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Not All Job Interviews are Created Equal

 

I did my first phone interview in pajamas.


It was two in the afternoon and I was relaxing after exams. I had been searching for my first summer co-op job after my second year at University, but hadn't had any luck. But that day, I wasn't going to study, I wasn't going to an interview, I wasn't going to polish my resume. I was going to sit around the house and watch some videos.

The phone rang, and a woman said, "Hi I'm from Island Mountain Arts, can you do a job interview right now?"

"Uuuuuhhhh sure?" I answered. Now understand: Co-op employers normally don't do this. Phone interviews usually take place at school, at a set time. The school gives you a chance to prep. It's all very formal and organized. So this call floored me.

Luckily, I know the details of my resume off by heart, because I didn't want to put down the phone to get it. I managed to get through the interview, even though I felt weird doing an interview with bed-head and unbrushed teeth.

I got the job, but that experience showed me how interviews have changed and how interviews can take many a surprising turn, depending on the job and the company. While I was a student (I graduated last year), I've been to phone interviews, cattle calls, one-on-one and panel interviews. I also picked up a few tricks along the way.

Phone Interviews
Phone Interviews are really deceptive: you would think they're easy but they are the toughest. It's really hard to connect with a stranger's disembodied voice, and sometimes the interview will seem stilted when there are pauses when the interview writes an answer or shuffles through his or her notes.

Concentrate on your verbal skills. Try to sound smooth and keep unnatural pauses to a minimum. Memorize the details on your resume. Prepare answers to basic interview questions, and you'll sound competent and poised. Jot down a few of your prepared answers.

Exorcise "um" like it's a nasty vampire. "um" is probably the most common thing we say. Saying "um" a lot makes you sound indecisive and unprepared. Practice with a friend or sibling: have them count your "ums". Practice until you can talk smoothly.

Emphasize your verbs. This is an actor's trick that helps the listener to hear you more clearly. They will also remember more of what you tell them. Punching your verbs out helps you to control your vocal speed and cadence, if you talk too quickly. Here's how to do it. While you're practicing your responses, underline all the verbs (those are all the words that describe an action), then while you are reading, say those words a bit louder. Don't go overboard, we're looking for subtle. After you've done it a couple of times, don't think about it. You'll start doing it unconsciously.

Slow down. Talking quickly will make you breathless, and then you'll sound nervous. It's OK to pause to catch your breath.

Cattle Calls
In Hollywood, large groups of actors often show up for auditions. These auditions are called "cattle calls". Some larger retail outfits are now using cattle-call style group interviews to find outgoing and dynamic employees. These companies put out ads with the time and place of the interview and then they interview all the job-seekers at the same time. My secret weapon for the cattle-call interview? Be REALLY mouthy. Talk your head off about anything. At a cattle call, if they remember you, they'll hire you.

One Christmas, I was living on student loans and had no money for presents. I heard a girl in the hallway of the Fine Arts Building talk about a group job interview she was going to go for at The Gap. I noted down the details, and showed up. Now no one is less Gap-like than I. My friends were laughing at me and told me I'd never get the job, especially when they were interviewing so many people at the same time. Well I got the job, even though I am so completely un-Gap it hurts.

A group of about three or four Gap employees herded thirty of us into a conference room and sat us down. I wasn't taking the interview seriously at all. They showed us this video about how their managed to package their advertising as news and showed us the "news" clips of the major news programs they had managed to infiltrate, like CNN and CBS. I had just been at my news media class, and we had all been complaining about the

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