You Are What You’ve Experienced

By: Michael

One of the biggest hurdles that a lot of students seem to face when beginning their career planning is determining how to incorporate their experience into their goals and figuring out what you should put on your resume. I’ve spent time writing a couple posts for you readers out there about tips and tricks to spice up your resumes, but today I’m going to talk about incorporating what you’ve learned through work and school into what some would call the most daunting part of searching for a new job; the interview. The interview is your first step to have an interpersonal conversation with a representative for the company or organization you want to work for. Employers almost always ask you to draw on your experiences when conducting an interview and it helps to be prepared. It doesn’t have to be a hard process, but I often see students draw a blank when asked questions like “describe a time where you accomplished a goal” or “tell me of a time where you had to handle a stressful situation.” In order to prepare, you may need to spend some time reflecting on situations you’ve been in in your life and moments that stood out to you, no matter how trivial they may seem.

Interview quote

In my experience with interviews, when a question of experience comes up, I have drawn on all sorts of different moments in my life, ranging from studying abroad, interning, volunteering, and achieving personal accomplishments in school. By including these experiences in my resume, employers have a tendency to pick topics that intrigue them the most, and you should be ready to answer in detail anything that you have included. When I went through the interview process for McGladrey, I had a phase one interview followed by a series of three interviews with different partners and managers of the company. Each one asked me about different parts of my resume. It is a common rule of thumb in human resources that typically 65% of the time a potential employee is considered for a job, it’s because of their people skills or how well they conducted themselves during the interview.

I was asked about my experiences in Washington D.C., what my experiences were studying abroad in England, who I knew or how much I liked work at my previous job, what I wanted to pursue with my pre-law degree, etc. Having these experiences fresh in my mind helped to produce natural conversation when I was being interviewed and reduced the pressure of feeling ‘put on the spot.’ Another thing that really helped me was actually listening and paying attention to the conversation, I even wrote notes about what I had talked about during my interviews and what the employers were talking about. After my interviews, I asked for business cards and wrote everyone I had met that day a thank you letter, mentioning topics we had discussed and expressing my gratitude that they took the time to interview me. I even sent a letter to the administration assistant, even though she hadn’t interviewed me. Making a good first impression is so vital to getting your foot in the door and you don’t have to feel like your experiences might not be good enough. What you should really keep in mind is whether those experiences were important to you. By focusing on what’s important, you will have a better understanding of why you chose the field you’re in or why you want to work for a particular employer. Knowing yourself enough to define what your goals are and how you’ve shaped them over the years is very impressive to employers because it shows initiative and that you really care about what you’re doing.

A lot of you are coming to the end of your college career at this point and now more than ever is the perfect time to set aside some self-reflection time as you begin your venture out into the world. Think about everything you’ve accomplished, how you spent your time through college, and events that stand out in your work life and eventually you will be able to have a whole list of things you may end up talking about when the interview time comes.

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