Turning a job interview into a job offer

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Caitlin Severson, WSC Support Services employee, enjoys the flexibility and learning that working on campus has given her. (Photo by Sarah Hill.)
Students can find interview tips and help both online and at BYU Career Services. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

An interviewer asks you to describe your biggest weakness. You fidget in your seat, fumbling over your words, trying to answer a tough question during the interview for the job you want.

Job interviews can be nerve wracking, but students who develop interviewing skills will be far better prepared to enter the job market. As a new semester begins and the summer internship crunch sets in, students can rest assured that help is within reach.

The BYU Career Services office is just one resource at students’ disposal. Among other things, students can participate in mock interviews with trained interviewers to help ease interview anxiety.

“Practice makes perfect when it comes to interviews,” said career counselor Heidi Vogeler. “Getting comfortable answering questions can be huge.”

Vogeler reminded students that a job interview isn’t just about the candidate. “Students often forget that an interview is a two-sided thing,” Vogeler said. “Is it going to be a mutually good fit?”

Vogeler advised interviewees to ask questions on topics like the culture of the company or what the interviewer likes about working there, while avoiding topics like medical insurance, promotions or salary in a first interview.

“Avoid anything that makes it look like, ‘I’m just in it for the money,'” Vogeler said.

Additionally, interviewees should ask about a timeline for follow-up and respect those guidelines. After an interview, interviewees should write a thank you note, via mail or email, highlighting a specific topic from the interview.

Barbara Thompson, career counselor for BYU Career Services, suggested keeping a Word document of previous experiences in jobs to review when the time comes for an interview. “This allows students to use their brain power in the interview to articulate themselves rather than searching in their brains for an example or a situation,” Thompson said.

Thompson said researching the interviewer can be valuable as well. Becoming acquainted with an interviewer’s background via LinkedIn prior to an interview can only help a job candidate’s chances.

Thompson added that interviewees should know where and how they can contribute to a potential employer.

“If you know where they’re strong or where they’re weak and you have a way to help the company balance that out,  then you can very easily articulate why they should hire you over other people,” Thompson said.

One challenges interviewees often encounter are tough questions about candidate weaknesses or past experiences, which Thompson said interviewees should approach with the big picture in mind.

“They’re asking a very myopic question,” Thompson said. “They’re looking for red flags, for how self-aware you are; do you blame other people? If you just say, ‘I have anxiety, and I get stressed out when I have a lot of things going on,’ all you’re doing is showing them your armpit. You’re not showing them your whole self, you’re showing them your worst part.”

Thompson said a weakness is always the side effect of a strength, and students should frame the statement so it doesn’t raise red flags for the interviewer.

“If you bite off more than you can chew the strength that’s attached is that you’re someone who wants to meet the needs of people the first time, and you want to do it right,” Thompson said. “Paint the whole picture, but you’re not disguising a weakness as a strength.”

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