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The Interview: What to Say and What to Leave Out

Congratulations! You’ve been offered an interview. Whether it’s for a job in your field after graduation or an internship for the summer before your junior year, it’s a considerable step in the right direction. Being offered the interview feels great until the anxiety sets in. While there’s no reason to feel nervous, it’s important to prepare as best you can. Research the company and if you can, the person who’ll be conducting the interview. Don’t forget to bring a copy of your resume and a pen and paper to take notes. You’ll be talking about yourself, though. Don’t forget that there are certain things that you should always say during an interview and other things that you should never say.

✔ Say: “What is the one thing that I can I do to make your job easier?”

Even if your interviewer isn’t the person who would be supervising you on the job, they’ll appreciate the sentiment. I was once told by an interviewer that very few college students ask that question and he wished it was one that he heard more often. Questions such as that are a great way to distinguish yourself. Chances are, the people ahead of and behind you in the interview line didn’t ask it and if that’s true, you’ll be one step ahead of them both just for asking a question that they overlooked. It also helps convey that you care about the company as a whole and want to see it succeed.

✖ Don’t Say: “I just want to get my foot in the door at a company like this.” 

This has to be one of the most common questions that interviewers hear from college students. I once heard a recruiter say that she hated hearing it. It’s not hard to see why. More than anything, the people running companies want people who genuinely want to work with them. It’s fine to want to dip your toe into the water of a certain industry and see if it’s right for you, but that’s not going to make you the ideal candidate for anyone. Would you hire someone who wasn’t sure if they were passionate about the industry in which you work?

✔ Say: “I don’t know too much about it, but I’d really like to learn.”

Something important to remember when it comes to internships and entry-level jobs is that companies are almost always willing to train the right candidate. Experience is always a plus, but having the right attitude can be just a big a part landing the position. As mentioned above, employers want people who want to work with that, who believe in what they do and are passionate about it and nothing demonstrates passion like a willingness to learn. I know quite a few college students in assorted fields who landed paid positions by convincing their interviewer that they were willing to learn whatever they had to in order to do the job. During its duration, they learned valuable new skills.

✖ Don’t Say: “My parents thought I should apply for this position.”

Nothing convinces prospective employers that you don’t care about their position like revealing that your parents pushed you to apply for it. Such a statement implies that you don’t actually want it and you’re only sitting there with them to please your parents. Even if that isn’t quite true, it will almost always come across that way. Think about how it must seem to the people taking their time to interview you to think that you aren’t serious about the position that they are offering. I once saw a girl in a group interview I was part of say exactly that. The two men interviewing us exchanged awkward glances on the spot upon hearing it. I suspected that she would not be offered the position. When I was offered it, my suspicions were confirmed.

✔ Say: “I want this job/internship for this reason.”

If there is one thing I cannot stress enough, it is the importance of being prepared for the interview and knowing about the position for which you are applying. If you are not able to explain why you want the job in a few sentences, you’re probably wasting your time interviewing for it. How could any employer hire someone without hearing what specifically makes them want the position at their company? If you know why you want the position you are applying for, answering such a question should be quick and painless.

✖ Don’t Say: “I haven’t updated my resume in a while, but I recently did this.”

Part of being a working professional is keeping an updated resume. To me, it seemed only natural to keep my resume as up to date as possible. I never saw how anyone could disagree, but I have known college students who sent their resumes off to companies without updating them to include their internship from the previous summer or semester. If you want to increase your chances of landing the position for which you applying, does it not make the most sense to make sure your interviewer is aware of every credential that you have? Sending employers an out-of-date resume seems like a great way to convince them that you are not taking any of the process seriously.

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