Job Interview Skills and Tips

My first job was at Brookshire’s Grocery Company. I was a bagger and stocker for about a year and a half while I was in high school. I had to turn in two different applications and call multiple times about an interview because my application(s) hadn’t been reviewed. I did eventually get an interview, and after I sat down in the manager’s office, I had a revelation:

This is an interview.

It seems silly because duh, that’s sort of the reason why I kept filling out applications and calling the office. But, this revelation came to me because I had done absolutely nothing in preparation for the actual interview. I had done all this work to secure an interview, but I didn’t even consider the process I would have to undergo. 

My first piece of advice: don’t do that.

Clearly, I am no interview expert. However, I have had a handful of interviews in my brief experience in the workforce, and I want to share some tips that will, hopefully, provide some insight for any eager employees-to-be. 

Ponder Potential Questions Beforehand

An interview is not just a normal conversation a manager has with potential employees. Employers have very specific qualities they look for when scouting possible workers, and this includes asking the interviewee particular questions that reveal whether or not he/she has the qualities desired. It’s possible for an interviewee to have a perfectly pleasant conversation with the interviewer and not be hired because the hiring process is not rooted in whether the interviewer gets along with the interviewee. Workers are hired because they exhibit certain traits that would be useful for the expansion of the company. As an interviewee, it’s important to be prepared for such questions, so you can make it clear to the interviewer that the job you are applying for is one you care about deeply. Of course, it is unnecessary and disingenuous to prepare a script or count on certain questions to be asked, but think about what types of questions are asked in interview settings. Get an idea of how you would answer these questions so you don’t seem thrown off or unprepared when you’re in the interview (as I probably was).

Maintain Eye Contact

Is it cliché? Sure. Is it uncomfortable? Yeah, a little bit. Is it important? Definitely. Eye contact is a nonverbal way of communicating to the interviewer that you are engaged in the conversation, and you care about what is being said. This is something I personally struggle with because I have a hard time focusing on what I’m saying while simultaneously fixing my gaze on one specific thing. Plus, it can be really awkward locking eyes with someone for long periods of time, especially if you don’t know them very well. However, inconsistent eye contact can communicate to the interviewer that you are unfocused or simply not interested in what’s being said. This can lead a company to believe that you have no real interest in them. Maintaining eye contact during an interview is one of those minuscule details that can drastically increase your hireability.

Give Specific Answers

The two questions asked in interviews that people are most familiar with are probably, “What is your greatest strength?” and “What is your biggest weakness?” As tempting as it is to say your greatest strength is that you’re a hard worker and your biggest weakness is being a perfectionist, go further than that! Everyone has already said that; make your answers stick out by giving specifics and providing brief examples. In what ways are you a hard worker? How are you a perfectionist? It’s not guaranteed that the interviewer will ask you to expand on your answers; he/she may just take your answers as they are, whether they are simple or convoluted. It’s on you to be intentional in providing specific, unique answers that reveal your personality. 

Regulate Your Confidence

We’ve probably all been told that keeping a high level of confidence is important when presenting yourself to new people, especially in an interview. I definitely agree with that sentiment, but I have also heard stories of many uncomfortable interviews where the interviewee is booming with so much confidence that it repulses the interviewer. Keeping a high level of confidence is great, but overconfidence can severely damage one’s hireability. Overconfidence can communicate one of two things to the interviewer: you are overcompensating as a result of a lack of confidence, or you just care a lot about yourself. Neither of those messages are particularly great first impressions, so maintain your confidence at a reasonably high level. 

Be Authentic

Alright, I understand how overused the sentiment “Be yourself!” is in our very self-focused society, and it has far surpassed the meaning of cliché. However, people value authenticity for a reason, especially in the workforce. When employers look for people to hire, they are not looking for a repackaged version of the same worker they have employed for years and years. They are looking for individuals with unique perspectives and distinctive personalities. They want to see who you are, not who you can pretend to be. You can give all the right answers in the interview and go through the motions, but after a while, you will be exhausted trying to preserve the façade you previously put up. People begin to see through that. Don’t waste your time trying to be the interviewee who you think employers will hire. It’s far better to get turned down while being authentic than it is to get hired while being disingenuous. Be who you are, and eventually, you will find a good fit with a great company.

