Pre-Interview Work

Applied to job(s)? Check. Phone call for an interview? Check. Interview? Not yet.

Pre-interview prepping is crucial and can make you a standout applicant in the pool. This can seem tedious and you may not think you have time for it with everything else already on your plate. However, it shows the interviewers that you are educated about the company, what they do and stand for, and what’s to come.

Where to start: the “About Us” section. This is where I’ll first get an idea about the company, their mission, and leadership. You can learn a lot about a company from these few paragraphs. This is also good to look at before even applying to decide if you might even be a good fit for the company. For me, if I don’t stand with the company values, I might find it hard to see myself working there.

Next up: research. For whatever type of job you’re looking for, whether it be management, research, clinical work, or design, look at what the company is currently doing. As someone looking for bio-based research, I’ll do this by reading recent publications by the particular research team. It’ll show the employer that you know what they are focusing on, what they found, and it’s a good point to ask questions about the research. Asking questions is always a difficult thing to do, but this at least gives you content to ask about.

These two points of “work” before the interview will make you more prepared going into the conversation. You’ll learn about the company and the kind of work you might be a part of, while showing the interviewers your interest in the work.

Mind Mapping Your Career


Last week my colleague, Kate Famulari, wrote a blog post for The Works on using the Mind Mapping technique in lieu of to do lists.  Through Kate, I discovered Mind Mapping about 4 years ago and have been using this method in my appointments with students.

For those of you who may have missed Kate’s original post, here is a link to the post and also a very quick overview of the process. 

Step 1 – Start with a central theme in the middle of a sheet of paper.  The central theme is the project you are working on, problem you are trying to solve, event you are trying to plan, test you are studying for and everything in between.

Step 2 – Develop your branches (ideas and tasks) that radiate from the theme.

Step 3 – Add and extend your branches.  There are no rules – just keep adding your thoughts as they come to you.

Mind Map

In this post I will share with you three ways I apply this method when working with students through various stages of the job search process.  As you read this post, consider where you might be in the process and try to assess if this technique can help you organize your thoughts and steps.  In order to move forward, you can ask yourself questions that keep extending your branches until you have exhausted your thoughts (even if just temporarily).  The more you allow yourself to brainstorm all possibilities, the more clarity you will find.

  1. Exploration

It doesn’t matter if you are a first year student, a senior, a graduate student or an alum, your career path is always evolving.  Using the Mind Mapping technique will allow you to pause and reflect on where you have been and where you are going.  Starting with the central theme of “Career”, ask yourself a few of the questions below.  Some you might not be able to answer immediately but answering others will enable you to find just a bit more clarity regarding your career goals.

  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What am I good at?
  • Do I enjoy doing what I am good at?
  • What do I enjoy learning about?
  • What type of lifestyle do I envision for myself?
  • How/when did I become aware of this vision?
  • In what kind of work environment will I thrive (team, small company, creative culture, autonomous, etc.)?

These questions can trigger the start of your map and allow you to develop your “branches”.  There is no limit to how far each branch can extend, just keep it going until it stops.  The beauty of a Mind Map is that you can ALWAYS add to it.

  1. Research

Depending on where you are in your job search, you will need to obtain more information to help you move forward.  Do you need to talk to people to find out what they do? Do you need to look through the course catalog to find out if the classes you are considering sound interesting to you?  Do you need to explore possibilities of where different majors will take you?  Here are some additional questions to help you with this section of your Mind Map.

  • Who do I know that does X, Y or Z?
  • Am I able to reach out to them?
  • How can I find others I can talk to about X, Y or Z?
  • What questions will I want to ask them?
  • Are there helpful websites I should explore?
  • Should I take any specific classes to help me move forward?

Going through some of these questions will help you clarify your goals.  With every piece of new information, you will be able to assess your next steps based on what you have learned.  What you learn from your research may or may not conflict with your values and career goals but a visual diagram of your thoughts will enable you to organize the information in a way that not only makes sense to you, but allows you to explore further based on additional thoughts and feelings that will come through as a result of the process.

  1. Decision Making

At every point through this process you will be evaluating your options as you move forward.  I have used this technique with students trying to evaluate multiple job offers, graduate school acceptances, classes to take or simply making a decision to pursue one option and rule out another.  Some questions to consider could be:

  • What are the practical implications of options A and B?
  • How do these options fit in with my goals and my values?
  • Do these options excite me when I think about each one?
  • Do I know enough about each one to rule one out? If not, what additional information do I need?
  • What are the immediate next steps I must take to move forward through this process?

The benefit of using a Mind Map rather than a list of pros and cons is the ability to explore your feelings and thoughts instead of only logic (which I know many of us need to consider as well).  Extending branches to explore different options will inevitably take you to where you will know you are closer to the answer.  Next time you are trying to decide if you should buy option A or option B, try using this method to decide.

Once you have created the initial Mind Map, consider two additional steps.

Step 4 – Reproduce your draft in a more organized way.  Focus on what you are trying to explore and most importantly, include ideas for next actions.  Give this step more thought and attention.  Take the time to consider each branch and its direction.  Are there some that require more attention?  This awareness will keep you moving forward as you pay closer attention to information that comes your way.

Step 5 – Place the Mind Map in a visible location so you can be reminded of your next steps without feeling overwhelmed by keeping all your thoughts in your head.  Again, you can add and revise as many times as possible.  My hope is that you will notice that by getting your thoughts out of your mind and on paper, you will immediately start to make sense of them.

I hope that you will give this a try.  You can create your first mind map as your daily to do list just to keep it simple.  Or, you can apply the technique right away to your job search process.  Just remember, there are no rules – keep the ideas going until you find more clarity.

Good luck!

 This post was authored by Anne Grieves.

Waiting Room Do’s and Don’t’s

So imagine this: you are at a job interview, about 5-10 minutes early and are now in the interview waiting room, waiting for your interviewer to come down to meet you. This time waiting can actually affect your interview, so what you do (and don’t do) might have an impact on how your professionalism appears to the interviewer.

interviewing, waiting room, interview waiting room

Do: Look over your resume. I remember being told in my co-op class to bring multiple copies of my resume in a fancy portfolio to interviews to provide interviewers with. Since your resume is most likely the only piece of paper they’ll have of yours, you better know what your own resume says! Hopefully you’ve reviewed it before, but a quick read over in the waiting area shows whoever might be watching you that you are committed to this interview.

Do: Have good posture. This carries over into the interview as well, but sitting up straight is important. The way you are sitting may be the first time your interviewer sees you and this also may impact how your reflection of professionalism. It’s not too long of a time frame, so straighten that back a bit!

Don’t: Play on your phone. I feel as if this varies. I’m the kind of person who says its a no, but we’re all entitled to our own opinion. Being on your phone can show that you are preoccupied with something else, such as emails, text messages, your social media, or myabe the latest level of Candy Crush. Tuck that phone away (on silent!) in your bag or pocket when you walk into the waiting area. You’ll look ten times more professional and can use the time to focus on the interview, not on other aspects of your life. (I promise they’ll still be there when you’re finished with interviewing.)

Photo courtesy of ASDA.