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Graduate Matters

How to prep for a job interview

Don’t be afraid to ask an employer for a list of potential questions that might be asked of you.


Often times when recent grads or students apply for jobs, they don’t fully understand the work that actually goes in to getting the job. The job interview is a big part of this work. While universities often have resources that can point students toward résumé building or interviewing, they can be difficult to find.

When it comes to interviewing, one must do more than just introduce yourself and then regurgitate your résumé. Instead, move toward practising and anticipating questions in the most authentic way. Christine Maki is a producer at the CBC, and she shared some of her observations about the interview process.

Before she became the producer of the content diversification branch in Ottawa, she had to go through many interviews. In her case, applicants sat in front of a panel of three people: often someone from human resources, the producer of the team they were applying to join, and the managing editor or executive producer. It takes up to one hour and it’s mainly the interviewee talking for the better part of it.

To prepare, Ms. Maki said to do as much research as possible on the company you’re applying to. If there are several branches, do a deep dive into that branch and pull out their mission statements, and see what they’re dedicated to achieving. At the same time, think about how you will elevate the company.

“It’s hard,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have the experience working in that place. But learn as much as you can about the place … and the people there,” said Ms. Maki.

Employers like the CBC might look for how much an applicant has connected to people working at the company. Often, employees are very willing to have a 10-minute phone conversation or even chat back and forth on LinkedIn about what the company’s like, the work environment, and what new ideas would be welcomed.

Not only does this allow people to get the lay of the land, but it provides you, as an applicant, the ability to see if this is truly a company you want to work for. Remember, in an interview it’s a two-way street – they’re trying to make sure you’re the right fit, but you’re also trying to make sure that this is a company that fits you.

When you move away from internships and co-ops to the world of full-time positions, the interview questions become much more technical and require practice. Companies will still ask the usual questions, like ‘tell me about yourself,’ ‘when was a time you overcame a difficult task’ and ‘what do you bring to the table?’ With these questions, your answers should be dynamic.

“Think really hard about what you want, and bring to the table, and who you are as a potential employee. If you’re applying for a job, you want to know the most you can. Sit and think really hard about what your specific skill set is,” said Ms. Maki.

When you’re in an interview, don’t worry about the length of time you spend on your answers – as long as they’re not overly long and convoluted. Make sure you are concise, eloquent and reflect your values. Your answers should showcase experiences that you didn’t get to  expand upon in your cover letter or résumé. Sometimes employers want to hear about how your own life experiences have informed the way you approach different problems.

The answers to your questions should also fit what is reflected in the job description. For example: a marketing company is looking for someone who has excellent time management skills so they can juggle multiple projects at once. Instead of saying, “I have good time-management skills,” talk about an experience of yours, preferably one that illustrates this skill without saying it allowed. Make sure it offers a problem, a solution to that problem and what it led to in the future – even how it benefited the company.

A final tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the company for potential questions they might ask. Spend half an hour practising with someone. As you practise, your answers will become more organic and you will improve on them.

“It wasn’t a fun job doing interviews all the time. But it was useful. And you get to meet a lot of interesting people in job interviews,” said Ms. Maki.

Cindy Tran
Cindy Tran is a Vietnamese-Canadian journalist for the CBC and has a master of journalism degree from Carleton University.
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