Business students practice interview skills during workshop

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More than 150 students practiced mastering sweaty palms and answering difficult questions during the School of Business’ mock interview trials last week.

The F. David Fowler Career Center in the School of Business conducted mock interviews for students to practice with actual employers, who were on hand afterward to give feedback and suggestions. Kristen Nicole, an employer relations associate for the Center, organized the program and said 32 employers donated their time to collectively run 152 interviews during the three-day run.

“I thought I did great. The recruiter wanted me to stay in contact with her,” said freshman international business major Hunter Thomas who interviewed with SRA International Inc, which is a consulting firm in Fairfax, Va.

“I won’t be applying for some of the positions until junior or senior year, but it prepares me.I know I lacked experience,” he said.

Despite his class year, Thomas said his preparedness made a difference in the interview process, and cited lessons he learned from working at the Center such as: “Your resume gets you the interview, but the interview gets you the job.”

Even for experienced individuals, sitting down with a stranger to discuss a position can sometimes leave a candidate drawing blanks, or simply talking too much. Toni Della-Ratta, associate director for the Center in Graduate Career Management, said practicing and researching differentiates a strong from a weak candidate.

“Students can fall down even during a practice interview,” she said. “You can be really prepared if you practice enough.”

Della-Ratta explained that students searching for jobs should use the position description to decipher what the company is looking for, then pinpoint where they fit in when doing the interview. The job description states what attributes the student should emphasize, which Della-Ratta and Thomas agreed were important starting points.

“You should be able to walk though your resume. Employers want you to be able to say why you did what you did. From there, you can explain how your experience can add value to their company,” she said.

Thomas said he felt his demeanor in an interview mattered as much as his prior research on the employer.

“You don’t want to look desperate for [the position] that’s where confidence comes in,” he said. “Employers want to see someone who is interested more than someone who is over prepared.”

Thomas suggested asking a specific question about the organization was an effective way to demonstrate that the interview is not insignificant to the applicant.

Employers gave positive feedback from their interviews with GW students. Nicole said employers found students to be more relaxed at an on-campus interview compared to a job interview conducted at their company. She added that many employers said they were going to pass along a student’s resume or offered them an internship based on the mock interview.

Della-Ratta said, “They thought our students were pretty well-prepared.”

Both Nicole and Della-Ratta agreed students performed better in the mock interviews, as well as actual interviews throughout the year, if they take advantage of the Center’s resources prior to the actual interview.

The Center offers mock interviews throughout the year, a database of common interview questions, and online practice interview program that enables students to watch their interview to improve. As Della-Ratta stressed, self reflection and practice can improve the interview experience.

“You can’t really have someone who is over prepared in this economy, and employers know that,” Thomas said.

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