I am someone who loves to talk, but the moment someone asks me “tell me about yourself” in an interview, suddenly I’m at a loss for words. Nowadays, there are different types of interviews, there are traditional in-person interviews, online interviews through Zoom or other online platforms and even one-way interviews. Although I am not an expert at interviews, I would like to share some practical interview strategies that I use, in hopes that it may also help you excel in your interviews.
The three main categories of information that I prepare are information about myself and my application, background knowledge about the company, employer or school that I am applying to and some basic knowledge of ethics. Also most importantly, while humility is indeed a great virtue, it might not be your best friend during interviews. You are talented and you have accomplished a lot, don’t be afraid to show off your talents and your unique experiences!
Back to the dreaded question, “tell me about yourself.” This question is essentially all that you need to prepare. Let me explain what I mean. Firstly, try to answer the question itself, as an introduction about yourself. I recommend including your academic background, any recent job or volunteer experience that you have, some hobbies and maybe throw in a fun fact. Next, think of the “tell me about yourself” aspect in terms of how you would act in different situations or ethical dilemmas. Prepare a few specific examples of times when you handled conflict with co-workers, how you respond to criticism and think about what you would do if you found out your friend cheated on their exam. When answering these questions, keep in mind that you should refrain from being judgmental and consider multiple points of views in your response. Another common question is “what are you weaknesses” in this case I would encourage you to be honest. For example, some of my own answers to this question was that I love to talk and sometimes I end up talking a little to fast and that I tend to overthink certain decisions. The last aspect of this question would be why you would be a good fit for the position you are interviewing for. Once you’ve prepared these answers, reach out to a friend to do some mock interviews for practice.
If you are preparing for a Zoom or another type of online interview, I would suggest doing a practice online interview and recording yourself. For instance, I found that I have the tendency to look up when speaking and on-camera this gives the impression that I am distracted or looking away. If your actual interview is being recorded to show the hiring team or admissions committee, I would encourage you to look at the camera itself. This way, when someone is rewatching this video, it appears as though you are looking at them which is essentially the online equivalent of making eye contact.
On the day of the interview, dress professionally and be confident. While most people recommend wearing more traditional colours like black and dark blue, if you think you look best in another colour, don’t be afraid to wear a pop of colour. Fun fact, I once interviewed at a school dressed in a light blue pant suit and I got a ton of compliments from other women interviewing (and I also got in!). As long as you’re not going for a bright neon outfit, wearing alternative colours is always a great idea! If you’re going for an in-person interview where you might get a tour of the place, whether that be an office or a school, I would suggest wearing comfortable shoes. (Your feet will thank you later haha).
Okay, you tackled the interview, now what? The period between your interview and when you hear back can be immensely stressful, especially if you are waiting to hear from your dream job or dream school. Something that I did was make a separate email for job or professional school applications and also I did not add that email to my cell phone. Therefore, I will not be startled by an email regarding the verdict of my applications during class or when I am taking a break to relax. Instead, I can check my email when I am prepared to receive an acceptance or in more unfortunate cases, a rejection.