Interviewing can be as simple as attending a dinner party

March 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Advising interns, career center, Intern Advice, Summer internships | Leave a comment
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Stacie Stormer

As a career counselor, I am always looking for metaphors that help my clients reframe a challenge they are facing. Oftentimes, when clients express anxiety about interviewing, they are focused on learning the rules and what to do – or not do – in an interview. While understanding interviewing basics is crucial, doing well in an interview can be as simple as being a good dinner guest.

My spouse and I were recently hosting a dinner party and one of our friends brought a guest. While we were cleaning up after the party, we discussed how much we liked this new guest. While there are many reasons why we liked this person, there were a few things this person did that can be transferrable to the interview. She:

Asked about others – As the host, I felt it was my duty to make this guest feel welcomed. So, I attended to the guest a bit more and thought about topics that would interest her. She, however, initiated her fair share of conversation. She deepened the conversation by asking follow-up question. She came across confident and thoughtful. I often encourage my clients to listen attentively and ask follow-up questions as this can change the dynamic from a “one-way barrage of questions” to a more collegial conversation.

Complemented others – After having worked hard on the meal, it felt good to hear her praise what we had prepared. She seemed sincere as she stated what she specifically liked about the meal. Employers are people too and they like to hear what candidates sincerely and specifically like about their organization.

Told stories – I learned a lot about this person from the engaging stories she told. She told colorful stories without monopolizing the party. Regardless of our culture, we humans are much more attentive when listening to a story and a story is a much more clever way to convey a message. I advise my clients to write down the most important things they want the employers to know about them and come up with a story to illustrate those. Then, look for opportunities to tell those stories in the interview.

Of course a dinner party should not feel like an interview, but an interview can feel a bit more like a party!

Certainly the employer asks questions to assess candidates’ knowledge, skills and abilities, but how an interviewer feels about the candidate can be quite powerful. Having positive feelings certainly tip the scales in that candidate’s favor. So, the next time a student asks you about how to ace an interview, just say “pretend you are attending a dinner party”. Want more interviewing tips?  Click here.

Oh and by the way, our dinner guest also sent us a handwritten thank you note – nice touch!

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