Interview Tricks

6 Interview Tricks to Get You Past Round 1

Let’s take a minute to salute the student leaders who have gone out before us into the real world to start their careers.  It’s tough out there for new graduates, so it’ll pay to know some job interview tricks.  These 6 interview tricks and techniques will keep you ready and limber enough to dodge whatever curve balls are thrown your way.

1. Use intrapersonal communication to your advantage

We’ve talked before about how important it is for student leaders to journal.  Did we also mention it’s one of the most useful interview tricks to help you prepare for the big day?  Spend some time journaling the few days before your interview, just free-writing about the experiences you want to highlight and the kinds of things you would do if you were given the job.

It’s crucial that you have anecdotes and other evidence fresh in your mind before you sit down to chat with your interviewers.  The most important interview tricks and techniques work best when you have concrete experiences to draw from during your conversation.  Reflecting beforehand by using a journal will help uncover some new insights you weren’t even aware you had.

As you journal, think about the rest of the interview tricks we include here.  What are some of the answers you come up with?  Like they teach you in creative writing classes, details are the flesh and blood behind words.  The more stories, experiences, and general evidence you can pull in to support your responses during the interview, the better you will perform.  You’ll hear us hammer on that point again and again.

2. Keep your story straight

Be advised that there are also interview tricks your interviewers might use against you.  Usually your interviewers will have copies of your resume and cover letter in front of them.  This will be embarrassing if you say something during the interview that contradicts your application materials, or leads the interviewers to believe you haven’t given them a complete picture of your experiences.

So, if you have updated versions of your resume or cover letter, bring them with you.  But more importantly, study these documents beforehand.  Come up with something to say about your most formative experiences, something more than what’s already there on the page.  Use intrapersonal communication to craft some insights that you can match up with each experience, but all the while let these original application materials be your guide.

3. Have plans

If you’ve seen Office Space, you’ll remember the scene where Tom Smykowski, unable to explain his purpose to the Bobs, completely loses his cool.  One of our interview tricks will keep you from having a similar meltdown: have a plan for the job you’re taking.

Your interviewers will probably ask some questions about what you would do in this role, or what you see yourself accomplishing if given this job opportunity.  Translation: they want to know what makes you different from any average Joe they might pull off the street.  This is your chance to identify what makes you unique by virtue of the plans you’ve made.

Have plans for how you’ll deal with certain challenges.  Are there any people you’ll be frequently interacting with in your role?  How will you handle it?  Is there a risk somebody else will try to get you to do their job for them?  How will you negotiate that?

Have plans for how to improve the workplace.  Now, don’t say anything that will offend anybody about the way they run their office—what we mean is, have plans for how you will do your job as effectively as possible.  What will you change about the way your predecessor does something?  What’s something you’ve learned that you want to explore?

4. Expect to talk about strengths and weaknesses

One of the slyest interview tricks an interview might pull on you is quite simple.  They will ask you to describe not just your strengths, but your weaknesses too.  Of course, you don’t want to disqualify yourself from the job by listing off every mistake you ever made.  But be honest: share a weakness that has posed a challenge to you—and then explain how you’ve overcome it and learned from it.

5. Know where you’ll be in 5-10 years

Employers want to know what kind of career you see for yourself.  One of our interview tricks is to be prepared to explain in detail how this job opportunity fits into your long term plans.  If the truth is you don’t want to remain in this line of work, you might be tempted to flatter the interviewers, saying you want to be just like them when you grow up!  They’ll see through that very quickly, so a left-field answer—“I want to be a starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs”—might get you out of that corner or at least defuse some of the tension.

Or if you want, you can explain what your dream job is, but argue that this opportunity will help you get there.  If you do, you need to have lots of detail up your sleeve.  Which law school do you want to go to?  What’s the name of that Ph. D. program you have your sights set on?  What’s the name of the business you want to start yourself?  Moreover, be ready to give solid reasons for why you’re not doing any of the above right now.  (Really though, just out of curiosity, what are you waiting for?)  One way to go about it is to explain that this opportunity is the missing stepping stone that, once dropped into place, will connect you to your dreams.

6. Don’t get too comfortable

Even when it’s going well, and you believe you’ve used all the interview tricks to your advantage, there’s one thing you should always remember: it’s ain’t over ‘til it’s over, so don’t get too cozy.  Job searchers will most often slip up when they get too comfortable, and they assume that it’s going so swell that they slip right out of character.  You’re not hanging out with your friends just yet.  You’ve got to stay diligent and disciplined up until the moment you’ve left.

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