Interviews: Not Just Dress Up

There’s nothing fun about job interviews. The pressure’s on. Butterflies beat their wings in your stomach. You hair is probably out of place, despite your best efforts. Your shoes are just a little uncomfortable, and your pants are freshly-washed and therefore a little tighter than you want them to be.

But you also want a job, so suffer you must. Or do you?

Over the course of the past year, I’ve really learned how a little practice makes it a whole lot less painless. We all know the old adage, “the best time to look for a job is when you don’t need one.” The same goes for interviews. The best time to interview is when you aren’t really looking for a job.

Something I value about my time at Newhouse is the opportunity to meet so many industry professionals, many of whom give students the chance to take part in “mock interviews.” Even if they aren’t hiring for a profession, it goes beyond a good networking opportunity — this is a chance to have a candid conversation with someone whose feedback can be invaluable to you moving forward.

So far this year, I’ve interviewed with employees at several big name companies, such as Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Carmichael Lynch and Elizabeth Arden. I’ve done other interviews for the Newhouse 44 mentorship program, and a number of on-campus activities and organizations. While the CDC has great tips on how to present yourself and prepare for an interview, there’s nothing better (in my humble opinion), than taking advantage of any chances to get some real practice. The best part is, you can practice anywhere. Talking with professionals is ideal, and asking them meaningful questions and making those networking connections is invaluable, but conversations can happen anywhere.

Challenge yourself to end awkward silences anywhere you can. Go on dates. Chat in the elevator. Approach a speaker after their talk. Make yourself memorable and comfortable in your own skin. You’ll never regret making the effort to do that.

After a while, interviews feel less like a dress rehearsal and more like a conversation. You begin to realize that, while interviewers are hoping to get a sense of your skills, they are also hoping to make a connection with someone who seems human. Someone they’d enjoy working with. Put your skills and experience on a piece of paper and anyone can read them, but to come across as relaxed, collected, professional and warm —that’s what will make you stand out against anyone who’s just playing dress up.

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