Good Interview Book?
March 18, 2007 1:26 AM   Subscribe

What would be a good interview book for a graduating college student who has tried to interview, but comes up short?

I've had a number of interviews where I could have swore everything went well, but nobody has called me back after several interviews. I've had a couple of professors look over my resume, so I know that's sufficient. I think it comes down to two things:
1. I know my major GPA is an issue (3.03), but I'm heading right back for a masters degree where I'm fairly certain I can "start over" and keep it up where it should be. This is doable.
2. I don't think I'm doing so hot in the "Do you have any questions?" part.

I can work on the first part, I just need a book to help me with that second part. Any good books that anyone could recommend?
posted by debit to Work & Money (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It isn't really books which are going to help you with the 'do you have any questions' bit but your reaseach specific about the company you have applied to and about the job you are going for...

Presumably as a graduate your job will involve a lot of on the job training and often also some kind of structured developement path - so find out what they normally are in the job you go for and ask the interviewer how they do it in the company you want to work for...

Presumably you have been given a job specificiation before you go to the interview - if not ask what you will be doing etc..

If the interviewer is the person you will be working for as opposed to an HR person ask them what they - as opposed to the company - are looking for in a candidate - normally tells you a lot about your prospective boss.

But you have to do the research both about the role and the company before you interview - as simple as that. If you do that you will have questions to ask and will thus show you are keen. If not you will just be another person who's just wasted an hour of the interviewer's time which they could have spent catching up with their to do list or whatever.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:52 AM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I also don't have a book, but I've been right there with you.

I'm assuming that the company knowns your GPA before deciding to give you an interview, and if that's the case, they're not going to give you an interview if your GPA is below what they require. It just won't make sense from their perspective.

That said, what real turned my interviewing around was smiling. I'm serious; I thought my interviews were going well, but I just wasn't being bright and cheerful enough. I started consciously smiling during interviews and everything turned completely around.

As for the questions bit, in my experience, it's your opportunity to engage the interviewer personally (assuming we're not talking about an HR interview) about their job. People tend to love talking about what they do, and if they feel you're talking intelligently about what they do too, they have a good impression of you.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:20 AM on March 18, 2007

Best answer: Have you asked for interview feedback? As the implied feedback is negative (no second interview) it may be insightful to hear how they perceived you - especially as you felt these interviews went well.

Walking out of an interview I can normally predict if I will be asked back or not so it may be that the way you perceive yourself is very different from the way others perceive you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:33 AM on March 18, 2007

I agree with koahiatamadl about asking for feedback. Make sure you try to make the person comfortable so that they will be as forthcoming and honest as possible. That is, don't call them back all angry. Don't make them think that by answering honestly they're going to crush your feelings.

I also agree that you should appear very interested during the interview. Come up with the questions beforehand. Do your research about them. Ask about what day to day work would be like. I usually try to imagine that I belong there while at the same time not acting presumptuous or cocky. As for interacting with the interviewer, I think a good general strategy for life is to treat the new people you meet like you've known them for a long time.

But then there's the very basic question: did you call them back or did you simply wait for them to call you? I was always told to call them back after a couple of days. If they're considering a few candidates, they would at least know that you cared. If they refuse you outright, that might be a good time to bring up the feedback issue.
posted by redteam at 3:25 AM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't buy a book, this poorly designed page has nine possible questions you could ask.

Some other thoughts:
A well executed thank you note is also good as a form of call back.

I'm wondering if, in the interview, you indicated your intent to return to school for graduate education in the near future. I don't advocate deception, but I have lost opportunities due to mentioning this in interviews and now that I'm on the other side I can see why.

