Q: I am a recent college graduate. I feel like I don’t do particularly well in interviews. How do I prepare? Everyone tells me to “prepare” but I actually am struggling to understand what that means.
- Smart of you to ask! Here are my best tips on how to prepare for an interview.
- Know the company. Research the company in advance. Learn a bit about their history, company leaders, competition and their product or their service. Do you know anyone who works there who could be helpful?
- Plan logistics. Familiarize yourself with the location, parking or transit options, etc. Do you need an ID to access the building? Do you need to factor in 10 minutes to walk from where you park to their building?
- Dress and perhaps even overdress. Even if their workplace might be casual, it is better to overdress than to under dress.
- Prepare for the most common interviews questions for recent grads.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should I hire you?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your professional goals?
- What are your compensation expectations?
- What was your favorite job and why (and what was your least favorite job and why)?
- What do you know about our company?
For some elite professional services firms, interviewers often ask incredibly challenging questions which test a candidate’s ability to estimate, reason and even calculate a response. One question often asked by many of the premier consulting firms is “How many piano tuners are there in Boston?” For this type of question, the candidate needs to estimate the number of residents in Boston, estimate the number of household members, estimate the number of pianos per household, estimate a frequency of piano tuning, estimate how long it take to tune a piano and also assume a piano tuner’s work week. Again this type of question which really challenges a candidates ability to estimate, reason and calculate is typically reserved for only the most competitive consulting firms. Another similar one, which I have heard more recently is: how many golf balls can fit into one school bus?
As with any skill (whether swinging a baseball bat or interviewing), the more you prepare and practice, the more you improve. I would suggest you craft responses to the questions listed above. When and if you are asked, the question won’t be a surprise, but instead you will be ready to respond with a well-though out response.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.