Trick or Treat! Take a break from gorging on candy to check out these tips from InternMatch.com on answering tricky interview questions with sweet answers.
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Some of the trickiest, most difficult questions can be turned into a “treat” – another way to market your skills and experience to a potential employer.
Trick: “Do you have any further questions?”
Treat: You might be tempted to say, “no!” Of course, you’re ready to get out of there! You’ve spent the last 20 minutes convincing your interviewer that you know the difference between SEO and SEM. You’ve watched their assistant interrupt them twice for a phone call and you’ve seen them check their Blackberry enough times to know that this interview is the last place they want to be. Your stomach is grumbling. Your parking meter will expire soon. However, don’t give up just yet!
This age-old question is the perfect opportunity for you to ask one or two more meaningful, insightful questions. Have you asked your interviewer about their experience with the company? How work is assigned? How your performance will be measured?
Remember:This question is often a last-chance opportunity for you to sell yourself to the company and to emphasize your enthusiasm about working there!
Trick: “What’s your biggest weakness?”
Treat: Your response to this question could be the difference between a cool summer, doing cool things, in a cool city or, a summer stocking shelves at your local grocery store. While you may be tempted to tell them about your addiction to reality shows and burritos, this is not that kind of confessional.
This question is code for “what’s something you’re not excellent at, but you’re working on?” Are you interviewing for an internship in web design? If so, tell them about the latest web design software that you’re trying to master.
Remember: Employers want to know that you’re a self-starter (yes, that word again!). Your response to this question is another opportunity to communicate your sincerity about a chosen profession.
Trick: “Why did you choose your major?”
Treat: This one might seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly a lot of students aren’t prepared for this question. For students with majors like Computer Science, Engineering, or Finance the response may seem more obvious. You enjoy coding, you want to help build software, work in consulting or become an investment banker. If you majored in liberal arts, the answer may not seem so apparent.
If presented with this question, it is the perfect time to match your academic skills to the skills required of the position. Are you doing research for a thesis? Did you spend a semester analyzing Keats and Plato? Tell the employer how you chose a major that would help you become effective at analyzing, researching, writing, and editing.
Remember:Excellent research and writing skills are an important part of any job – and so is your ability to communicate effectively.
Trick: “The Brain Teaser”
Treat:Let’s face it – employers are developing all types of tricks to weed out potential internship applicants. The “brain teaser” is not a new interviewing technique and if presented with one – don’t worry! Employers use this question to evaluate your problem-solving abilities, as well as how you approach difficult, complex situations.
There is often no right or wrong answer to this question. What you should do is take a deep breath, focus and quickly examine the question or situation. After carefully considering the prompted question or situation, choose the best method to approaching this scenario. For instance, if they ask “how many golf balls could fill a school bus?” You might not know the exact amount, but perhaps you can guess the length of a school bus and the size of a golf ball to determine the possible number that could fit inside the bus.
What you shouldn’t do is give up or say, “I have no idea how to do this” or “this is too difficult.”
Reminder:Brain-teaser questions can be frustrating. If an interviewer presents you with one of these questions, it’s usually to test how well you work under pressure and how you approach difficult problems.
To sum it up, make sure you’re able to turn these common “Tricks” into “Treats” and nail your dream internship!
Are you planning on interviewing for a job or a program? This workshop will help you discover proven strategies for increasing your interviewing skills. Learn some things you might not know about interviewing and how to make the best first impression.
Check out the first article in our new Alumni Guest Post series–a series of posts written by young alumni about life after Holy Cross! First up–Christine Giamattei ’10 on her transition from Holy Cross to the real world.
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When I graduated from Holy Cross in May 2010, I had a lot to look forward to.
A day before my friends and I left to celebrate the end of senior year on the Cape, I interviewed for an assistant job at a top advertising agency – what I thought was my dream job – and got the job on the spot.
What’s more, the job was in New York City, the one place I wanted to live and work after graduation. I had spent summers 2008 and 2009 interning there and, to my surprise, fell in love.
During second semester of senior year, I did everything I could to get back there. I perfected my resume, visited the Career Planning Office almost every day, e-mailed with Holy Cross alumni who worked in Marketing, Advertising, Communications, or Public Relations, wrote cover letter after cover letter, signed up for every social media site to market myself, stalked particular companies’ websites, blogs and Twitter accounts, read up on industry trends and even spent an entire family vacation preparing for a phone interview.
There was a time when I thought that nothing I had done was going to pan out and that I was the only one without a plan.
I was patient, waiting for something good to click for me.
When it did, I was ecstatic. Of course I was going to accept the offer to work at a company that could lead to great opportunities and to live in the city I loved. I knew I wouldn’t be making a lot of money, but I never thought twice about making it work financially.
I found an ideal 4-month sublet and moved down to New York City two weeks after graduation and started my job a day after.
At first, things went well. I was drawing up expense reports, maintaining my boss’s calendar, making photocopies, putting together binders – very much administrative work. It was humbling, and I didn’t mind it – I have always known I’d have to “pay my dues.” I worked with a wonderful group of people who were also recent college graduates, so the environment was fun, social and supportive. I worked hard and give it all I had.
However, I was not prepared for the bad relationship that would soon develop between my boss and me. As the administrative assistant, it was all too easy to get blamed for things that went wrong – and unfortunately, once my boss decided she didn’t like me, it was as simple as that and went downhill from there.
I never thought I’d be someone who didn’t get along with their boss, or anyone else for that matter. I love people and I’m a team player. If I stayed there, I knew my boss would make my life miserable or block me from further opportunities at the company or even fire me.
