Perspectives: The Non-Academic Interview

Perspectives: The Non-Academic Interview

When I’m meeting a new candidate and possible coworker, I am looking for people who come in and highlight the 5 Ps: Positivity, Promotion, Prepared, Personality, and Persistence.

Positivity: The best things you can do throughout any interview is to stay positive. In large organizations and multi-level groups, sometimes the interview process can take a long time: from multiple phone interviews to daylong in-person interviews, to writing samples and exercises. Nothing makes a candidate less appealing than someone who complains about the process or “the hoops.” Companies are putting you through these ropes because they are trying to see how you react to the job that you’re applying for. See every opportunity as just that: a chance to prove that you are willing and open to doing whatever is needed to get the job done.

The same goes for tough questions. Even if you don’t have a sunny answer to a question, find a positive spin for everything. This may mean finishing an answer to a tough question like “what has been your toughest challenge,” or “give an example of a time when you didn’t succeed as you’d hoped,” it’s always best to end on a positive note like “I learned so much from that experience.” Staying positive will leave your interviewer with positive feelings.

Promotion: You’re there to prove that you are the right person for the job and you should promote yourself. Sometimes this feels really uncomfortable. But no one is going to searching for your “greatest hits” if you don’t sell yourself. There is a skill to doing this with a humble and considerate manner, and a great thing to practice before you go to an interview. But don’t shy away from talking about your achievements. You are talented, prepared, and capable. You should share your qualifications with your interviewers so that they can see all the incredible things you’re capable of.

Prepared: Nothing stops an interview faster than a candidate who gets the organization’s name wrong or doesn’t know the job they’re interviewing for. As you’re applying for jobs, save a copy of the job description, so that if (and when) you’re called for an interview, you can go back and review the position requirements. Take a look at the group’s website and see how they talk about themselves. Come prepared with specific questions about the role and what they’re looking for (coming with real questions is one of the best ways to show that you took time to prepare for this meeting). It’s so easy to prep for an interview, and so obvious if you haven’t done it.

Personality: In most cases, the people interviewing you will be the ones you work with on a regular basis – typically daily. That means that they are looking for someone to spend 8 or more hours a day with. In some cases, that’s more time than people spend with their families and friends. Your interviewer is looking fro someone who is going to mesh with the team. You should show them the personality that makes you so special and unique.

That doesn’t mean going all out at every opportunity. Rather, find ways to incorporate your personality when you can. Some of the most memorable candidates have worn a suit along with a colorful top or a great pair of colorful shoes. When asked about your activities outside the office, highlight your improve classes, or your love of running. Finding out more about you as a person is just as important as how you’ll be as an employee.

Persistence: Follow up. Check In. Not daily or even weekly, but send that thank you note (not an email – although that should be the bare minimum – Splurge on the 42 cents and send a handwritten thank you note). At the end of your interview, ask about the next steps. If you haven’t’ heard anything in the timeframe they discussed, send an email or call your interviewer. Usually, they won’t be able to answer every question or give you specific responses, your persistence will show a potential employer how much you want this position, and that is always impressive.

These are 5 simple ways to ace an interview and impress your future employers. Keep them in mind as you prepare for your upcoming job hunt and career.

Emma Davidson Tribbs is a Regional Director for State Affairs at Everytown for Gun Safety, developing, directing and implementing state legislative campaigns throughout the Midwest to encourage gun violence prevention. She previously served as Associate Director for Strategic Mobilization at the New Morning Foundation, where she led the advocacy efforts to bring responsible reproductive health policies to South Carolina. Her work has been highlighted in the State and Post & Courier, as well as ABC, NBC and FOX. She worked on numerous political campaigns before becoming the Tell Them Program Manager, expanding the online network from 3,000 to 12,000 active members. Emma has studied and worked on 4 continents, and is a graduate of the Women’s Media Center’s Progressive Women’s Voices.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact Dr. Heather Brandt at

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