Natalie's Co-op Job Search Blog: Lessons from the First Interview

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Natalie's Co-op Job Search Blog: Lessons from the First Interview

By: npope
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So you went through the workshops, you took BOL I, and you’ve had your one-on-one with your advisor. Now what? I asked myself the same question when I completed all the initial steps of Co-op.

I was really excited to get out and start looking for an actual job that was relevant to my future line of work (whatever that will be!). So, I eagerly logged onto Simplicity (you will only have access to job postings once you're admitted into the Co-op program), and discovered a plethora of jobs I could apply for, and I could feel a slow panic starting to emerge from within myself. “I am not qualified for these jobs!” “How will I ever get a job like this?” “I will never get a job!”

I was nervous, but decided to start applying those skills that were taught in all of the workshops I attended. I spent hours and hours writing cover letters, reviewing them, and discussing them with the co-op advisors. Fifteen cover letters later, I managed to get a job interview! I was honestly pretty shocked I even managed to get an interview because I heard that it may sometimes be difficult for a junior co-op student to land a job in your first searching semester.

Like suggested, I booked a mock interview with my advisor. The night before the practice interview, I did research on the company and felt like I was ready to have a practice interview. Boy, was I wrong! As soon as my advisor and I started going through the practice questions, I started to feel very unprepared for my interview the next day, and very unqualified. My nerves started to build, and my advisor tried to calm me down, and reminded me “There is a reason they selected you. They clearly see something in you that is a good fit for the job.” The kind words were comforting, and realistic, but I was still nervous.

That night, I did even more research on the company. I learned about their values, their community involvement, and of course what they do! I studied their website, checked out their Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and looked them up on Google maps so I know my directions. I also focused on practicing for interview questions, such as “What do you know about our company?”, because I figured the more I know about their business the more I would be able to apply that knowledge to the rest of the questions they ask me.

I felt good about my research, and figured that my interview could only go well in comparison to my practice interview with my advisor. The next morning, I was off! Everything went smoothly on my way there, until I got lost. This was nerve wracking because I had allowed about 20 minutes extra time, but I started to panic as I drove around confused and lost as time started to dwindle away. Luckily, I was able to ask a store clerk for directions. I quickly drove to my interview and arrived with about 5 minutes to spare. Phew!

When I arrived, I was greeted by a secretary and was told that the interviewers would be out shortly. I sat down and tried to calm myself. “This will be okay, I am awesome, the interview will go well,” I told myself. When I was mid-mantra, both my interviewers came to greet me. I was a little caught off guard, because it turned out that the current co-op student there would be interviewing me for her position! I was relieved because I thought it might be easier to talk to a peer, but I was still nervous.

We walked into a meeting room, and I sat in a big leather chair. It was very intimidating, as I had never been interviewed in an office before. The current co-op student offered me some water, and I politely said, “I’m fine thank you”. She started talking a bit to break the ice, and a little while later she offered me water again, and I said “I’m okay thanks” with a smile. Then her supervisor came in and playfully scolded the co-op student for not offering me water, and they offered me water once again, and I finally accepted. I had no idea that water was such a big deal! Once everyone had water in front of them, the interview started. 

At first I was nervous, and I could hear a quiver in my voice. I tried to calm my nerves, but the most calming thing was seeing the supervisor and the co-op student interact. They genuinely seemed to get along and have fun together, in a professional manner. We were even laughing with one another half way through the interview. They were incredibly friendly, and it made me want to work there.

In terms of the questions, I did the best I could to answer them. Some questions they asked me included the ones I prepared for, including “What do you know about our company?” and others I had not, like “What is your favorite course?” I was able to easily tell them about their company, and they seemed quite impressed with the answer I gave them. This is probably the most important question you can prepare for because it is difficult to ‘wing’ this specific question without some careful research. I was a little nervous about the “favorite course” question, because I felt like it had to be relevant to the job. Because my courses in Communications and English are quite theoretical, it was challenging to come up with something on the spot. I walked out feeling relatively confident, but knew I could have answered some questions better. 

Turns out, the interviewers had fun talking to me too, but did not think I had enough relevant experience compared to the other applicants, and I completely understood. Although it was disappointing to be turned down for a job, I was not disappointed for long because I was quickly shortlisted for another interview.

Overall, this interview went over pretty well. Learning from my first interview experience, I decided to give myself a LOT of extra time before my interview because I might get lost, and I might say ‘yes’ to water if I was offered more than once! Although I did not get this job, I did feel like I gained a lot of valuable experience and practice with my job interview skills. This experience helped me think on my feet, it helped me think of answering questions with a focus on how my skills and experiences apply to the job, and gave me overall practice to feel more confident with every passing interview. This knowledge eventually helped me get a co-op job later on!

Read about my second, but rather disappointing, interview in my next blog post

Natalie is a fourth year Communications and English student with a love for writing and learning. She is in the midst of her first co-op workterm as a marketing assistant, where she is learning many practical skills and life lessons that inspired her to write this blog series. She has previously volunteered as an Orientation Leader, and is currently volunteering as an FCAT Mentor.

Posted on July 08, 2012