When I received an e-mail from my supervisor at my internship from the prior summer, asking if I would interview for an open position, I jumped at the chance. I had had a successful internship there and could imagine picking up right where I had left off.
I interviewed, got the offer and accepted right away. I had been earning overtime at my first job, so the salary was actually much less.
Again, I thought I’d be able to make it all work.
Right around the time I switched jobs in October 2010, I moved out of my 4-month sublet, signed a lease with one of my Holy Cross roommates and moved into a very tiny apartment on the Upper East Side. The rent was within our budget and the most bang for our buck, as far as safe areas of New York City go. The neighborhood was wonderful and I loved everything about living with a best friend and being a mile away from Central Park.
However, a few months later, I realized that I did not like my job and was not happy with my financial situation.
Very long story short from the past year: It was a good job, but it was not for me. I also never got the feeling that I had a good work-to-life balance. With more than an hour commute each way, I was always stressed out about rushing to and from work. I felt guilty that I wasn’t staying super late every night, even though I would get all of my work done and met my deadlines. I thrive on the “life” part of that balance too.
On top of being unsatisfied there, I was making very little money for the amount of work I was doing and saving none of it.
Along with rent payments each month, there were also payments to be made for my Metro card, laundry and groceries. I did a pretty good job of making ends meet and cutting out basic things like a gym membership and cable, but I was unhappy with that struggle.
This past summer, my roommate and I frequently discussed renewing our lease. For me, it was a tough decision – months and months of weighing the pros and cons. When it finally came time to decide if I would renew the lease, I realized that signing on for another year of these struggles was something I could not do.
It may have been an unconventional career move without another job lined up, but I decided to leave my job and move home. I am interviewing now, and have faith that the right opportunity will come along for me–I’m excited and feeling positive about that!
I’d love to leave you with some things to think about as you apply for jobs or secure plans for after graduation–some things I wish someone had told me when I was still in college.
–It is perfectly OK to graduate without a job or without a plan.
Since I first began working (and not loving my job), I wished someone had told me this. During senior year, jobs and after-graduation plans were hot commodities and everyone seemed competitive about them. I like to akin it to an arms race. Do not get defeated if you do not secure a job right away. The right opportunity will come your way–and the time off after graduation will allow you to think about what you really want to do.
–Do not regret the decisions you do make.
Of course, I still wonder what would have happened if I graduated without a job and moved home. I wonder if I would have had time to think about what I really wanted to do or to save money to pursue other opportunities. However, I definitely do not regret accepting the initial job offer and the past year and a half I spent living and working in New York City. I’ve learned a lot, especially about myself and the kind of career I want.
You’ve most likely heard about the importance of networking, but I will reiterate that it is as indispensable as a good GPA on your resume and the internships under your belt. I got set up with both jobs I’ve had though Holy Cross alumni. Event if it is just to start a conversation or to look for advice, send e-mails to alums! Beyond networking, do everything you can to be the ideal candidate in whatever industry you are interested in. For me, that meant launching my running and healthy living blog to show my writing skills and interest in fitness, social media and communications. Also, never think that you “won’t” get something. There are jobs out there and positions to be filled–so always take the chance and apply!
—Spend time to think about what you really want to do.
Brainstorm about positions and career paths. Figure out what you are good at and are passionate about. Listen to people, ask questions and make lists of pro’s and con’s. Don’t think that you have to go into a particular industry just because you had a similar internship. Consider opportunities like graduate school and teaching fellowships.
—Consider your finances.
Unfortunately, promising yourself that you will make it work is not enough. Things always end up costing more than you initially figure. Now I am way more realistic about what I can and cannot afford than when I first graduated. Know that it is okay to pass on opportunities and invitations and that saving money is a good ting. Considering your finances may be the hardest thing you’ll have to do after graduated, but it is also the smartest and most mature.
—Enjoy your life to the fullest.
Life does go on after graduation and I promise you, you’ll enjoy it! Keep in touch with Holy Cross friends, make new friends at work and in your city, pursue a hobby, challenge yourself with some task. Though I have not had the best experiences with jobs so far, I am very happy with my life outside of work and who I’ve become.
I hope my story and experiences in the year and a half that has passed since I graduated from Holy Cross have helped you in some way.
Are you applying for the summer 2012 State Department Internship? If so, and you are selected to intern in London, Paris or the Office of the Secretary in Washington, you are eligible to apply for a $5,000 fellowship to cover your summer expenses!
To attend: Please log in to Crusader Connections and RSVP via the Infosessions/Workshops tab before 1:00 pm EDT on Friday, October 14. Please note, Holy Cross is NOT providing transportation to Brandeis and employers will be anticipating you should you RSVP.
Explore careers in science and health-related organizations through direct exposure and discussions with current professionals in related fields. Sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center, the Biotech, Healthcare & Science Forum will feature an expert panel presentation followed by round table networking sessions for students, alumni, and employer guests. This year’s theme – Discovery Without Borders – builds upon last year’s focus on translational research. The panelists will speak to the notion of removing boundaries across disciplines of science (i.e., biology, chemistry, business, etc.) to fuel discovery as well as international boundaries to move closer to a holistic scientific community.
Glen Cowley ’85, Ph.D., Scientist, The Broad Institute
Robert Sackstein, M.D., Ph.D., P ’14, Associate Scientific Director, Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Brigham & Women’s Hospital; Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
Amber Toll, Director and Senior Human Resources Business Partner, Shire Pharmaceuticals
Panel Moderator: Steve A. N. Goldstein ’78, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.P., Provost, Brandeis University