Advice from a design and engineering recruiter: How to master the job interview
It’s back to school time, and many students will start the fall recruiting process, which means getting ready to interview! Having an approach will help you stay focused—here are 10 tips to prepare you:
1. Know your story.
Telling a recruiter or hiring team, “I’m open to doing anything!” may not gain you points for flexibility. Be clear with a direction and your interests. For example, I’m looking to use my mechanical engineering degree and analytics experience in a product design role.
2. Be prepared.
Think of the interview process as a scavenger hunt. Check out a company’s social media channels, read tweets from the last few months, know their business model, customers, and competitors, and who is on the leadership team. Sign up for news alerts.
3. Google yourself.
Make sure you know what your digital footprint is online. Many roles blend work and social media, so expect that your recruiter may go online to gain insights into how you present yourself, including Twitter handles and account user names.
4. Find someone at the company.
Connect with alumni or others to gain insights into the company culture. The best-kept secret on LinkedIn is the advanced search feature, which allows you to filter people by current company and university—easy networking at your fingertips!
5. Use your recruiter.
Your recruiter serves as a window into the company, and a good one will give you direct feedback to support your success. Review your interview schedule with your recruiter so you can research each interviewer. Find out the structure (individual, panel, lunch meeting).
6. Meet with team members outside of the manager.
When you start, they will be your resource and your day-to-day collaborators. It’s important to understand their roles in relation to the one you are interviewing for and how they work together, or don’t.
7. Maintain a reverse interview mindset.
Ask questions to vet culture, engagement, team structure, inclusion, and continuous learning. Ask questions like What’s this role’s biggest challenge?, How do you solve problems together?, How are team meetings structured?, and What development opportunities have you pursued in the past year? Make it conversational and you’ll learn more. This is about the right fit for you.
8. Prepare for the interview you don’t expect.
Candidates can be disqualified based on interactions prior to even going into the interview room. Your interactions with the reception team, administrative assistants, scheduling coordinators, and travel liaisons matter when it comes to flexibility and attitude.
9. Know that dressing up never goes out of style.
Follow business casual (at the minimum), bring a folio with your notes, questions, and a resume for reference. Put your phone away so you aren’t distracted by texts or email activity. Oh, and don’t arrive too early (more than 10 minutes) unless you are instructed to. There’s such a thing as being too early.
10. Don’t forget a thank you.
Do send a thank you email to each interviewer. These communications make a difference because you are illustrating your ability to follow up. Reference specifics of the conversation you had and draw connections to your skill set and strengths.
Before you head out to prep for your next interview, check out some of the advice we gathered from successful graduates and professionals who landed sought after jobs.
“Make your own opportunities! Start designing for friends and family and work your way up.”
—Miguel Jimenez, recent graduate.
“Don't rule out any employer. Your dream job may just be hidden at a place you wouldn't expect.”
—Travis Sawyer, recent graduate.
“Stay humble. You’ve worked hard, but that fancy degree is really just a learner’s permit so that you can move on to the really interesting stuff. Ask more questions than you did in college, and understand that you’re free to fail while you’re still getting acclimated at your dream job.”
—Jared Wells, recent graduate.
“Remember that you are also interviewing them. An interview is an opportunity for you to decide if you really want to work at that company.”
—Dennis Campton, industry professional.
“Know what you don't know. That is, understand you do not have it all figured out but emphasize your willingness to become great at what you do.”
—Robert Ardy, industry professional.
“Study videos of relevant work processes in your field. I think it's equivalent to a mini apprenticeship and a way to look over the shoulder of an expert.”
—Mitch Polly, industry professional.
“It helps to have an extra copy of your cover letter, resume, reel, and portfolio on hand as well as any prints you're proud of.”
—Katy McCool, industry professional.
“Never forget to have a solid handshake when you introduce yourself and when the interview is over. It shows that you have confidence in yourself.”
—Kevin Lee, industry professional.
Jenny Diani leads a team that recruits emerging talent and facilitates programming for hundreds of interns around the globe, including the United States, Canada, China, and Singapore. The University Recruiting team serves as talent advisors and advocates for the next generation of talent. She’s most passionate about supporting an individual’s career development and finding them the right opportunity. Prior to her experience at Autodesk, she worked at a company specializing in international cultural exchange programs. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon. Go Ducks!
Looking for more advice to help you get a job in design or engineering? Check out these resources.
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