What do I need to know?
June 12, 2007 10:35 PM   Subscribe

first job interview question(s)

So I've graduated and I have a couple of questions from the hivemind about what I can expect at my first real job interview.

This is for a market research position in NYC. I got an email last night from a recruiter for a position that I applied to a while ago. We set up the phone interview for this morning and it went really well. Later tonight, she sent me another email that the hiring partner wants to meet with me. That meeting is set up for Friday.

So my question is what do I need to know that I don't know as an entry level job applicant. Apparently you are supposed to have references. I didn't mention anything about them on my resume, and the recruiter didn't say anything. Am I expected to bring a list of them? Who should I get to be my references if this is my first real job? I've done some internships, but I doubt some of the people would even remember me/work there anymore.

Also, will there be a need for transcripts if there was no mention of them?

Also she mentioned it's going to be a 2 hour interview. What can I expect over those two hours? There's only so many variations of "tell me about yourself" you can ask. So what else is likely to happen?

I've read through some of the "interview" tags and they're pretty helpful, but none of them seem entry-level focused. So any and all ideas about what I should and shouldn't do, what I can expect at the interview, and how to prepare are welcome.

Thanks all.
posted by jourman2 to Work & Money (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be prepared for "why do you want this job" type of questions. do your research on who they are, both people and company, and be prepared to elaborate on your plan for the next 5 or so years. everyone likes someone with a purpose and a wish to achieve something, someone who isn't going to sit and rot away on a couch.

the rest is basically sniffing each other out. they want to see if they like you.
posted by krautland at 10:45 PM on June 12, 2007

What kind of job is it? My impression is that my younger brothers got asked about, like, proofs, and "how would you calculate the value of this derivative?" for their entry-level NYC stock analyst / banking type jobs.
posted by salvia at 10:48 PM on June 12, 2007

Bring a transcript anyway, just in case; you never know when someone might ask for one, and you want to look on the ball. It's not like you lose anything by toting one along.
posted by universal_qlc at 10:56 PM on June 12, 2007

Ditto everything krautland said. In particular, have real, substantial answers to the why this job/this company questions that are inevitable. Pick out something, anything that shows you did research - "The project you did for X really caught my attention because of this factor", "I like your policy of promoting from within, people seem to stay and grow here which speaks well of the company", etc. Dress better than you might think you should, (it's hard to overdress, and underdressing is a serious fault) and practice your handshake and maybe a few of your answers with a trusted friend.

If they didn't say "bring stuff", don't worry about bringing transcripts, etc, just be prepared to say how soon you could have those items to the office. An extra resume or two might not hurt, though. As far as getting references, any previous work relationships, including internships and part time jobs are acceptable. You'll probably need 3. Be sure to contact them first and ask if it's ok to list them as a reference. That gives you the chance to remind them who you are and what you did.
posted by donnagirl at 11:01 PM on June 12, 2007

Best answer: Internships count as experience! At least try to track down your old bosses. It can't hurt.

Interviews are like first dates. They're sizing you up and you're sizing them up. There can be a lot of tension in the air and it can be awkward, but if you just relax and be yourself, things will work out much better in the end for both of you.

If the job is technical, you should expect some technical questions. They want to make sure you paid attention in class at least a little bit. I don't know what that would be in market research, but just be prepared to use your brain a bit.

They will certainly want to get a feel for how you handle yourself in an office. This means interacting with people, dealing with customers, working in a team. You will probably get some situational questions to test your street smarts - "suppose X happens, how would you handle it" - and some questions to assess your level of experience - "what's the biggest project you've ever worked on" - "describe a disagreement you had with someone and how you worked around it" - that sort of thing.

They will probably ask you some personal questions, like "why do you want to work here", "what are your stengths and weaknesses", "why should we hire you". The point of these questions is to see if your head is in the right place, and also to see if you can make a cohesive and persuasive point in a few minutes of talking (a vital skill in any office).

Don't lie to impress them, don't make up answers if you don't know, just answer everything to the best of your ability and don't be afraid to say "Hmm, I'm not sure" if you get stumped - but come right back with an educated guess, and explain your reasoning. Show that you don't need to be spoon fed every answer.

This is all standard interview fodder. The only difference for an entry-level position is that they will probably ask you more about yourself and your coursework and less about your previous experience. Really, prior experience doesn't make much difference, since everyone is useless for a few months after being hired until they adjust; the point of the interview is to see if you are an adult who can think, learn, and get things done. If that's true, the rest will come.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:03 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I do some interviewing for work, and while the vast majority are related to my field and not yours, the things I ALWAYS ask are

"What do you imagine you'll be doing?"
"What do you do when you get a lot of stressed? Can you give me an example?"
"Could you describe to me exactly what you think [name of industry] is?"
"What drew you to [name of company]?"
"Why do you want to do [industry]?"
"What, other than a paycheck, hope to get from this job?"

