendously down the line. Hopefully some of the suggestions above help you during your next interviews!