Interviewing Tip: Be Specific!

The new trend in interviewing is behavioral interviewing. What behavioral interviewing is a result of is the idea that what a candidate (you) has done in the past, they will do in the future. Basically, if you never been one to do the dishes in the past, they think that you will never do the dishes in the future. You'll know that you are being subjected to a behavioral interview because all of the questions will start with "Tell me about a time when you..." OR "Give me an example of when you..."

Prior to this change in interviewing styles, questions sounded more like, "What is your experience in... " and "How would you deal with this situation:...?" But recruiters and interviewers figured out that you can always think of the right thing to say, but that doesn't always mean that you will actually do that. So, they ask you about what you have really done to determine if your past habits and practices and skills will indicate that you will succeed in the future.

There's a trick to answering these questions: tell stories! It's actually pretty easy. All you have to do is tell the truth and give examples of what you did in the past. No one knows the answers to these questions better than you. Of course, there is a certain degree of finesse that's involved and ways to emphasize certain attributes to make sure that you come off better than your competition, but you shouldn't sweat over behavioral interviewing. I think that it’s better than having to be highly theoretical in an interview. You get to just be yourself.

So, how to answer these behavioral interviewing questions? There’s a formula that's nationally known... I've worked at four different career services offices and this approach, known as the STAR approach, is consistently recommended by all of them. STAR is broken out like this:

S - Situation
T - Task
A - Action
R - Result

When you are telling your story, which should be 2 to 4 minutes long, you want to be sure to touch upon all four of these areas. Sometimes the T and A overlap, but to differentiate, the task is what you needed to do to accomplish your goal and action is what you actually did. Tip: What sounds great to an employer is when your action actually exceeds your task and your results are even better than expected!

We always receive feedback from employers that students are not specific enough in their interviewing answers. They want to hear about what you did, not your theory on customer service or usability. They want tangible examples of when you applied what you've been learning. They already know the theories of these things -- that's why they are interviewing you.

If you have questions, would like examples of behavioral questions, or would like to practice your interviewing, contact me or Joanna and we'll be more than happy to help.

Resources on the web:
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions:

Posted by kkowatch on October 30, 2007 at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

Check This Out: Blog by the Head Google Recruiter

I came across this blog today -- -- which is written by the head of staffing for Online Sales and Operations at Google. I know that this is of interest to a large amount of SI students and I wanted to share it with you as soon as possible. (You can add this blog to your RSS feed or get emails updates sent directly to you.)

The most recent blog was about the chasm created between people inside companies and people outside of companies because of technology. The blog author, Jason Warner, makes some excellent points about the difference in the way we apply for jobs now that we have the internet compared to before the internet -- and the level of energy involved. If you are interested in working at Google, definitely check this blog out and make sure to follow the advice given! Following up on my last blog, you may want to add some comments to the blog posts to get noticed.

From Jason's Blog, I also connected to another career-search related blog, that has some interesting take-aways: The Brazen Careerist. Penelope Trunk has some great advice on balancing work, life, and fullfillment.

Posted by kkowatch on June 13, 2007 at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

Portfolios: tackle your fears head on

Howdy, fearless readers!

Just as I promised in my last blog entry, this time we will examine the exciting world of... (drum roll please...) portfolios!
Ok, first things first - what in the world is a portfolio, exactly? Well, basically a portfolio is anything you want it to be. Hehehe... yeah, like THAT answer helped you any! No, seriously, a porfolio really is whatever you want it to be. It can be just another tool in your arsenal of internship and job hunting strategies to showcase the work you have done and what you are capable of doing. Porfolios also serve the purpose of showcasing your work in greater depth where your resume falls short. For example, if you have a project that is so cool but plain text on a single piece of paper (i.e. your resume) just doesn't support the explanation that is needed - well, in this case, showcasing your work in a portfolio can be the perfect way to highlight your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Portfolios can be in a format of your choosing - just as resumes are documents based on personal preference in formatting, choice of experiences to highlight, etc.; so, too, are portfolios. Your portfolio could be something as simple as a binder (presented and organized very professionally, mind you) containing a paper record of the reports or other documents that are important to highlight to a prospective internship site or employer. However, in this day and age of electronic record keeping, I think that finding a good online presentation format could be a much better option. I think this for a couple of reasons: 1) Web-based is easier to access (i.e. you can put the URL on your resume) and has the potential (if you design it well) to look really sharp; and 2) any Web-based format will show that you have skills in building Internet resources which is a double-bonus feature for showcasing your skills (especially for the LIS and ARM folks where that is a bonus skill but always required).

For example, your portfolio could have different sections of the following example types:

-Resume (or Resumes, depending on if you have multiple versions or maybe you also have a full C.V.)

-Important research papers and/or projects (depending on the nature of these you could have separate sections)

-Internship and/or other practical experiences (highlight projects here)

-Other skills you have (example--I do graphic design PR work for multiple places so I would include the top 3 advertising campaigns that I have done)

-Other projects (such as websites you have helped to build, mabye this is even a class project)

First thing is to design your portfolio. What do you want to highlight and how do you want to make it stand out? How will you organize your information? Do it first with paper and pen and then find yourself a good media option. Well, how do you know what to use? That's a good question because there are lots of options. If you are up to the task, you could actually build your own simple website which could also be explained as another skill (obviously). There are also pre-made template helpers such as SiteMaker which is hosted by the UM network. Also don't discount the value of using software applications to help you along, such as Dreamweaver, especially if you aren't an html expert--it's ok to use software. :o)

Want to learn more about making portfolios? Stay tuned to your email for announcements regarding this exciting topic--sessions will be organized soon to help you demystify this scary little realm. If you want to talk about your options or if you want to get your resume up and ready, remember to stop by 402 WH. David, Tonya, and I are all happy to help you get started!
Until next time, grasshoppers...
-mary :o)

Posted by maryaw on October 18, 2006 at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)