Written by Ryan

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Another Letter to the Unsure Writer

Dear Unsure Writer,

Whether you’re experiencing hesitations because you feel inadequate in your skills, or you just don’t know where to start and how to proceed, you’ve come to the write (haha, pun) place. We all have times in our lives when we feel unsure of ourselves for one reason or another. However, you can’t let that stop you. Finding ways to overcome your inhibitions, while also building your skill set, is the key to gaining self-confidence.

First of all, the best way to escape the rut of insecurity is to dive in head first. When it comes to writing, sometimes you have to start by pouring words out onto the page. I often find that my best work comes when I force myself to stop thinking and just feel it instead. Then, I will go back and worry about the editing when I finish. Using this method really helps when the insecurity has become paralyzing and even getting started seems like an insurmountable task.

Now, on to the matter of developing your skills as a writer. If you feel uncertain because you think you aren’t a good writer or don’t have enough experience, then I have some reassuring news for you; you have more practice than you think, and you can always gain more. Even if you have never written a paper in your life, you still use writing skills often. Everything from emails to journaling counts as writing. All you have to do is learn how to apply what you already know to more formal types of writing. One of the best ways to do that is to read. Seek out those who have come before you and study their writing; find out what they did well and even what they didn’t. Read across every genre, style, and subject matter. Then, you can take the information you gather and apply it to your own work and put your personal spin on it. It may take a while to gain confidence and find your voice, but the more reading and writing you do, the faster you will improve.

Another way to build your confidence and skill is to find someone to help review your work and offer suggestions. If you are writing an academic paper, I would suggest visiting the University Writing Center. Having someone who is familiar with the requirements of formal writing explain things to you will be a big help in gaining confidence. If you are looking to write more creatively, try finding other writers who would be willing to form a writer’s group with you, anything from online forums to a friend or two who also love to write would suffice. Sharing ideas and suggestions and growing with other writers is an invaluable experience.

So, when you find yourself stuck and overwhelmed by uncertainty, grab your computer, or a pen and paper, and just write. Let all of your thoughts flow out onto the page; they can be organized later. Don’t be afraid to seek help with the revision process. Then, begin working on your skills. Talk to fellow students or writers. Read anything and everything. Before you know it, and probably without even realizing it, you will be a better writer.

Written by Taylor

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One in a Million

The sounds of lively conversation are evident from the front door. When I enter, the sweet scent of cake fills my nose, and I inhale blissfully. I step into the kitchen to find my whole family—all nine of them, plus my grandparents. My brother and baby sister are chasing the colorful balloons bouncing around on the floor, and two of my other sisters are balanced precariously on chairs, hanging crepe paper streamers on the walls. My dad is setting food on the kitchen counter; the party pack from Raising Cane’s barely feeds us all, but I can’t wait to taste the tangy dipping sauce on my fries. My mom is telling my sister to smile for the camera, and Sis, standing in front of the huge, decorated sheet cake on the counter, obeys with an excited smile.

This is her day. She chose what we would eat for dinner, she selected the colors of the balloons and streamers, and she even got first dibs on the Wii earlier that day, a right wrested from my nine-year-old brother. She got to go out with Mom, just the two of them, and pick the perfect decorations, ice cream, and cake mix. As the whole family eventually gathers to sing “Happy Birthday” to her over her candlelit cake, she knows she is special and loved.

The next day, life goes back to normal. The balloons and streamers still hang over the kitchen table, but there is an argument over what we should eat for lunch. My brother makes it to the Wii first and plays for over an hour. Mom has to take the baby and maybe one or two other kids with her to the grocery store. There is no longer any special individual treatment; each of us is once again focused on the family as a whole.

Sometimes, even for those who don’t share a house with nine other people, we feel like the everyday scenario is all there is to life. We just… exist; we blend in with the masses and simply fulfill our stations in life without splendor. We feel as though we are just another cog in the clock of life—average and nothing special.

“Everyone’s special, Dash,” Mrs. Parr tells her discouraged son in The Incredibles, only to hear him mutter, “Which is just a way of saying no one is.”

