Sharing My Job Interview Experience
By Yu Li
Member of IMA’s Young Professional Committee
Student at George Washington University
It is said that an awesome résumé gets you an interview, and a successful interview gets you an offer. Indeed, interviewing is an important skill. It involves not only expressing yourself clearly, but also communicating it to your interviewer. As a current graduate student, I have had several interview experiences. There are errors and little shining points in those experiences that I would like to share with you now.
About two years ago, I had a phone interview with a big local accounting firm for a tax internship opportunity. Because this was my first formal interview, I did a lot of homework. I checked through the possible interview questions and prepared answers, while also researching the company’s background. I found the WikiJob website was quite useful for me during my preparation.
It took me a whole day to prepare myself. Even so, my voice was still shaking when the interview began. “Tell me about yourself in one minute. Give me an example of yourself as a team leader.” I answered these questions without hesitation because I already had them on my cheat sheet. Then the interviewer asked, “Why would you like to join our company?” I answered her question from both professional advantage and social responsibility of the company. She seemed to be satisfied with my performance so far.
“Great, now tell me about one of your biggest weakness.” I didn’t expect this question. I remembered clearly that it was among the questions list, but I unfortunately didn’t prepare for this one. “Err… I am a …” This is not an easy question, because these weaknesses may prevent the interviewer from hiring me. After a long pause, I decided to say what came to my mind first: “I am a quick person, when something isn’t done in time, I would get worried and try to finish it as soon as possible.”
Fail. When I finished this sentence, I realized that I had lost this opportunity. You may not get a job even if you provide many excellent answers, but you can definitely ruin it with only one weak response. After that interview I had a talk with my career coach and she said, “Take these interview questions seriously and prepare every one of them well. Only so you could know yourself as an interviewee. You may still encounter some questions that you never expected before. Don’t worry at this point; try to bring those answers you already know to prove that you are the person they are looking for.”
Know Your Interviewer
A couple of months ago, I got invited to interview with a well-known not-for-profit organization. I was so eager to get this internship that I even bought a new suit for the interview. I read a lot of articles about the organization’s mission, history and values. I tried to contact an alumni working in the organization to get a reference. I researched my interviewers, including their educational background and past work experience. Lastly, I went through my prepared responses for common interview questions to make sure that I would not make serious mistakes.
When the day came, the new suit was still at the tailor’s shop. However, it didn’t affect me much. I knew I was adequately prepared so I wasn’t nervous at all. I did well at the beginning, answering questions about myself and telling them what I knew about the organization. After that, my interviewers and I talked about life in New York, the difference between “subway” and “metro,” my referral, and a lot of other little things. It was more like a chat than an interview.
“Well, I can get this job,” I told myself after walking out of the building. As I expected, I received my offer letter two weeks later.
There is a very famous Chinese proverb which states, “Precise knowledge of self and precise knowledge of the threat leads to victory.” You should not consider the interviewer an enemy; however, it is a perfect metaphor for an interview.. Know yourself, know your interviewer, and know that you may never prepare too much for your interviews. All of us have an interview story. Please share your experiences with us and what you have learned.