When you leave an interview, regardless of what it is for – a college, a full-time job, an internship, or volunteer role – you want your interviewer thinking, “I LOVE this candidate and absolutely have to have them at my school/company/organization!” If the interviewer thinks that you are “nice, polite, mature, articulate, and capable,” but they still feel the need to see the next candidate, chances are you are not going to land the job or admission to the school that you are seeking. When you are competing for a spot with hundreds or thousands of other applicants, being good or fine is not enough. You need to stand out!
So what is the game changer? What will be the difference between, “I have to have that person,” and “Who’s next on the list?” Most people think that standing out is about having the best credentials, experience, or scores, but often a successful interview has less to do with these “hard” factors and more to do with your enthusiasm and passion. If you can convey enthusiasm for the things you currently do, e.g., your work, classes, activities, sports, etc., and for what you are hoping to do at their company/school/organization, this will often translate into enthusiasm that your interviewer will feel about your candidacy.
How can you convey enthusiasm and passion so that you stand out? Your interviewer will form an impression of you in the first few minutes of your encounter with them. They will determine enthusiasm by your handshake, eye contact, smile and voice when you first introduce yourself. Next, when you discuss the things you do - prior jobs, projects, outside interests, etc., your tone of voice, the adjectives you use to describe your activities, and the elaboration and detail you provide about them will help you convey your passion and leave the interviewer inspired about your potential to make an impact. Here’s a quick example of how your delivery can make a huge difference.
Interviewer: Can you tell me why you are interested in a sports management internship in sponsorship sales at Winning Team Sports this summer?
Response 1: I’m majoring in sports management and this job seems like a good opportunity to learn more about the industry and get experience.
Response 2: I’ve always been very passionate about sports and closely follow my teams – both the player stats and what’s happening behind the scenes in the clubhouse. Majoring in sports management has given me a strong foundation for understanding sports operations and I am hoping to use my project management skills and my facility with Excel and PowerPoint to really support Winning Team Sports’ sponsorship efforts this summer. I’m excited to learn about sponsor contracts and about developing partnership relationships, too. The fact that Winning Team Sports has recently hired a new commissioner and Director of Sponsorships will give me a great opportunity to see how a team implements new strategies and programs.
The key differences in the two responses are as follows:
Adjectives - Response 1 describes the opportunity as “good”; Response 2 uses adjectives such as passionate, strong, excited, and great.
Elaboration - Response 1 answers the question but provides no backup detail and leaves lots of questions hanging. The curt response may leave the interviewer feeling uninspired and burdened to have to pull information from the candidate. Response 2 provides detail and back-stories. We end up knowing why the candidate selected their major and what they hope to contribute to, and get from, their summer experience.
Research - Response 1 does nothing to highlight to the interviewer what the candidate knows about the job responsibilities or organization. Response 2, by discussing facets of the job and mentioning recent leadership hires, tells the interviewer that the candidate was passionate enough about the opportunity to dig deeper to understand the role and the organization.
This approach works just as well for students interviewing with admissions officers at colleges. If you elaborate on your classes, activities, and experiences with enthusiasm, provide the color and stories behind why you love doing what you do, and research and convey the specific ways that the school is a good fit for you, your interviewer will start to envision you on campus, taking advantage of the school’s resources and contributing to the dynamic fabric that comprises their student body.
And finally, never underestimate the power of a “thank you.” Candidates often overlook this step or think that it’s not necessary. The thank you email is always critical – not necessarily for what it says (although a sloppy message can certainly hurt you) but more for what it expresses – “I appreciate the time you took to learn about me and I’m more excited than ever about this potential opportunity.”
Lead with and end with passion - it’s a game changer!
To chat with us about how Success Prep Partners can help your student achieve improved educational or career success, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.