Unsure graduate seeking advice on how to improve interview outcomes
November 1, 2012 1:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm in my final year of study an have been unsuccessful at interviewing for all the graduate jobs I've applied for. I would appreciate advice from fellow New Zealanders regarding what the correct etiquette is in these situations and how I can best represent myself in interviews.

Firstly, I'm not sure how much of the interviewing advice that I see online is applicable to NZ. For example my personality is probably overly reserved and I'm starting to wonder if I'm not doing enough to highlight my achievements. Interviewers usually ask what my biggest achievement is but I can never think of anything outside just being a good person and doing decently at school/uni. What would be a good answer to these types of questions?

My other question is: are employers are supposed to follow up with you even if you were unsuccessful? I had an interview with a pretty big, well known company and they never got back to me even after I emailed them.

The roles I'm applying for are Analytical/programming related. My degree is in Operations Research. I very much appreciate all advice.
posted by mataboy to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To answer the second one first: it's not unheard of at all. Some companies just don't have the time/inclination to follow up with unsuccessful candidates. There's usually no malice in it, they just can't be arsed or the HR person said they'd do it or the line manager kept meaning to do it but never quite did. Try not to take it personally - just see the interview as practice.

It's hard interviewing for grad positions, because they can't quiz you on your previous job. Therefore it's always gonna be a little bit focused on what kind of person you are. Will you cope? Will you be a good fit for their company? Do you have a sense of humour or are you a serious type?

In your situation, I would recommend being as honest as possible about your personality, while showing a willingness to improve. For example, the 'biggest achievement' question could be answered thus: 'Apart from completing my degree, I'd say one recent achievement I'm really proud of is my presentation of my thesis to thirty classmates. I consider myself to be a relatively reserved person but I'm trying to get better at public speaking, and when it went well I felt I'd conquered a personal challenge'.

You'll get better with practice, and it's pretty tough out there. It's really hard to get used to the idea that good marks and generally being a good person are not enough to get you hired, but you'll see when you start working that you just had to articulate what you're all about, so they could feel that hiring you was more of a 'sure bet' than a 'gamble'.
posted by pink_gorilla at 4:12 AM on November 1, 2012

Another kiwi who has interviewed a couple of reserved people before. I'll address the question about etiquette.

Please speak up. I know we have an aversion to skiting about ourselves but you do need to show you have the skills to do the job. As pink gorilla says you have achieved already by completing a degree. Show you know how to apply the skills you learned at uni (time management, meeting deadlines, prioritising, writing, critical thinking) in a work setting. Don't underestimate yourself on that.

I've had the candidate who wouldn't speak enough to each question despite my follow ups and been frustrated because I've been sure they could do the job. How it works at the back end is your interview answers are tallied against criteria described to the applicants and interviewers grade each candidate based on that. If a candidate clams up the panel has less evidence to demonstrate you're the best person for the job.

Another thing to consider is that some questions are designed to see how you behave. Questions like "describe you biggest achievement" are sometimes there to see how you think on your feet, but also give an opportunity for you to present stories about past challenges and how you've successfully met them. Reserved candidates can sometimes be too whakamaa to go into detail so might give too brief a synopsis. Just a guess but you might want to spend a it more time talking about how you met challenges in the past, what you learned etc to demonstrate what kind of worker you will be.<>
Also, it's tough out there right now so keep your head up. All the best!
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 1:41 AM on November 15, 2012

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