Then I'll usually ask some pointed questions about their resume, such as what they did at such a place, etc.

Truly, though, a second interview is to get a feeling for you (heh heh heh) to see if you fit the company. I'd worry less about your answers and more about your poise and your composure.

A two hour interview is likely to involve a test, I think, especially in Market Research, so be aware of that. You'll probably interview for an hour to half an hour (it'll be over faster than you think) and test for the remainder of the time.

Most people who interview are very friendly! They want to get to know you, not trick you. Don't worry about it, take your time and be comfortable. Being nervous isn't helpful.

Resume - yes. Recommendations - yes. Transcripts - no.

But interviews are typically very organic, very personal things. Different people ask different questions. In other words, I could be totally off my ass.
posted by OrangeDrink at 11:05 PM on June 12, 2007

It's also possible, depending on the size of the company, that a 2-hour interview is actually going to involve you meeting and talking with multiple people (maybe your immediate boss, a couple of mid-management types, and a VP?). That's what happened to me when I was in your shoes a year ago. It can make for a pretty grueling afternoon, but the upside to it is that you only have to go on the one interview, and will probably hear back faster about the position than you would if it were drawn out into multiple interviews over a couple of weeks.

As for references--yes, people with whom you've worked in the past who can vouch for your work habits, or even professors who are willing to speak about your competence in the field on your behalf. Don't worry about bringing a list to the site or anything, though, if they're interested in you, they'll get ahold of you when they want to tender an offer.
posted by Mayor West at 4:56 AM on June 13, 2007

Since this will be your first real job they'll be more interested in how you see your future than about your history. They'll be asking questions like: what do you see yourself doing in five years, how will this job help.

What they are looking for is someone who is fresh and new, can learn quickly and will stay at the company for a while, so your five year future vision should probably be something that this company does and the job you are applying for has to have a reasonable link to that.
For example if you say that in five or ten years time your want to be a marketing executive but the entry level job is for it-support they will not see you as a candidate who has thought things through a lot and is just desperate for any job.

Also as said above do your research on the Company itself. You have to make clear that you want to work for this specific company, not just any company in the same field but there is a reason (word-of-mouth, reputation, etc) that you choose them and not another company for this interview.

Finally I echo OrangeDrink and just be yourself, don't forget to ask questions!
posted by sebas at 5:24 AM on June 13, 2007

Good comments above. Like Mayor West said, you should expect to meet multiple people.

From the boss side I would say:

- they already think you are qualified and want to see if they like you
- don't ever make something up in an interview or on your resume
- make sure you really want the job, not that you are talking yourself into taking it because you got an interview
posted by shothotbot at 5:41 AM on June 13, 2007

All good points above. A few more points, as someone who has interviewed many, many candidates for entry-level positions:

- Be sure to have some questions for them. This is really crucial - there's nothing more uninspiring than a candidate who has no questions for me.

- At this point in your career, most prospective employers really want to see your potential, rather than your qualifications. So as others said, they will probably ask you lots of questions about how you work and how you interact with others. Take a bit of time to think about these types of questions, and answer them carefully.

- As for references, any kind of former employer is ok. So are professors, especially in the same field as the job. In a pinch, you could ask former coworkers, espcially if they were senior to you.
posted by lunasol at 6:33 AM on June 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the info everyone.

Seems I should bring;
- some resumes
- some references
- anticipatory answers to their questions
- anything else?

Also some people mentioned a test. What kind of test would that be? Looking back at the job description there aren't any skills in a real technical sense that are required except for Office, "good analytical and writing skills" and things like that. Are we talking a personality test here or something else?
posted by jourman2 at 6:36 AM on June 13, 2007

a test for a market research position could be something like, "using the internet, you have half an hour to write a one-page summary on X" (In my case, for an entry level government research position, X was light pollution laws in Phoenix)

This would be an opportunity for someone like you to excel, because I am sure you are really handy at the internet research, and you can easily impress them with how much info you can collect and summarize cohesively in a short period of time.
posted by paddingtonb at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2007

lunasol is absolutely right. Bring the above and some questions for them. Even if you know the answer, ask a few questions anyway so that you appear engaged.

