Ellen is a lovely and talented young woman from Michigan. She currently works for a non-profit agency that supports international refugees and immigrants and helps them adapt to their new life in the United States.
Everyday Interview Tips sat down with Ellen to find out about her job interview experience with her current non-profit to see if she has any experiences, tips or advice that would be interesting for current job seekers.
What was the last job you interviewed for?
The last job I interviewed for was my current position at the non-profit agency.
What type of interviews have you experienced?
I have never taken part in a group interview, but have done first interviews, second interviews, and phone interviews.
How do you prepare for job interviews?
Usually I start by doing research on the company, getting to know them as a whole. If I happen to know who will be interviewing me, I try to learn a little about them as well if possible. I also think about how to tailor my skills to the specific job and more broadly to the company’s goals.
How well do you think that level of interview preparation works for you?
I think that it prepares me enough to answer most questions without feeling blindsided, and doesn’t over prepare me to the point of making me nervous.
Do you consider yourself a capable interviewee?
I would say yes. I think I have learned by trial and error what does and does not work for me, and how to stay relaxed enough to present myself in the way I want to.
What were your weaknesses that “did not work” at first?
I used to get very nervous on interviews and would rush through answers, which meant that I usually wasn’t really answering the question. I also used to ‘wing’ interviews much more than I would now, which also would lead to fumbling for an answer.
Based on your current interview skills, if your interviewer were to give you feedback on your ability to interview, what would be your strengths and weaknesses?
I think my biggest strength would be that I can stay relaxed — I know how painful it can be to watch somebody who is incredibly nervous. My biggest weakness would probably be that I don’t always keep my answers concise and can draw out a point a little more than is necessary.
Moving on to the job interview itself, what are some of the most difficult interview questions you remember the hiring manager asking?
The worst interview experience I ever had was when an interviewer asked me to do part of the interview entirely in Spanish. Which was in itself a lesson — Spanish was listed on my resume, but I had neglected to indicate the level, which was certainly not high enough to carry out an entire professional interview.
I think it can be hard to identify your flaws to an interviewer without throwing yourself under the bus as well.
Was that also for your current job? And if not, did you end up getting that job?
That was not for my current job. I did not end up getting the job, and knew I had no chance as soon as that happened.
Is there a type of interview question that you particularly struggle with?
I find it hard to talk about what I would do in the position were I hired. I am very hands-on, so it can be hard for me to answer those questions without feeling like I am simply saying what I think they want to hear.
What about a type of interview question that you are especially good at answering?
I think that I have gotten very good at answering questions about my weaknesses in a way that actually portrays a strength.
Can you give an example of how you would answer a “greatest weakness” question?
I was asked that question when I interviewed for my last job, and I said that I feel my greatest weakness is that I tend to take on too many projects at once and spread myself too thin — so while I always meet deadlines and the quality of work is high, I often feel rushed. So, it is identifying a weakness while also pinpointing a strength, the ability to multitask.
If you could give advice to recent graduates on how to succeed in a job interview, what would it be?
Relax. I think in this economic climate there are even more reasons for people to start to panic before or during an interview, and as soon as that happens you’ve most likely lost it. It’s easier said than done, but just trying to pretend you’re having a conversation with someone you know and getting out of that panicked mindset can make a huge difference.