Students: 3 Tips to Prepare for Your Interview

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Campus Interviews:
Prepare Knowing What Recruiters Want

You are scheduled for an interview – Congrats!

You have already been able to set yourself aside from hundreds of other interested students. And I truly mean congrats; unless a very specific skill set or educational stream is part of the selection process, the typical campus recruiter will receive between 100 to 200 resumes for any position.

Your competencies, experience and/or personality were noticed at a campus recruiting event (tips here),in your resume, group interview, or other prior selection process criteria – now it’s time to show the recruiter they did right by selecting you!

A lot of information is available about how to prepare, what questions will be asked, the type of questions, and the potential interview format. As a 20+ year recruiter, I’m here to give you advice that will help differentiate you from other applicants.

Prepare, prepare, prepare – “winging it” is just not enough!

I’ve organized my advice against avoiding my 3 pet peeves: not knowing what you actually applied for; irrelevant examples and…silence. Let’s get started!

3 Steps to Preparing for a Campus Interview:

1. Know What You Applied For!

I am sure this statement will generate an eye roll or two, but really, I cannot tell you how often students have asked me in interviews to remind them again of the title of the role or what the company did again! Really!??

Recruiters understand you need a job; but, realize one thing – every campus recruiter wants candidates that specifically choose their company. They are proud of the company they represent.

At Minimum You Should:

  • Know the role – title, business area, responsibilities, selection criteria
  • Know the company – history, key officers, market, focus
  • Be able to speak to how this role fits with your career goals
  • Many students often ask me about how to make small talk at interviews. Company information (press releases for instance, growth projections, new projects) provide many opportunities for starting small talk and at the same time, in a subtle way, showcase your preparedness and interest in the company.

    2. Prepare Relevant Examples

    Know the Interview Style:

    Most interviews will include a behavioural component. This means recruiters will ask questions about past behaviours because this is believed to be a good indicator of future behaviour.

    The most used technique for mastering answering behaviour based interview questions is called STAR:

  • You will be asked to briefly describe a Situation (s)
  • Then your specific Task (t)
  • Always highlight the Actions (a) you took
  • Finish with the Results (r) it delivered.
  • When Preparing, Think About The Following:

    Identify the competencies the role is looking for – Initiative; problem solving; customer service skills; negotiation skills, team work, etc. Pro-Tip: Competencies are usually listed in the job description, often captured under qualifications (they are listed as “skills” or the sentence often starts with ‘the ability to”).

    Find examples in your past work experience, group work, extra-curricular or volunteering experience that highlight the competencies you believe will be asked about. Pro-Tip: Focus your experience on competencies allows you to showcase transferable skills. If you have limited work experience and technical skills, think about beefing your resume or LinkedIn profile up this way focusing on competencies & examples under role summaries for volunteer opportunities.

    Prepare potential answers – how you talk through your examples so you can deliver a clear STAR answer Pro-Tip: Students often ask me how to highlight experience so it makes them stand-out without being cocky. My answer: develop solid examples and prepare to speak to them clearly and concisely! Also, use a diversity of answers from volunteer work, school, or work experience.

    3. Make It A Dialogue!

    An interview does not equal a lecture where you listen in silence and only answer questions when asked. An interview is an opportunity for you to gauge if you will do well in a role but more importantly, if the role will deliver what you need from a career perspective. As much as the pressure to land a job is present, understand that the wrong match can deeply impact you.

    Question Period:

  • Think about the key criteria that are important for you and make sure you walk away with answers. Example: mentorship, training and development opportunities, etc.
  • Establish when and how you are asking your questions – i.e. starting your interview with asking “how much you’ll make” is NOT the best move. However, at the end of the interview it is perfectly reasonable to ask if the company representative “can provide some insight into the compensation structure.”
  • Always end the interview by thanking the company representatives for their time and confirming your interest!
  • Recruiters see this interview as the start of a new relationship – treat it in the same way. First step in a relationship is to get to know each other – don’t pass up on this opportunity to get to know them.


    A great way to end the conversation on a light note, build a relationship with the recruiter AND have leads on how to confirm your interest, is to ask the recruiter what attracts them to their company. Based on the recruiters reason’s you can pick one that aligns with your motivation and re-confirm that that is exactly what you are looking for too!

    Let’s Hear From You:

    Recruiters: Please share your tips to students on what you are looking for in an interview.

    Students: How have you prepared for a campus interview? What are your success stories or flops that others can learn from?

    Helen has more than 20 years of experience in Talent Acquisition working in Canada and Europe in a variety of industries including manufacturing, sales & marketing, and currently in Oil & Gas. No matter how challenging a recruitment project seems, Helen’s ability to break daunting goals into actionable steps have been proven time and time again. Watch for Helen's posts on recruiting tips and tricks. Trust Helen as an expert who has staffed projects targeting Olympic athletes, remote merchandizers, and hired over 1,200 students and new grads annually.

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    • Matt4martin

      Great Advice for all those students searching for a Co-op. I can
      personally say that using the STAR method worked for me to land a job
      this summer. I think of an interview of just the tip of the iceberg,
      with all the research, preparation and relationship building going on
      “under the water”. Great tips

      Talent Formula

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    • Katie Romano

      Great tips Chelsea, for both students and professionals looking to make a career move. After a five year tenure at my first employer out of university, I decided it was time for a new challenge. I landed interviews with two companies, and using the STAR method, I was offered both jobs. A few additional tips I found that were helpful;

      1. Questions – Don’t just ask questions to ask, use this as an opportunity to interview the interviewer, ask about the team dynamic, corporate culture, guiding principles etc. Be sure it is the right fit for you.

      2. Start your question with a statement, this shows the interviewer that you have done your research. (Ex. Based on the research I have done, your company values diversity for growth and innovation, would you say that’s an accurate description? How would you explain the culture?)

      3. I always like to follow-up with a thank you email 24 hours post interview. This is a nice touch, especially if the company is interviewing multiple candidates.

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