Nate Dennis walks into a room with only a long wooden table polished to the point it reflects the light above, leather-lined chairs and two nicely dressed men with scribbled-on note pads and fancy pens. Once inside, he reaches across the table, firmly grasps each of the outstretched hands, then takes his place directly across from the men. Dennis knows the minute he walks into the room the minds of the men across from him are humming with judgments, and now it is his time to shine.
Interviewing is a process that haunts some and excites others. Either way, many BYU students find themselves in the hot seat during their college careers when job or internship hunting. Interviewing professionals and recent interviewees share their secrets and dispel some of the long-held myths about interviewing.
Dennis, an information systems major from Alpine, is a BYU student who recently had his turn in the interview chair. From his experiences interviewing, Dennis said he learned it was OK to not have the answer to every question.
“Admitting you don’t know something is perfectly fine,” Dennis said. “They would much rather you say you don’t know something but you are willing to learn it than trying to make something up and lying trying to cover up your mistakes,” Dennis said.
Dennis also recommends applying to many positions, even if they seem like a long shot. He was able to secure a competitive internship, and he contributes his success to preparation before the interview.
Troy Nielson, professor in the Marriott School, said practice and preparation are indispensable for a successful interview. Looking for a job is a full-time job and requires a lot of work, specifically practicing stories that illustrate accomplishments and personality.
“A lot of it is about good storytelling, to be honest,” he said. “You want to differentiate yourself between other very talented people.”
Recruiters who come to campus have said a common blunder made by BYU students when interviewing is they don’t talk enough about their accomplishments. They tend to undermine themselves by being what they think is humble.
“BYU students tend to be humble, and we should be, but in interviews you should talk about your accomplishments,” he said. “Sometimes students unnecessarily short cut their accomplishments or minimize their accomplishments and won’t talk about them in as glowing terms as they probably deserve.”
A recent concern about interviewing skills is that technology is hurting interviewing and communication skills. Bill Brady, director of career services for the school of accountancy, said although it is a valid concern, the workplace is adapting to technology trends.
“That (technology) was an initial concern, now we are seeing technology media opening up,” Brady said. “Will you ever be able to just text reports to your clients? Probably not. But it also depends on who your client is. As those clients adopt, and as those clients hire more of you who are very tech savvy and very tech oriented, you will change the employer.”
As the baby boomer generation retires, more technology-oriented people are being hired, and the marketplace is changing slowly but surely, according to Brady.
Another myth set straight by Brady is that networking may not be all it is cracked up to be.
Networking, the way it is taught in school, is very general, meaning the job secured through networking will be a general job.
“Networking is for middle-range jobs; if you want a high-level job, or a specialized job, your networking doesn’t do that,” Brady said. “Generic networking gets you a generic position,” Brady said. “If you want that specialty job, you have got to interview and be that person, and so focused so they understand what you want and what you are about.”
What employers want
Jeff Klakring, salesman and interviewer at Qualtrics, said a good interview is a conversation, rather than a one-sided question and answer.
“A really good interview is driven by the applicant when they ask good questions and want to know about the culture of the company,” Klakring said.
When the interviewee does research about the company and asks meaningful questions, it shows they care about the company instead of just securing a job.
“It (no preparation) says, ‘I want a job. I don’t care what it is.’ And that’s not very impressive in an interview,” said Klakring.
Klakring also recommends that the interviewee come with a 30 to 60 second pitch about who they are. Too often students are unprepared for that question and end up telling boring facts, making them sound the same as the last guy, he said.
“A good answer is going to tell about some accomplishments, personality, things we can’t see on the résumé,” Klakring said.