Three Things You Must Do In A Job Interview

By Brett Steenbarger

For years, I have been involved in the recruitment of talent at hedge funds and other financial firms.  That means I interview internship candidates, job applicants, and people seeking management roles.  For years, also, I’ve had the experience of interviewing medical school applicants and candidates for medical residency programs.  Let’s just say, I’ve conducted a fair number of interviews!

All that experience has taught me that the most fatal mistake you can make in an interview is to not stand out.  So many applicants play it safe and simply regurgitate points from their resumes.  Worse yet, many come to the interview relatively unprepared.  It’s no surprise that they have trouble making the case for their hiring!

Here are three absolute musts to help you prepare for your next interview opportunities:

  1. Do Your Homework – Really show the interviewer that you have done the research of looking into their organization. Explain how what you have found convinces you that you’re a great fit for that organization and why you are excited about them and their opportunity.  A first job interview is a lot like a first date.  Show interest in the other party.  Don’t just talk me, me, me.  Ask detailed questions that show you’ve investigated the hiring organization and want to know about them.  Your questions to the interviewer should stand out every bit as much as your answers.
  2. Be Visible – Be ready to describe experiences you’ve had that make you a great candidate for the position. Don’t just tell the interviewer that you participated in an internship.  Provide actual examples of experiences you had during your internship that make you a special candidate for the job.  Narratives stick out in people’s minds and tell the listener a lot about you and your strengths.  Don’t be afraid to let interviewers know that you’re special!
  3. Shine – Communication skills matter. If you don’t come across as engaging and enthusiastic in the interview, why should the interviewer think that you’ll be an active, energetic member of a work team?  One of the greatest mistakes people make who interview with me is that they’re simply boring.  They recite their qualifications and answer my questions, but they don’t offer anything of themselves that truly shines.  I recently interviewed for a position as a consultant to a financial firm and was asked about the fees I charge.  I responded that, if they wanted to work with me and if we could do special things together, I would not let fees get in the way.  I explained that my real reward was being paid for doing what I love as a psychologist: being a meaningful part of people’s lives.  Great things can happen when we speak from the heart.

When you gain valuable experience in a virtual or on-site internship—learning teamwork, leadership, and cultural communication skills—you have a lot you can share in an interview.  Sharing your distinctive experiences is a great way to show others that you truly are distinctive.  In our live workshops, we actually demonstrate those skills and offer the opportunity to practice them.  It’s a great way to prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead!

Brett Steenbarger

Connect-123's Director of Student Development, Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and a performance psychologist for professionals in the world of finance. He is the author of numerous books on psychology and financial markets and loves connecting with students during their internships and beyond!


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