Good Luck in your search!
posted by safetyfork at 5:31 AM on March 18, 2007

Sorry for the post-comment comment, but I probably wouldn't ask their first question though I thought the others were good starting points to get you thinking. I've asked variations of 2, 3, 4, a roundabout 6, 8, and 9 many times.
posted by safetyfork at 5:35 AM on March 18, 2007

Best answer: I was a terrible interviewer straight out of college. I recommend going to as many throw-away interviews as possible, to get in some practice. The more I did this, the more comfortable I got in the interview environment, plus when I finally did get to an interview for a job I actually really wanted, my answers came naturally, because I was so used to going through the routine.

During the whole process, I was getting pretty discouraged, however, and my stepdad gave me the book, 48 Days to the Work You Love. I highly recommend this book--it doesn't focus entirely on interviews, but it does have very helpful chapters on interviewing and follow-up. There is a list of questions that you should ask at the end of the interview, as well as practice questions so that you can have your answers somewhat prepared.

During our job searches, my husband and I both got into the habit of reading the interview chapter the morning of an interview, and we both agree that the advice in the book helped a lot. We both landed jobs, shortly after, btw.

In addition, I can't stress how important follow-up is. Even if you do a great job in your interview, but they never hear from you again, you might get lost in the shuffle. When I was interviewing for my job, after the first interview I immediately sent a handwritten thank you card stressing my interest in the job to both people I interviewed with. (There are also examples of thank you cards/letters in the book I linked.) A couple of days later, I remembered some job experience I had forgotten to mention in the interview that directly corresponded with a task in the job description, so I sent off a short (but carefully proofed) email starting off like this:

"Dear Mr. Interviewer,

I want to thank you again for taking the time to meet with me last week to discuss the Whatever position. After thinking more about the position and all that it entails, I realized that I had forgotten to mention some experience that I gained..."

I then had a second interview with a different person, to whom I also sent a handwritten thank you card. About a week later (after not hearing anything) I sent out the following email:

"Dear Mr. Interviewer,

I just wanted to reiterate that I am extremely interested in working as a Whatever for Company. If there is anything else I could offer to let you know that I am the right person for the job, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you again for your time.


I got an email back asking for my references, and a few days later they called me back in and offered me the job.

Now, after listing all of that out, I know it kind of sounds like overkill, but I think, especially in a long interview process, it is important to keep your name fresh in the interviewer's mind, and that is what contacting them every so often does. It's important that they know you really want the job, and this also establishes that. I guess you probably have to be careful about not bugging the crap out of them, but I think if you spread it out and don't call or write every day, you'll be fine.

Ha, that may have been way more than you were asking for, but I am fresh from that desperate job-seeking place in my life, and I remember how frustrating it can be. Hope this helps.
posted by saucy at 6:44 AM on March 18, 2007 [6 favorites]

How to Win Friends and Influence People is the seminal work on how to interact with others. It won't provide direct help with specific interview questions, but it will help immensely with how to present yourself properly and how to communicate with the people interviewing you.
posted by krark at 6:45 AM on March 18, 2007

I should mention that the 48 days book is written with Christian guidelines, but not overly so. It gives a lot of helpful advice while not bashing you over the head with preaching.
posted by saucy at 6:55 AM on March 18, 2007

Book-wise, I'm a big fan of Knock 'Em Dead. It has a really good section on questions to ask in interviews.
posted by MsMolly at 7:52 AM on March 18, 2007

Are you telling prospective employers that you plan to go back for your masters? That alone may deter them.
posted by acoutu at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2007

I can recommend 60 Seconds & You're Hired. I own it, and it's good.
posted by cribcage at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2007

This isn't a book recommendation, but in my experience, interviewers don't care about your GPA. They want to think of you as an adult, not a college kid. Play up your internships and real work experience.

Also, your professors may not be the best folks to look at your resume. They are academics. They are likely not familiar with the sort of resumes that today's businesses are looking for.

