In light of how tough the job market has become over the last few years, some employers are making the hiring process more selective. Many recent grads find themselves facing marathon interview sessions that can last anywhere from three to six hours, or even stretch out over a period of days.
Lengthy interviews are beneficial to the employer since they can weed out subpar candidates but they can be mentally and physically taxing. When you’re trying to break into the workforce right out of college, there’s the pressure to chase down every single opportunity but it can take a big bite out of your time, especially if you’re expected to do homework on the company beforehand. The trick to enduring epic interviews is to be as prepared as possible beforehand, so you don’t waste a single second.
Feel out the interview process
Knowing what to expect before you actually set foot in the interview room puts you in a better position to brace yourself mentally for what’s coming. Aside from asking how long the interview is expected to last, you should also be curious about the format. For example, will you be meeting with a panel of interviewers or talking to people one-on-one? If there are multiple candidates interviewing, will there be both group and individual sessions?
Your contact person should be able to give you some insight into how the interview will work but it’s also helpful to reach out to anyone you know that’s been through the hiring process. Someone who’s already jumped through the company’s hoops is likely to have some valuable input on how to make yourself stand out in the interview while maintaining your stamina.
Don’t get bogged down in the research
Going into an interview without any background knowledge of the company puts you at a major disadvantage but spending hours researching their history isn’t something that most new grads can realistically afford to do. If you want to get the rundown on what a potential employer is all about, looking through their website is a good starting point. Reading their blogs or following them on social media gives you a feel for what it is they do and what kind of image they’re trying to convey. If the company regularly makes headlines, a quick web search keeps you up-to-date on the latest news.
Write down anything noteworthy about the company such as accomplishments you are impressed by, or make it a point to tell the interviewer why you agree with the company’s mission statement.
Become a storyteller
Obviously, you should know the finer points of your resume inside and out but just reciting your work history isn’t going to inspire interviewers. Ideally, you should be prepared to expand on the information in your resume in a way that’s succinct but compelling. Sharing anecdotes about a problem you faced and how you dealt with it is a chance to let your personality shine through while demonstrating what you’re capable of.
Keep in mind that the stories you tell should have some relevance to the job you’re interviewing for. This can be a little harder to do if you don’t have any real-world work experience under your belt so you might have to get a little more creative when coming up with examples. Think about experiences you might have had as an intern or volunteer, for example. Was there a conflict that you were successfully able to deal with that benefited the organization? If so, make sure you use it to play up your strengths.
This is also a time when the interviewer is judging how eloquently you speak, communicate, and convey your message without going off on tangents, stumbling over your words or saying “um” a lot. A good way to handle this is by practicing out loud what you will say. Sit in front of a mirror, or ask a friend to do a mock interview with you. Have your script ready. While you don’t have to sound like you memorized lines, you should be able to quickly answer questions without long pauses.
Be ready to listen
There are times during the interview process where you’ll be expected to talk but there are others when the ability to listen is more important. Tuning out what the person is saying because you’re tired or nervous practically guarantees that you’re going to miss something that may be important later on. If you’re feeling fatigued and your attention is starting to drift, taking notes can help you stay focused on what the interviewer is saying. It’s OK to whip out a notepad and pen.
In some situations, you may even find that the interviewer does most of the talking, leaving you very little time to make your case. Memorizing an elevator pitch of points that highlight why you’re the best candidate for the job is a good way to get your point across when the clock is ticking. Try to relate your strengths to what the interviewer said, rather than listing generic strengths. This is a great time to be as original as possible with your elevator pitch. It’s also an effective way to help the interviewer remember you.
Choose the right moment to touch on salary
Salary negotiation is a standard part of the hiring process but figuring out when to bring it up can be tough. If you start talking about pay too soon, it can be a major turn-off for the employer. Waiting too long, on the other hand, gives you less time to bargain for the amount of money you want.
If the subject of money comes up during a marathon interview, make sure you’re leaving yourself some wiggle room later on. Blurting out the first number that comes into your head could leave you feeling shortchanged later on.
Instead, research salary ranges for the kind of position you’re applying, and be sure to emphasize your experience and why you feel you are a good fit for that salary range. Approaching it this way improves the odds of getting paid what you’re worth, if an offer is made.
Take care of yourself
Getting a good night’s sleep may seem impossible the night before a big interview but it’s important to get enough rest when you’re going to spend a big part of your day in the trenches. Drinking enough fluids can stave off headaches, which is especially important if you’re not able to eat lunch. The better you feel physically, the easier it is to keep your energy up so you end the interview on a high note instead of feeling completely drained.