Tag: job interview

Sally Pinckard of the Weston Career Center

Sometimes the most difficult interview questions are very unexpected, designed to test the candidate’s ability to think on his or her feet and innovate. Don’t be surprised if you get a seemingly off-the-wall brainteaser, like “How many ping pong balls can fit inside the Olin atrium?”

Demonstrate your confidence and ease with ambiguity by being prepared. Most interviewers are really trying to gain information to assess: (1) can the candidate do the job; and, (2) does the candidate fit your culture and organization. These are not trick questions.

Also, being well-read on current events (i.e., read The Wall Street Journal daily) will provide context for small talk, or even help to articulate a business point of view based on current events.

Let’s explore specific questions that often surprise a candidate, or could make one uneasy but requires fortitude and confidence:

A few tips for replying to tough interview questions:

“Tell me about yourself.”

A common opener, this broad question can “throw” many interviewees. It is, in fact, a “sell-me” invitation. Develop a brief summation of your background leading into your interest and desire to work for the organization, as well as your qualifications for the position.

“Why should we hire you?”

From your research, you should know the qualifications for the job. From your own self-analysis, you will have gained insight into your strengths and accomplishments. Mention key functions of the job and discuss your skills in relation to these functions. Use experiences from previous jobs, internships, and activities as examples to support your answer.

“What are your long-range goals?”

In your company research, determine what position you could reasonably reach in five years. Speak to others who have successfully advanced themselves in the organization or profession. Express your desire and capability to grow within the organization. While you may be unsure of your future plans, demonstrate your knowledge of potential career paths.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Everyone has weaknesses, but remember not to answer in a negative way. Turn your weakness into a positive. For example: “Because I tend to procrastinate, I have learned to work well under pressure and to always get work done on time.”

“Tell me about your schooling.”

The key to this question is to keep your reply positive. Speak well of Washington University and any other schools you’ve attended. You are a product of your schools’ educational programs. Be prepared to address questions about low grades, changes of major, favorite classes, etc.

Guest blogger: Karen Heise, Interim Director, Weston Career Center

Could you use the support of the Weston Career Center or Management Communication Center? Schedule an appointment today. 

A potential employer just invited you for an on-site interview—congratulations! Now what do you do? Margie Beck, Career Advisor at the Weston Career Center, shares a few job interview tips that will help you make a positive, lasting impression:

1. Research the company and practice your interviewing skills

Don’t show up thinking you can “wing” the interview. Make sure you know your resume inside and out, as everything listed is fair game to be asked about (and beyond). Know the company’s core competencies by which they assess their candidates (i.e. teamwork, leadership, communication, etc), and make sure you have examples to support your case of each one, at a minimum. You’re not expected to know everything about the company, but you should be familiar with some general key facts about the company and the job you’re interviewing for.

2. Be on time… but not too early

Take some time before the interview to make sure you know how to get to the interview location and aim to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes early, unless instructed otherwise. If your commute takes less time than you anticipate, find a nearby coffee shop where you can wait.

3. Arrive to the job interview prepared

There are two important things to consider in order to arrive prepared for the interview:

  • Your attire: Make sure you fully read the instructions provided to you before the interview.  If nothing is indicated on suggested dress, err on the side of being more professional than not (i.e. business suit). More and more companies these days are moving to a business casual dress code, which includes during the interview process, but many are still not there. Also, take it easy on heavy perfumes or colognes, visible piercings and tattoos, and excessive and ungroomed facial hair for the guys. Lastly, make sure your suit or outfit fits well. There is nothing less flattering than a business suit that is either way too small or way too large.
  • Materials to bring: Less is more. All you really need is a nice padfolio or notebook that can store extra copies of your resume and serve as a place for you to take down notes as needed. If you have your cell phone with you, make sure the ringer is set to silent before you enter the building to avoid embarrassing interruptions.

4. Understand that the interview starts as soon as you enter the building

You never know if your interviewer is the person riding up with you in the elevator or the person that accidentally cut you off in the company parking garage. Be extra cautious and extra courteous to everyone you meet, including the receptionist. Everyone can weigh in on your candidacy at any time. A simple email to the recruiter on candidate observations and interactions can be added to your file when reviewed for hiring considerations. This can go both on the positive and not-so-positive side.

5. Write thank you notes

Make sure to show your appreciation and thank the interviewers and all of the various employees you meet throughout your visit. You should also send out genuine, non-generic thank you notes to all of these individuals no later than 24 hours after the interview. My personal rule of thumb is to try to send out a note within 12 hours to help keep you top of mind to the employers. It also demonstrates your interest without coming across too eager.

To hand write a thank you note or send an email? Handwritten thank you notes are definitely a nice personal touch and often in the minority among types of communications sent by interview candidates. If you opt to send a handwritten note in the mail, make sure to send a quick, brief thank you email within the 12-24 hour timeline to ensure your message is received timely. They will then receive a nice surprise a day or so later with your personalized, handwritten thank you note.

Margie has spent a majority of her career in public accounting, in client-serving roles (audit and tax), and campus recruiting. She most recently worked at Ernst & Young as a campus recruiter on the East Coast, managing campus relationships. Margie serves as liaison to the Olin Professional Accounting Advisory Board and is a career advisor at the Weston Career Center.