Does your school have a career services department? That's probably the best place for you to go to get interview and resume tips.
posted by k8t at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2007

If you're going right back for your master's, why are you looking for a job? If you want to work for a year or so, DO NOT mention that you are planning to go back to school after a couple years. Most companies worth working for want an employee that will stick around for longer than that.
posted by sid at 11:16 AM on March 18, 2007

Wait, are you graduating this May? I suppose it depends on your industry, but it's also possible that these employers are going with candidates that are immediately available and already have their degrees.

It took me many months after graduation to find a job in my "career" after graduating. In the meantime I did other types of jobs. Again, I know no details about the industry and type of work you're going into, but I can say that the vast majority of graduating college students can't expect to have a job in their field lined up upon graduation.
posted by lampoil at 5:48 PM on March 18, 2007

You must have at least a few questions about the jobs you're applying for. The things you ask don't have to be earth-shatteringly original or insightful, just basic day-to-day things that you want to know about the job:
- What's an average day for you like? (good if the person interviewing you has a similar job/is in the same dept/etc)
- What do you like best/least about working here?
- What are your hours? Are they flexible?
- How does the performance review process work? How will I be evaluated?
- Etc etc etc

Is this the first job you're interviewing for? Personally, I found that the thing that really got me asking questions was having had other jobs. It can be hard to know what you're looking for if you've never had a "real" job, but once you're interviewing for your 2nd you know exactly what you did and didn't like about the first and can use that to ask questions.

Also, echoing the advice above to have your school's career center look over your resume, and to not mention that you plan to go back to school shortly. No one wants to train someone and have them leave just as they're really becoming productive.
posted by rachelv at 11:08 AM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for your feedback everyone!! Sorry about the late responses, but I thought I would answer a few questions asked above:

- I am interviewing for an auditing internship. At least where I am, it is common to interview one year prior to the start of the internship.
- I do have that I plan to go right back for a Master's degree. I would take a semester off for the internship. I've mentioned this in all of my interviews.
- I am a big proponent of the thank you note. I always make sure to write a hand-written note and mail it promptly.
- rachelv: I have had other jobs in the past. I've been at my current college job for a number of years, and I spent an internship at a not-for-profit.
- k8t: My school does have a career services department, but I've heard horror stories. I redid my resume with the help of a professor who regularly talks to the recruiting folks at the different firms. I guess going to career services people for help wouldn't be a bad idea.
- koahiatamadl/redteam - I probably should have called them back. But all of them had specifically said "We will let you know in 1/2 Weeks."
- koahiatamadl - I should ask an individual or two about why I was not selected. I'll start working on that in the morning.
- I would agree with what everyone said about if they didn't like what they saw on my resume (which had my GPA), they wouldn't interview me. But there was an interviewer who had my resume already in hand, with the GPA circled with a big fat red marker who probed me at the end of the interview. This is the only reason I had mentioned it.

I've read Win Friends and Influence People but it's been awhile, I'll reread it. Thanks krark! I'll also look at some of those other books the next time I'm over at Borders.

Thank you everyone, I appreciate all of your help!
posted by debit at 8:03 PM on March 19, 2007

It's all about the questions. Fuck all that other shit, if you can ask good questions and follow up with their answers, engage them in a conversation, then you've got the job.

It's that simple.

Here's what you've gotta do:
1) Go on as many job interviews as possible. You're going to screw a few of them up, but remember what you did wrong and don't do it again.

If necessary/possible, just schedule "informational" interviews with companies you might wanna work at. If you can't get in there in person, try and get them to give you 15 minutes of phone time with someone relevant.

I bet you'll be surprised.

2) Get curious. Job interviews are a great window into the field that you want to work in. Take advantage of it. You're probably sitting down with the people doing the things you want to do, so take the time to find out how they got there and where they think it's all going. Have them describe how you'll fit into the team.

Interview them. If you're not used to doing that, just brainstorm as many potential questions as possible beforehand and scribble 'em down on a piece of paper.

Stuck? Work around these: Who? What? Where? Why? How? To what extent?
posted by ph00dz at 9:01 PM on March 19, 2007

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