Connecting Experiences for the Interview

By: Amanda

A common concern I hear from students when they visit the career office is that they do not have enough experience for the role they want to apply for. This is a valid concern. Maybe you are a freshman who has not yet had the opportunity to join student groups or gain work experience. In this case, you should make a plan to assess what skills you want to develop and from there get involved. Most of the time, inexperience is not the issue – the inability to frame experience in the context of an application and interview is. In this post, I will break down simple action steps to showcase your best self to potential employers in an interview setting. 

Before you go to an interview it is important to do a thorough run-through of the experiences and skills you have. Here is a break down of the steps you can take to analyze these skills.

  • List out past experiences. Make a list of all of the past job, volunteer, and student organization experiences you have had and what you have done in those roles. Include all the tasks and skills learned.
  • Even think about entry-level roles. There are many transferable skills (communication, leadership, teamwork, etc.) that can be applied to the position you’re applying for. 
  • Connect experiences to the desired role. Once you have a list compiled, print out the job posting for the role that you are interviewing for. Go through and connect your experiences and skills to specific lines on the job description. 
  • Practice speaking out loud. Find a space where you are alone. Take time to actually practice how you will speak about your experiences. Practice is the key to sounding confident in your interview!
  • Go over common interview questions. Many interview questions start with the phrase, “tell me about a time when…”. Find a few questions like this online and be able to answer them while pulling in your experiences and qualifications. 
Image: wood desk top with green plant, blue typewriter, and brown notebook.
Text: connecting experiences for the interview

During the interview, put everything you have practiced to good use. If you put in time and effort to synthesize your experiences, you’ll be better prepared to handle whatever questions come your way. 

  • Be familiar with your resume. I have walked into numerous interviews where they have marked my resume up with tons of questions beforehand. Be able to speak about every point on your resume. In addition, be able to add more detail and tell the stories behind the points on your resume. You want to paint a picture in the interviewer’s head of what you were actually doing. 
  • Feel confident and know you are qualified. Given you prepared as we discussed in the previous section, you should feel confident about the experience you bring to the table. Sit tall and confident. Speak in a confident manner. Smile while you speak. These simple actions can go a long way. Amy Cuddy gave a great TED Talk about the importance of body language and we highly recommend it.
  • Talk about a variety of experiences. Be aware of the tendency to continue to elaborate on the same experience. Try to show diversity with the experiences you talk about, rather than highlighting the same couple experiences the entire time. This can showcase how you use different skills in a variety of environments.
  • Experiences not on resume. Resumes are often limited to one page. There might be class projects, volunteer work, or even job experiences that are not featured. It is okay to pull these into an interview. This gives the interviewer a full picture of your experience beyond your resume. 

After the interview, it is important to send a follow-up email or note. Here is are a few tips for tying in your skills.

  • Highlight something you did not get a chance to discuss. If you leave the interview and realize you did not mention something in your interview that would be important for their decision, add one or two lines in your thank you. 
  • The “3 things” rule. One of my personal strategies is to have one sentence where I say something along the lines of, “If you remember anything about me, I hope you can remember these three points: (insert points here).” It is human psychology that people are more likely to remember things in groups of threes, so this really does the trick. 
  • Keep it short and concise. All and all, you want to keep your thank you short. Say enough to get your point across, but do not let yourself ramble.

Before, during and after and interview are all critical times to tie in previous experiences. By thoroughly preparing, and then being able to execute and follow up, you can be sure to do well in your next application process.

Of Possible Interest:
• You can schedule a mock interview with a career counselor in SCC 22.
Interviewing – all our blog posts on the topic
Interview Like a Pro – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources
Learning Outside the Classroom posts

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Annie Spratt

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