Like Dash, each of us has something to offer the world—something special that no one else has. Think about that for a second. It may not be super speed, but every single person in the world has something completely unique about him or herself that separates him or her from everyone else. Every single one!

My friends and I recently decided to begin a video project we had wanted to do for a while. When it came time to decide how we were going to accomplish our goal, we quickly realized that all four of us had completely different ideas for how the project should look. It was annoying and frustrating to work through, but also amazing, for in that moment, four unique ideas—four approaches to the same problem—were simultaneously taking shape.

Yet while we often crave uniqueness, we also need cooperation. Our individual offerings must be combined to reach our goals. In the video example, each of us had ideas that would not work for one reason or another, but when one of us failed, another one stepped up with a better idea. That’s how ideas work. In fact, that’s how the Writing Center works. We, as consultants, have different strengths than our clients do, but when we work together and combine those strengths for a paper, the end result is a stronger paper. Even the Bible illustrates this principle in the book of Romans: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5 NIV). Although the Church has one mission, each individual has a unique contribution to that effort.

So, if you’re feeling like an average Joe as you read this, and if you take nothing else away from this post, know this: you are loved, you are special, you are needed, and no one else can do what you do as you do it. Isn’t that awesome?

Written by Catherine

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Confidence to Write Freely

I’m kind of scatterbrained. This is my third attempt at writing this blog, and honestly, I’ve written over a few thousand words by now to no avail. I just don’t think that what I’ve written is good enough. I keep looking at the points I’ve made and wonder whether they’re valid or relatable. I’ve written about how to be assertive, how to find peace in every moment, even about how to find hope when life is a pain. What I’m experiencing is a form of writer’s block. Funny thing is, I’m sure many people have already written about writer’s block, so what other points could I make about it? How can I find something new to say about it, despite knowing my thoughts are hardly original?

First, that line of thought is entirely wrong when approaching writing. Everybody is unique in their own way. So why couldn’t my point of view of writer’s block help somebody else? It’s not for me to say whether my thoughts will hit the exact pressure point needed. Nobody else will repeat my same words in the same place at the same time, so I’ve already found originality here and now. Sure, when it comes to stories, one has to avoid copying other works. But given individual perspectives and styles, as long as one isn’t lazy, almost anything can be original.

Second, I’ve subjected myself to an opinion that I have to achieve a certain quality of writing. However, I’m the only one who’s read what I just wrote. I don’t know what other people would think about it. So how can I accurately appraise the quality of my work? Whether we judge ourselves too harshly, too highly, or not at all, there are several perspectives that have to be considered. Yet I never even tried to get feedback about my work. How am I to say my writing isn’t good enough, when my opinion of this will be different from someone else’s? This is why writer’s groups are wonderful things. I can’t count the times (well, I can, but I’m crazy) I’ve brought an excerpt of writing to them, insisting it’s the worst piece of garbage I’ve ever seen. I completely expected my group to tear it apart, and I would understand. Even so, they always assured me otherwise; sure, I made mistakes, but they weren’t as bad or as all-encompassing as I thought. As it turns out, many writing mistakes are easily solved with a little know-how. I was surprised to find that even if I didn’t know how to fix things, I could just ask, and I’d get help with no judgment attached. Weird, right?

My starting approach and my tendency to over-criticize are just two of many big things that hold me back from writing (also planning, at which I’m horrible). They also stop me from other creative activities such as making art or music.  However, the best weapon I’ve found is that even though I might not be happy with my abilities now, I won’t get any better if I don’t try. I can’t get input on the perceived quality of my works if I don’t get it critiqued by others. The saying, “practice makes perfect” might be aiming a little too high, but practice at least provides progress.

So if you’re reading this right now, trying to get inspiration to write, I say to you: Go! Be free! Write whatever comes to mind and filter it all later! And then filter it again, and again, because writing is a process that is always in motion. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first draft or your fifteenth, writing can always be developed. There’s another adage that says, “a penny for your thoughts.” If, indeed, thoughts are that cheap, why cling on to them like a miser, when you could cast them into the furnace to develop and refine them into a great big, copper pinnacle of creative completion? Or why not use them as currency and include yourself in the great economy of imagination?

Go! Write! Say what only you at this time and place can say!

 Written by Isaac

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