We’ve all been there. You’re sitting on a lonely chair in uncomfortably stiff clothes, waiting for your name to be called. Your mouth is dry, your palms are sweaty, and a thousand thoughts are running through your head. Remember to smile. Make eye contact. Shake hands firmly, but not for too long. Time’s up. They call your name. This is it.
Even the most seasoned candidate is bound to feel some nerves before an interview. After all, it can be pretty difficult to condense a lifetime of experience into 30 minutes or an hour for a panel of perfect strangers. Thankfully, Mount Co-op Manager Scott Daniels has some helpful advice to offer.
“The good thing with co-op interviews is that you won’t be going in blind,” Scott says. “Over the years we’ve built excellent relationships with our employer partners. We know what they’re looking for and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned.”
Four steps to a successful interview
1. Read up. “Your best chance of making a good first impression is demonstrating that you have a clear understanding of what the organization does,” explains Scott. “I don’t just mean being able to rattle off their mission statement. Look them up on social media. Read through their website. Have they been in the news lately or issued a press release? Sharing your research on the organization in an authentic, knowledgeable way will definitely help.”
2. Demonstrate your interest. “Just like reading up on an employer ahead of time, it’s so important to show some enthusiasm during the interview. Be prepared to talk about the job duties and why you applied, as this demonstrates that you are engaged and invested in the hiring process. Employers want to see that you are as excited about joining the team as the team is to have you. Whether it’s the type of industry they’re in, a (positive!) interaction you’ve had with the company in the past, or something interesting in the posting that really caught your eye, be prepared to talk about your personal connection to the job and why you’d love to work there.”
3. Practice, practice, practice. “Employers want to hear your story. You know they’ll probably ask you to talk about yourself, answer some experiential ‘tell me about a time when’ questions, and explain what drew you to the job. So practice with a friend or record yourself on your phone and play your answers back. Try not to clam up or drone on. Aim for a clear beginning, middle, and end to each of your anecdotes. This practice will help you hone your narratives and delivery style, and feel more confident and prepared at that table.”
4. Book a mock interview. “Our coordinators offer a number of mock interview appointment slots every semester. You can sit down with them one-on-one, go through some sample questions, and work together to improve your presentation and responses. If you’re feeling nervous about an upcoming interview, don’t hesitate to call our office and ask for an appointment. There are a number of resources on the co-op Moodle page that can help you prepare for interviews as well.”
From shaky starts to a smooth ride
The co-op program offers students a chance to build up their interviewing skillset in a safe, supportive environment. “Our employers know that not every student will come to them with extensive experience in the professional world,” Scott notes. “Many of our employers provide feedback to students after an interview, and you can always request comments through the Co-op Office as well.”
Like riding a bike, the interview process can be a little shaky at first. Our hope is that with these resources and tips, you’ll gain the experience and confidence you need to turn the process into a smooth, familiar ride.