And I think paddingtonb is right too.
posted by OrangeDrink at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2007

Show up 15-20 minutes early.

Also, in addition to your resume bring a job history sheet with every job you've ever had and starting & ending date, job title, pay, contact person, contact phone number, why you left.

You'll often be able to fill out a form with this information, and it's a lot easier to have a cheat sheet than to try to remember it all.

Buy a nice legal binder and put all this paper you're bringing with you.

Also be prepared to ask a few questions. A few good ones:
* What is a typical career trajectory for someone hired into this job?
* What is turnover like here?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2007

Best answer: Practice, practice, practice.
Call up a friend who has gone through the hiring process before, preferably someone who works in a similar field and/or has gone through a two-hour hiring interview. Draw up a list of questions you think you might be asked and ask your friend to do the same. Now pretend you're in the interview and have your friend ask you the questions. Have your friend take notes and at the end, go through all the notes. Do it a few more times. The point is to go through the routine of hearing and answering the interview questions enough times that you can answer confidently while sounding natural.

Overall, you want to project confidence and interest in the work. If you get asked a question you can't answer, say you don't know but give solutions for how you can find the answer. You're doing market research - you will be expected to not know certain things but you will be expected to know how to get an answer. Expect questions that will test this ability, ie. "How many stoplights are there in downtown City X?" You can't be expected to know it but a good response would include reasonable ways of finding out: inquiring at the proper city department, doing an estimate of X stoplights/block * Y blocks in downtown, etc.

Research your firm and industry.
Dig up everything you can about recent activities at your firm and the industry. I'll typically read about 1 year's worth of press releases. Remember, this is market research - you need to know the markets you'll be involved in. If you've been informed you'll be working on the tech markets, then you should know a bit about the current state of the tech market and what big deals have happened in the last few months.

If you can formulate some questions for the interviewers specific to the firm, the firm's industry, and/or the markets you'll be researching, you have a leg up on everyone who is asking the same old "What's it like working here?" questions. You want to demonstrate that you already have some understanding of the work you'll be doing. At the last firm I interviewed at, I found out about a recent multi-billion deal the group's Managing Director had just closed and asked about how it was going to be rolled out. We only discussed the deal for the entire length of our interview portion and later on heard that the MD wanted to overstep everyone else's opinion to make me an offer.

There's only so many variations of "tell me about yourself" you can ask.
You'd be surprised at how often questions are repeated. You're going to be interviewed by a series of people who usually don't know what has been asked before. You may be tempted to answer differently each time. Don't fall in the trap of saying something creative but foolish the 2nd or 3rd time around. Consistency is OK if it's the same question.

Check your suit and shirt.
Don't wait until the morning of to find out you have a ketchup stain on your shirt. Pick out your shirt and suit today and inspect for holes, stains, etc. Put it on and make sure it still fits right. Then iron the shirt the night before and set it on the table.

except for Office
Office means Excel. Have you ever written formulas? Used named ranges? Bonus points if you know what VLOOKUP is and can describe how to use it.
posted by junesix at 10:29 AM on June 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi all, I just wanted to give a quick update about what happened.

The interview went really well thanks to the advice many of you gave. I didn't have to take any tests or anything but I interviewed with four different people, including two directors of research and one vp (the last person I interviewed was someone who had the job I was applying for two years ago).

This might not have been typical of most interviews, but everyone seemed really relaxed and friendly (maybe because of the chilled work atmosphere in general) and made me feel really at ease. The four interviews were largely repeats of each other one after another. All four interviewers asked about pretty much the same item on my resume (the most interesting one I guess) and asked me why I wanted this job, this company, etc... One person asked me the classics strengths and weaknesses question. Interestingly, though, no one asked me for anything including a resume (they had a copy with them) or references or transcripts or anything like that. They all asked me what I'm thinking career-wise. Also, they all asked my if I had any questions, so I had to come up with an opinion question to ask everyone as my "real" question were answered earlier by the first interviewer or two.

That's really all I can remember from the interview. It seemed more like a time occupier then anything, but maybe they wanted to see how I handled 2 1/2 hours of interviews. Oh well.

Apparently, you're also supposed to write thank you letters after the interview. Lucky my apartment mate told me about that. Damn unwritten rules of business!

Anyway, hope this helps some other first time job seekers too. I'll give an update later if I got the job, so future readers can judge for themselves whether my advice is worth anything or not.
posted by jourman2 at 9:09 PM on June 17, 2007

this might be a good time to have you look at this video.
posted by krautland at 9:48 AM on June 18, 2007

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