Ishan's job hunter tips part one: acing your job interviews

Human Resources Management student Ishan is here with some top tips to show that you’re the perfect candidate.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Ishan (he/him) is a fourth-year Finance student at the University of Alberta. He originates from Bhopal, a beautiful city in India known as the city of lakes. He has studied at eight schools and has lived in ten cities. Ishan loves travelling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. He is big on sports and enjoys playing soccer, squash, basketball, swimming and running half-marathons. His creative side includes writing poems and playing guitar when missing home. Ishan enjoys public speaking and strives to become a visiting lecturer to teach at all of the world's best universities, including Oxford, U of A, London School of Business and the Kyoto University in Japan.

You have been preparing for this day for weeks now. Looking confident and professional in your new formal attire, you smile in the mirror and say to yourself, “You can do this! Let’s do it!” It is time to interview for the role and the company you so dearly want to work for. Still nervous? Take a look below for three quick tips & tricks to help you ace that interview! 

Tip #1 - Be Punctual

Being punctual is a sheer display of professionalism and a testament to your good time management skills. Whether you are interviewing for the role of a barista at Starbucks in Edmonton or for a consulting internship at IBM in Vancouver, being punctual will help you start the interview on a positive and confident note. According to Robert Half Talent Solutions, “ good time management is an in demand skill in today’s workplace.” It only represents that you care about the position, but it also shows that, given the opportunity, you would ensure you would live up to the expectations of the employer, particularly when it comes to meeting deadlines and showing up to work on time. I would recommend arriving 2-5 minutes early if it is an online interview and 10-15 minutes early if you are interviewing in person. Trust me; it will help you make a good first impression! 

Tip #2 - First Impression

According to Legaljobs, during an interview, “you only have 7 seconds to make a good impression.” That’s quick! Making a good impression is a good start to the interview. In order to make a good first impression, be sure to hold a good posture, shake hands firmly and be polite yet confident in your greetings. You can also apply this strategy when appearing in an online interview. Just maintain good posture when sitting at your desk. And the most important part is to smile when you are greeting. “Smiling has shown to be a psychological signal of altruism,” and people are more likely to trust someone with a smile on their face (Forbes). Greeting with a confident smile makes a nice first impression and is a great way to kick-start the interview. 

Tip #3 - Listen

Oftentimes we are so excited, or perhaps nervous, that we end up capitulating to our nerves. As a result, we find ourselves a little lost when being asked a question we didn’t listen to. According to CreditDonkey, “most people usually only remember about 17 to 25% of the things they listen to.” That’s interesting! Imagine you miss out on a key element of the question in an interview just because you were not paying attention, and then you start to ramble on, hoping your answer will land somehow to convince the interviewer you know the correct answer. Calm down, pay attention and listen. You will find it easier to respond when you understand the question. 

Tip #4 - Use the STAR method: STAR - Situation, Task, Action, Result

Commonly known as the STAR method, this is a great tool to organize your answers in a manner that uses concrete and specific examples to exemplify skills relevant to the given position. According to Flexjobs, “the STAR method works best with behavioural questions, such as:

  • Tell me about a time when…
  • What do you do when…
  • Have you ever…
  • Give me an example of…
  • Describe a scenario where you…”

I have had interviews where I smartly used the STAR method to emphasize my soft skills and past experiences. Most times, the interviewer was impressed with the way I structured my responses, and this could be reflected in a big smile on their face after I answered the question. Quite often, this is how I frame my answers when asked with a behavioural question.

Sample question: Tell us about a time when you had to work in a team and had to face a conflict. How did you approach the situation? And what was the end result? 

My answer: That’s a great question! There are quite a few instances where I have had the opportunity to work in a team environment (displays confidence). The one that comes to my mind right off the bat is my time as one of the co-chairs of the Alberta International Business Competition (AIBC). Essentially, AIBC is a week-long international business competition held in Jasper, where we invite six universities from Canada and six universities from around the world. Last year, I had the opportunity to lead AIBC along with my fellow co-chair (Situation). From recruiting an executive team of 25 people to planning the logistics of the whole event, it was a challenging project, one that required us to be on our toes all the time (Task). I remember experiencing some team conflicts with regards to delegation of responsibilities during the week of the competition. Upon learning about this, I decided to go on a one-on-one walk with every single executive on the day when the delegates were working on the case study and learn about the team dynamics from their perspective (Action). In hindsight, I think it was a great call! I could sense some tension within the team, and by giving all the executives an opportunity to open up, it gave them a way to let the stress out and find ways to collaborate. As a result, we ended up talking about the problems and eventually hosted a wonderful competition which was reflected in the positive feedback from the delegates (Result).  

Give this technique a try in your next behavioural interview! It helps you tell a story while emphasizing your skills and experiences that would make you a good fit for the given role.

Tip #5 - Ask Questions

After appearing in over 15 interviews in the past month and, of course, receiving numerous rejections after a couple final interviews, if there’s one thing that I have learned, then it is the power of asking questions. Usually, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them towards the end of the interview. Use this opportunity to learn more about the interviewer, their role, the company and what it has to offer to a potential, successful candidate like you. Remember, while the company is interviewing you for a role, you, too, are interviewing the company to see if it would be a good fit for your growth and development as a professional. 

Given below are some questions that you can ask the interviewer

  1. What was one thing that surprised you on your first day at this company?
  2. What has been the best advice you have received in your role so far? 
  3. What are some initiatives that your company is taking to provide interns with an opportunity to learn and grow in their respective fields?
  4. What is one thing that interests you about the field you are working in? 

Asking questions displays your interest in working for the company and also acts as a positive remark for interviewers as they near the end of the interview. Next time you sit in an interview, try asking a question that you think would put the interviewer on the spot. Test them out! See what they have to say about the company you might be working for in the near future. 

And remember to be punctual; make a good first impression while keeping a smile on your face; listen as if you really want to understand; utilize the STAR method to share a past experience, and finally, ask questions to learn more about the company you might end up working for. 

Good luck!