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Tips for a Successful Interview

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If you’re like most people, you find interviewing exciting but nerve-wracking. This is your chance to share who you are, your passions, motivations, and qualifications, so naturally, you want to get it right. 

We created this guide to support you throughout the interview process, whether you’re applying for the Fellowship or not!

 

Before the interview

Update Your LinkedIn

Before the interview, you should take some time to update your LinkedIn profile. Your interviewers will more often than not look you up in an effort to prepare for the interview. And you should do the same! Be sure to research your interviewers (if you know who their names ahead of time) and develop a sense of their professional experience and career journey. This will also help inform the specific questions you ask (more on that later!)

Resource: Jonathan Javier and Jerry Lee of Wonsulting frequently share helpful tips for LinkedIn, resumes, and interviews.


Review Your Social Media

You’ve heard it before–make sure your social media is something you’re comfortable with potential employers seeing! Be sure to review all accounts associated with you, and decide whether the content is something you should keep public. You can always make your accounts private!


Prepare, but don’t overprepare

This one is a balance. You need to know the story you want to tell, but not so well that you’re practically (or literally) reading from a script. Once you feel like you have the gist of your story, you should be all set. You want to know the key points while maintaining authenticity. This is how you set yourself up to shine!

Whether in person, virtual, or on the phone, it’s fine to have some bullets for you to glance at. In every interview I’ve done (and I’ve done quite a few!), I’ve had bullets to glance at to make sure I’m sharing all of my qualifications for the role. 


Be a STAR

The STAR Method is a great way to frame your responses to open-ended questions like “tell me about a time you lead a project.” This technique will help you tell the story of your experiences while hitting all the information interviewers are looking for. 

The STAR Method consists of sharing the

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

I like to prepare 3-5 versatile STAR scenarios to springboard from. Sometimes I end up using the same one twice, but with different framing. Point is, you want a pool to pick from, in case one doesn’t align well with the questions they ask.  


Tidy Up

Take a moment on the day of your interview (if you have time) to tidy up your background. Make sure it is quiet, tasteful, and/or clutter-free, or be ready to use the background blur feature that most video interview platforms have. Be sure to turn your notifications off–there’s nothing worse than a text chime coming through, especially if it makes you lose your train of thought. 

If you’re doing a phone interview, remember that they cannot see you, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can ensure maximum comfort levels for your conversation, and on the other, you need to express yourself through your voice. Phone interviews strike me a little like acting–you have to make sure they can hear the emotion (excitement, happiness, passion, etc.) in your voice–you can’t rely on your facial expressions to tell that story for you. 


Early Bird Gets the…

If it’s a video interview, test your equipment well beforehand, making sure your camera and microphone work on the chosen platform. You can usually run a test on these sites/platforms without having to join a specific meeting. This will allow you to seamlessly tackle my next tip for any interview type: show up early. 

If it’s a video, log on to the meeting at least 5 minutes in advance. I can’t tell you how many interviewers shared their excitement when I was ready to go when they were–virtual interviewees often left them waiting. Same goes for in-person interviews, make sure you arrive at the agreed upon location well in advance (typically 10-15 mins unless they provide other instructions).

For phone interviews, typically the interviewer will call you, so you should be ready to go a few moments before you’re expecting the call. 

If you’re unable to join or arrive at your interview on time, be sure to communicate with your point of contact as soon as you can and let them know when they can expect you to join/arrive.



During the interview

Be Yourself

You know it, but it bears repeating: be yourself. The organization requested an interview with you because they want to meet you, the real you. Let your personality shine through your interactions and responses. 

Take it from me, I talked (at length) about how much I enjoy watching the train that goes by my apartment every day, and felt like a total dork after I logged off. I still got the job. 


Ask tailored questions

Okay, so technically you should prepare these in advance, but it’s fine to think on the fly, too! Be sure to prep 3-5 tailored questions, using them to both show your interest in and research on the company, while gathering information to learn if the role/organization is a good fit for you.

Resource: Here’s an article from Harvard Business Review to get you started.


Take Notes

For interviews, I always have a pen and notebook at the ready–typing notes can make it look like you’re multitasking, or cause your computer to shake in a distracting way. I usually like to disclaim that I’m taking notes so that they know why I may be looking down repeatedly while they’re speaking. This sets my mind at ease–they know they have my full attention (and that I’m so interested and engaged I’m taking notes!)

 

After the interview

Give Thanks

Be sure to follow up with your interviewers and share your gratitude for their time and the conversation you had. If you don’t have their direct contact information, you can share it with your recruiter or talent acquisition contact and ask that they pass it along. There are a lot of great resources on how to craft the perfect follow-up note. (Here are a few of our favorites: The Muse | HBR | Career Contessa


Take Time to Reflect

Once your interview concludes, and before you rush off to the next thing in your busy day, take a few moments to reflect on the experience and jot down any final notes. Think about whether the organization seems like a good fit for you, and if you’d enjoy having your interviewers as coworkers. Note any remaining questions you have, and find a way to get them answered if they’re pressing. 

Finally, remember and rest in the satisfaction that you did your best! 

As you embark on your job search and attend interviews, doing research will keep you sharp and prepared. Some of our favorite resources were already mentioned:

 

Taylor Reese

Taylor Reese

Taylor Reese (she/her) was a Fellow at Year Up from 2019 to 2021. Upon the completion of her Fellowship, she joined Year Up full time. She now works at Jobs for the Future, and is the part time manager of the Fellowship.

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