THE FOWLER COORDINATOR BLOG: Personable Professionalism – The 5 Interviews “Knows”
By: Alexandra Black- Junior: Marketing/International Business
“So, tell me a little about yourself.”
I am assuming one way or another each and every one of you had a psychological reaction to reading that well-known interview question. However, understanding what that question is really asking goes much further past your typical resume and cover letter information or elevator pitch. The information and advice the Fowler Center gives is very relevant and should still be applied when networking or going through an interview process. However, you will constantly hear how you should “just be yourself” or “just be professional” or “just stand out.” So how do you get to the meat of what the interviewer wants to know yet still showing your personality? Here are the 5 Interview Knows that I have learned from professional advice to feedback to personal experiences.
- Know your story.
When preparing for my most recent interviews, two very intelligent women gave me two threads of advice that go together harmoniously with this topic:
Figure out how you got to where you are and who you are. Relevant things and events happened along the way that brought to this spot; find them.
Do not be scared of the recruiter. They do not know anything that you don’t, since no one knows you better than yourself.
These tidbits made me realize that your personal brand is more than the points you were told you need to mention for the interviewer to get the “whole picture.” In reality, the holistic view comes from learning who you are through how you became who you are. At the end of the day, you are selling your brand of being the right candidate for this position. But you are more than a piece of copy-write; you have a personal journey that only you know entirely and that you formed mostly on your own. Our natural tendency in conversation is storytelling, so use that to your advantage.
Questions to think about when finding your story are:
What position am I going for? Why do I want this position? What qualifications do I have for this positions? Where did I get these qualifications from? What in my life made me realize that I want to do this? Where do I want to go from here? How will this position help me reach my end goal?
E.g. I grew up in New York City surrounded by big personalities and engulfed in a fast-paced environment. After doing the finances and budgeting for a local flower shop after high school, I developed analytical, organizational, and communication skills through my daily tasks. Being surrounded by multi-million dollar apartments and walking by the famous Upper West Side brownstones every day on the way to work inspired me to consider real estate development. I started to pursue this passion through joining REFA at GW and attending various workshops and panels focused on city development. My goal for after graduation is to work with a startup, city based real estate developer focused in affordable housing for lower income families. I am passionate about the logistical and social side of real estate and am excited to learn more about the industry through a position like this.
- Know your quirks and work with them.
In order to have a winning brand, you need to have unique qualities that set you apart from the competition. People are defined by their characteristics, specifically their quirks. These interviewers are looking for a person to work with, not a robot. Showing that you are the type of person who is good at their job, but also fun to be around, is a major point in the hiring process. The interview is there for them to meet the person, not the resume.
I am an extroverted person who has a lot of weird things happen to her. My big personality is no secret to anyone I meet, including interviewers. I also have done theatre my whole life; so being loud, telling these weird stories as often as I can, and making large gestures is part of who I am. Although it can work to my advantage as being seen as confident, I also know that it can hurt me. When you’re given a 30-minute slot and tend to ramble or try to be too personal, it comes off badly. Being able to recognize my quirks and channel them to relevant, professional sidebar storytelling and avoid rambling has made a lot of my interviews more comfortable. It also has made my ability to express my SAR statements in a more natural way.
- Know what drives you.
Recruiters want to know what type of employee they are potentially hiring. No matter what stage you are at in life, how many jobs you’ve had, or how much money you’ve made, there will always be something new that drives you to the next place. A common question in interviews is often, “what inspires/drives you?” When I first heard that question, I froze. What profound aspect of life could a 17-year-old college freshman be driven by? Answer: less profound than you probably think; and that is how it should be. You don’t need to be driven to end world hunger or house every homeless person, but you do need to know what values spark your decisions.
We each have our top 5 life values and work values. Work values are the characteristics within a company’s culture that align with various human characteristics of employees; these can vary from anything from money to collectiveness to social responsibility. It is imperative to know what values you ae looking for from a company before your interview. This does not mean that they have to score 5/5 and you are automatically matched for life, but it gives you a good idea of what the company culture is like and how you will do in it. These values also translate into a talking point for questions such as “What makes you a good fit?” or “Why our company?”
- Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.
This seemingly redundant tidbit is relevant throughout the entire interview. Even if you prepped every single question, fit every qualification, and did all of your research before the interview, if you do not understand what you do not know, you can lose the job. We covered you narrowing down and knowing your story, but there are scenarios you have never been in or plans you have never thought of that come into question. Being able to pinpoint the aspects you know about yourself, your future, and the opportunities with this company is very valuable; but diving in and questioning those situations that you do not know is what puts you one step ahead.
This is also applicable to research on the company. We tell you in our presentations to have questions prepared for the time after the interview, but the types of questions you have say a lot about who you are as a candidate. Instead of vague, typical questions like “What is the company culture like?” try something more relevant to the interviewer. E.g. “What has been the most rewarding thing you have learned from your team?” On the other side, trying to show off that you did your research and know their mission statement or stock market index is not helpful either. So, instead of “How do you feel about the recent plunge of your company’s stock prices?” (which can also be seen as inappropriate) go with something that affects him or her on a professional and person level. E.g. “I saw that the company recently launched a campaign on closing the wage gap. Have there been any initiatives or changes within your team/office?”
- Know who you want to become.
At the end of the day, the position does not define the person, the person defines the position. Companies want to foster individuals to be the best employee and person he or she can be. Always keep an end goal in your path past whichever job you are applying for; one job is not the say all end all. However, after going through the previous 4 “knows,” the person you are aspiring to become along the way should present itself pretty clearly.