• Job Hunting 101: The Interview, Part 1 – Preparation

  • In my last blog I discussed job hunting tips for students and young professionals starting their career in the environmental industry. With some research, hard work, lots of perseverance and some luck, you’ve finally landed an interview with a prospective employer. Here are a few tips on preparing for this next big step. Thanks for the valuable contributions from colleagues, including my mentors and mentees.

    Just like successful job hunting you have to thoroughly research your prospective employer. You need to understand the company; including, but not limited to their services, markets, clients, projects, staffing, their history and future. The better you understand the company, the better you can convince them that you are the perfect fit they have been looking for. Specifically explore areas of interest you have in common with the firm and their staff that you can leverage and expand on in the interview.

    Interviews can be very stressful, and don’t always display your attributes, especially if you are nervous, or have difficulty responding to tough questions while under pressure. Try to get those nervous jitters out of your system by practicing interview techniques. You can do mock up interviews with friends or classmates (family members may not be the best due to inherent bias), or practice in front of a mirror; you could even make a video to better evaluate body language, posture and tone. Early in their career, one colleague went to many interviews for jobs they didn’t expect to get (unrelated fields, recruiters, jobs they knew they wouldn’t land) just to practice answering difficult questions in a tense environment. Constructively critique these practice sessions, and use these lessons to improve all aspects of your presentation.

    Prepare your ‘Elevator Speech’:
    Whether you are in a formal interview, or just happen to meet a potential employer while networking; you should have a suitable ‘Elevator Speech’ ready to go. Simply put, this is a very brief summary of who and what you are. It should outline your strengths, but more importantly let the listener know what you are good at and passionate about. It should demonstrate your self-confidence without bragging. You may want to have several variations depending on the target audience. Create a unique and personal elevator speech; then practice it, repeat it and fine tune it until it becomes second nature. It should be concise and succinct - less than a minute in length, any longer than that and you will likely lose the interest or attention of your audience.

    Questions and Answers:
    With the research and practice you should be able to prepare good answers for the interview questions. Concentrate on your strengths and the skills and expertise you can bring to the employer. Recognize, but try to minimize your weaknesses. Don’t be scared or intimidated - know what you want in advance and how to ask for it; which is easier said than done when, especially early on in your career path. Lastly, be prepared with some well researched, company or project-specific questions of your own for the interview (more on that topic next month).

    In my next blog I will discuss additional strategies to implement these ideas, and conduct a successful job interview.

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA

    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca