1. PF Contest - Win "Conquering the Physics GRE" book! Click Here to Enter
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Job Interview Advice

  1. Mar 4, 2015 #1
    Hello all, I am making this thread because I have just bombed yet another job interview (for a job I very much wanted) so I want to ask for some advice. First, I should say my qualifications (IMO) are very good, I double major in MechE and Mathematics at a prominent university and hold a 3.8 GPA. However, when it comes to job interviews I am just terrible. I always come prepared and if I get asked a question I prepared for I do reasonably well, but for questions I haven't prepared for I usually sound like a rambling idiot. I tend to get anxious and I think the anxiety comes out in my voice. I was hoping someone could give me some interview tips. Also, the tip everyone usually gives is relax; however, this is much easier said than done. Also, is it possible that an employer would overlook a bad interview because the candidate has excellent qualifications? Thanks for any advice/tips
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Yes some employers will look beyond the interview or they may schedule a second one if they are unsure. It's usually a commitee like decision with the hiring manager ultimately deciding things.

    For some jobs you may go thru a battery of interviews and they will collect everything learned and say yay or nay. The hiring manager thinks about you would fit in with team and makes the call.

    One way to get over interview anxiety is to journal down your fears and thoughts a few minutes before the interview. During the interview don't just sit there and the interviewer run the show. You must start a dialog ask questions about the job and the work environment. Imagine you work there already ask him/her toshow you around. During the conversation look for where you can inject your ideas about helping the company succeed.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2015
  4. Mar 4, 2015 #3
    In my experience, when an employer schedules an interview they REALLY want to hire you. I have heard my supervisors and others feel upset when they extend job offers and it is not taken or when the interview doesn't work out. So realize the people interviewing you want you to do well.

    I think not being able to answer questions you haven't prepared for is a serious hindrance. First off, if you can only answer questions you have reviewed prior, it may sounds like you have memorized an answer rather than answered truthfully. I recall an interview where the first question asked was "How many gold balls do you think can fit in this room. Give me a number and your justification." How do you prepare for something like that? Granted being nervous makes things worse, but I think you have to focus on interacting with people rather than memorizing answers, if that is what you are doing. And quite frankly, if I was interviewing someone and saw they had a really high GPA but sounded "scripted" when they answered my questions, I would suspect they studied for the test rather than learned the material.
  5. Mar 4, 2015 #4
    For the job I just interviewed for I find out tomorrow if I will be asked back for a second interview, but I am not holding out much hope. One of my biggest problems is I sometimes freeze during an interview. Do you think it would be allowable to bring a notepad so I can take notes and also so I can check my script?
  6. Mar 4, 2015 #5
    Personally, I do much better on the Google style questions (golf balls in a room), I struggle with questions about "soft skills"..
  7. Mar 4, 2015 #6
    Also, just because I memorized an answer doesn't mean I'm not being truthful, right?
  8. Mar 4, 2015 #7
    Thanks for the advice so far
  9. Mar 4, 2015 #8
    No, memorizing an answer is bad. You should know the answer without having to have it written down in front of you. What are you going to do when you are tasked with calling a client/vendor/etc? Write down an anticipatory script of how the conversation will go?
  10. Mar 4, 2015 #9
    Ok, Thank you for the advice. Your answer sort of surprises me, can I ask how you typically prepare for an interview?
  11. Mar 4, 2015 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    Make it a dialog, interview the interviewer. After all you're not desperate for the job and you want to know if you'll like the place.

    You have to change your mindset. You're not a student visiting a professor. Don't sit there without asking questions? If they give a problem to ponder ask questions as you think thru it. They're really looking for the one who can express their thinking verbally and if you're on the right track the interviewer will often help it along. In the end, if you don't get ask the interviewer to explain it for future experience.

    The interviewer is a peer who's looking to buy something and you're looking to sell something.

    Don't forget to get emails and send thankyou notes where you can once again mention how you can help the company succeed.
  12. Mar 4, 2015 #11


    Staff: Mentor

    To prepare for an interview look at your resume and job application. What did you say? Where are the gaps? the Interviewer will look for these and ask about them.

    If you say you worked on some project then have a simple one line description of it. Be prepared though if its a team project to clearly delineate what the team did "big picture" and what you did.

    If they ask about the toughest thing you've done have an answer it doesn't have to be the toughest only the one with a simple and short one-line explanation.

    Basically, tell them what they want to hear, no more no less. Try to limit questions as a goal. Ask questions yourself to break the oneway interview process.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2015
  13. Mar 4, 2015 #12
    You know it is funny, I never had any direct preparation. Yes, it is always important to familiarize yourself with the company and your job. To that effect I looked on websites like glassdoor, spoke with friends who are familiar with the company, read through the website, looked through news articles, etc. I also prepared a set of questions (which I did bring in) that were generally interesting to me and relevant to my job description.

    But as for actual practicing, I got a lot of this along the way when I was looking for jobs. Rather that apply online I made calls to companies. If it was a small company I made a point to contact the CEO or somebody high up and express my interest in their work. Yes, it was frustrating and I did screw up a few times, but I also made some good contacts and met some great people. I spoke with one CEO for an hour (his company has grown considerably and he is now a director of one division) and a director who was working to start an airliner repair facility in northern New York. Almost all of the employeers were honest with me. If they didn't have a position, they let me know on the spot, if they were interested they gave me their email and asked me to send them a resume. Ultimately I ended up working for a large company. Not my first choice but I had been unemployed a long time and I did not want to stay with my family. I learned a lot by taking that initiative.
  14. Mar 4, 2015 #13
    Speaking for myself, my preparation in the past has been trying to find out what the company (or research group) does and identifying points I want to have clarified in the interview. I don't really prepare presenting myself or my previous work since I usually feel confident enough about both topics to present them without preparation.

    (btw., since HuskyHamedLala mentioned it in the form of a rhetorical question: I do write down important points I want to have clarified before calling a client, project partner or sometimes even colleagues)
  15. Mar 4, 2015 #14


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    There is nothing wrong with bringing a pad and paper. no will fault you in any way for that.
    The key to a good interview is to make a connection. Make that person want to work with you.

    Make sure you know what you are talking about. know your resume and every single detail about it. don't say you understand a subject if you barely understand it.
    Like others have said the key is confidence. You want to go in there, figure out what is required of someone who works that job, then prove you fit (or redefine) that mold.
  16. Mar 4, 2015 #15


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Maybe if you have a clear idea of how you fit into the company you are being interviewed for, and what you can do for them (and hopefully be able to communicate it to them), you may be able to feel more at ease, more confident , in the interview.
  17. Mar 4, 2015 #16


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    1. Practice. Sit down with a friend and have that person ask you some questions. Most of your education will have focused on allowing you to arrive at a correct answer when presented with a problem, but it's rare that you spend much time figuring out the verbal articulation of that answer. To do this you need to practice, and ideally practice with feedback so that someone can tell you if your message is getting across.
    2. Spend time thinking about possible questions and points that you can use to respond to them. I have been on the other side of the interview table dozens of times now and often I'm surprised at how little prepared people are for very common questions such as:
      - What do you know about this company/position?
      - Why do you think you will be a good fit with us?/ Why do you want to work here?
      - What are some examples of experience you have that's relevant to the position?
      - What do you know about the field?
      - Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?
    3. It's okay to be nervous. Everyone gets nervous when they are being evaluated and this is a sign that you want the position. Practice can help to mitigate your nerves. For some people, breathing exercises or positive visualization can help too. Also, your interviewers will expect a little nervousness and in general they are willing to forgive some of it.
    4. You mentioned bringing in a pad of paper. I would also bring in documents that summarize relevant projects that you've completed and are particularly proud of (a professional portfolio). These can give you visual aids if you just want to show something and serve as cue's for further discussion. These days this can be done electronically as well. I would highly recommend a tablet that can be opened/turned on quickly if you go the electronic route. I've been in interviews where candidates have pulled out cell phones to show us things, but I would strongly avoid this because (i) the display is often too small to really show much of anything and (ii) you're pulling out a cell phone in the middle of an interview.
    5. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer. All interviews should be a two-way street. You have to decide if this is the right position for you as well. If you have a list of questions prepared, you won't fumble around when they pass the ball to you. If they have answered them and you haven't thought of new ones, you can ask them to expand. Or, you can ask an open ended-question such as what advice they might have for someone starting in that position.
    6. Follow-up. Usually a follow up email within 24 hours of the interview is appropriate. Thank them for the interview and let them know that you're available for any further questions.
    7. Interviews are generally not the best moments to make personal statements about wardrobe or personal style. Researching the company's dress policy can help with this. But it's not uncommon for people to lose out on positions because they wore the wrong shoes or whatever. (I'm not saying I support this idea necessarily, just relaying that it happens).
  18. Mar 5, 2015 #17
    I always ask questions at the "end" of the interview, but you're saying I should be asking throughout the entire process?
  19. Mar 5, 2015 #18
    Thank you, much of this stuff I already do. However, like I said I stumble around questions that I haven't prepared for. For instance, I was asked a question and took about 30 seconds to figure out how I wanted to respond, to me this is a defeat (I feel like I should be able to answer right away) but maybe I'm just being too critical?
  20. Mar 5, 2015 #19


    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, you can ask at any time. Just don't ask too many make it an interactive dialog. Usually the interviewer will start with a brief introduction of the company and the job and then Segway into asking you some questions. During that time, listen and come up with thoughtful questions based on what he/she said and what you already know about the company and its mission.

    From there, it will be a give and take. You can take notes but remember not to zone out as you're taking the note down keeping focused and listening at all times. Interviewers pickup on these things, what you say and how you say it. It's a subjective process but that's the way it's done. It's really about seeing how well the candidate will fit in with the team ie do your skills strengthen the team or might you compete with the team.
  21. Mar 5, 2015 #20


    Staff: Mentor

    One trick I used to do in grade school was someone would tell me some math problem and I'd say why do you want to know this. While they were answering I would compute it and blurt out the answer. They thought I did it so fast but their answer gave me some time to figure it out.

    Try solving the problem out loud and ask a couple of questions, the interviewer may give you some hints. You'll get points for your thinking process even if you don't solve it.

    One of my favorite movies is the Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilsson where they fake their way into google using their salesmanship skills. It's pretty preposterous but funny..
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads - Interview Advice Date
Physics Research Job Interview Presentation Advice Aug 16, 2017
An interview with John D. Cook Jun 17, 2015
Advice for internship interviews Jun 23, 2014
Job Skills Some job interview advice Nov 14, 2012
Job Skills Internship Interview tomorrow with Boeing, any tips/words of advice? Dec 7, 2011