The ability to present oneself effectively in an interview is one of the most important skills one can learn. It is a chance to truly distinguish yourself, and give life to the name that decorates your CV. Whether you are looking to enter into a good college, or secure a dream job, the following insights gathered from respected Hacker News blogger Steve Buckley will be invaluable:LESSON 1: Carry an enlightened mentality.
Understand that interest is a two-way street, and that one of the easiest ways to make yourself attractive is to demonstrate a strong interest in the institution that the interviewer represents- be it a school, or a company.
APPLYING IT: Pay your dues and spend an hour or two doing background research. As networking guru Keith Ferrazzi says: “I always make a special effort to inquire about the people I’d like to meet.”
What you should be looking for during this time are threads of the institution’s history, culture, and philosophy that appeal to you. If you can weave these into the conversation later on, you will not only show your knowledge, but also generate genuine enthusiasm for yourself.
Identify problems and challenges that the institution faces. These will not be so clearly advertised, and you may have to do some reading between the lines, but if you can offer any solutions to these problems, you transform yourself from another cog in the wheel to a valuable asset to the interviewer.
LESSON 2: Ask strong questions.
Armed with your new mindset, and two hours of research, don’t be afraid to really ask some poweful questions. Any self-respecting interviewer expects this, how do you expect to take someone seriously who does not have standards of their own?
Buckley suggests a few power questions to evaluate a company:
1. Why are you recruiting for this position?
2. How long has the longest employee (not management) stuck around?
3. What is the biggest challenge you face?
4. What is the new technology that they wish to implement/train people on, that they have not gotten around to yet.
5. Few companies are satisfied 100% with how they are. If you could flick a switch and solve a problem, what would it be?
Here are some that you might ask for college :
1. What is the student culture like? What values are heavily emphasized, what values are seen as less important?
2. What is the most challenging (though not necessarily negative) aspect of the school?
3. What kind of opportunities are given to students? What is the scale of influence, and authority allocated to student groups?
4. (And increasingly more relevant, as american colleges struggle with the recent economic downturn) where does this school hope to expand its brand/image to in the future? [And here is how I can help!]