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Big question: How can I ace that interview?

By: Dr. Jeremy Fyke

Take your feet off the desk, first! For more serious answers, we asked Diederich College of Communication Assistant Professor Dr. Jeremy Fyke what our newest alumni should and shouldn't do to ace their first professional job interviews.

Ask 50 different recruiters and you're likely to get 50 different responses on how to ace a job interview. This time of year, students and new graduates are inundated with opportunities to land that perfect internship or full-time, post-grad position.

What do I wear? How early should I arrive? How do I sit? How many questions should I ask? These are a few of the questions students often ask me, seeking advice. My common response to many of these is "it depends." Because it does. Behavior in a job interview should match the organization's culture since the interview is a newcomer's first encounter in the socialization process.

However, during the course of the interview, there are a few words that should probably never come out of your mouth:

"Oh, can you hold on for a minute, I really need to take this call."

"Sorry, I just need to reply to this text right fast."

"I'm not sure what I'm looking for in terms of benefits. Dad, what do you think?"

And, my personal favorite, "Do you by chance have some water I could give to my cat?"

Sound absurd? Sadly, they're based on true events. According to a recent USA Today article, employers recently witnessed candidates taking phone calls, texting, and bringing their parents and pets to interviews.

So, with the ugly out of the way, how can you land that perfect position? Here are a few thoughts.

Act 'Organizationally'

In today's world, connected through innumerable (mostly informal) technologies, as a job candidate, you will do well to remember that an interview is a place to be professional, to show the organization that it will be well-served by making an investment in you. For any organization, hiring new people is expensive. How can you show your worth? Ever heard people say that a presidential candidate "looks presidential?" You need to "look organizational."

First step sound organizational. Minimize your self-interested comments. True story: When asked what he was looking for in a position, a job candidate once said, "I'm just looking for a cushy position where I can work my way to the top." Although organizations value passion and zeal, an interview is a place to temper your enthusiasm for rising to the top, while showing that you're motivated. The lesson applies to other situations and topics. For example, if you tell a recruiter that you "can't wait to travel the world for your job," s/he is likely to think of you as a globetrotter first and employee second. The point is, be sure to frame your responses "organizationally." For example: "Given how important international clients are to the company, I would embrace the opportunity to learn from other cultures to help our business."

Be Specific

Although not quite as egregious as asking your Dad to speak on your behalf about benefits, a sure-fire killer is vagueness and generalization. With ease, you can train a parrot to say, "I'm goal-oriented" or "I'm a good communicator." You do better when you give the interviewer an example that demonstrates how you've set and accomplished goals. Stood out in a project presentation to a class or set yourself apart in an internship? Tell that story. Highlight accomplishments, not abilities.

Knock on the door

Remember, most doors you want to get into are closed. That applies to getting a job, too. If you want to get inside, you better have a compelling knock. What better place to showcase it than in an interview?

Dr. Fyke was recently honored with the Diederich College of Communication Dean's Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching.


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