Interview prep should last four years, not four days

January 24th, 2013

No matter what your major is, finding that first job out of college is difficult. Add the stresses of taking classes, having an internship during the semester, or any other student activities to the job search and interview preparation, and all of a sudden you’ve been up all night with work. Throughout the interviews I had in the last couple of years for internships and later full-time positions, I found my preparation and interview skills improving each time.

In hindsight, I wish I had contemplated what would make my responses to interview questions and cover letters as perfect as possible. This perfection I sought was not necessarily based on proofreading and spelling errors, but surrounding the four-year interview preparation that I now see more clearly.

Most people do not realize until later in their college career how important it is to gain actual experience within a field in which you are training to be a professional by the time you graduate. When you are applying for entry-level positions, most people are looked at as being extremely similar. Employers get stacks of resumes with details surrounding internship experience, similar grade point averages and transcripts with the same types of classes.

As I went through more interviews and practice sessions to prepare for the interviews, I learned that I needed to make myself stand out. Believe it or not, with enough thought you can find something that makes you stand out in an interview.

Everyone has a unique story and differing experiences that they can use to tell their story and find that experience they need to start their career in the field they have spent so much time, effort and money to enter.

Obtaining leadership roles at JCU is another way to gain valuable experience that will translate into any position after college, whether it is in business or elsewhere. At a school such as JCU, there are plenty of opportunities to break into an organization, team or club.

Even freshmen and sophomores should try and think about how they will prepare that resume that will be sent around in just a couple short years. Drawing from your experiences over a couple years’ worth of internships, jobs, classes and leadership roles is how one can truly be set apart from the pack.

Looking at commonly asked interview questions and answers only gets an applicant so far; there is more that interviewers look for than what some self-help website recommends for your interview responses. Make the responses your own and directed specifically toward how you feel you can help their organization or company and show that you’ve done your homework.

JCU and the Center for Career Services prepare students quite well. Take advantage of the resume and interview help, along with the jobs and internships that are posted online by the school. But, this job search process should begin as soon as possible by any student who wants to find that dream job out of school.

Make yourself stand out. Find experience that makes you as strong a candidate as possible, and don’t wait until your senior year to get serious about it. The job market is challenging enough; help yourself by getting a head start.