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Entry by Valerie Petrey, Public Relations & Event Planning Intern, Purdue Liberal Arts Career Development

Preparing for an interview, whether for an internship or job is stressful. It’s simple to answer questions about yourself, right? The hard part is answering those questions in a way that will convey your specific skill set to an employer.

When answering the infamous question, “tell me about yourself,” you must limit the answer to a minute or two. Also keep in mind your future employer doesn’t care about your obsession with the Chicago Cubs, that you like music or if you’re double jointed, UNLESS you can turn those things into experience that would benefit the job you want to do for that employer. In which case it would make you stand out among the hundreds of other candidates.

A fabulous guest speaker came to my class this week and told us the story of the pizza delivery guy. This young man just graduated college with a degree in journalism and photography but couldn’t find a job in this tough economy. He applied for a photographer position at a T.V. news station and was highly capable, however he needed something to set him apart from the other competent candidates. When the interviewer asked him to share something that makes him unique, he said, “I deliver pizzas.” Now you’re thinking, whoa how could that help me get a professional position? For his specific situation, it showed the interviewer he wouldn’t need to be taught the geography of the city because he already knew it from delivering pizzas (photographers for news stations typically drive the reporter around the city to cover stories). As a result, he got the job!

When walking into an interview, be prepared to share examples with the interviewer. It can be from a part-time job, an internship, your club, a volunteer position or anything else you see fit. Make sure you are prepared to tell them about your skill set, your passion and your strengths. Don’t forget to cater those things, in an honest way, to fit the needs of the position you’re applying for. By passion I mean explaining what motivates you to work, what drives you to do better and take charge of the situation. Aside from storytelling be prepared to actually show artifacts to back up your words. This could be a data sheet, an article, a class paper, or a brochure you made for an event, even a picture of you in action at an internship.

I leave you with three essential rules for preparing for an interview:

1.) Have confidence in yourself and show it by dressing for success.
2.) Come prepared with extra resumes, cover letters and a portfolio.
3.) Shake your interviewer’s hand.

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