|   College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

How I, An English Major, Aced My Interview & How You Can Ace Yours

You find a position you want, you apply, and if you’re lucky, you get an email or phone call asking to set up an interview. Nice. Now what? Now it’s time to prepare!

 

Hi, my name is Raevianna Davis and I am a junior majoring in English at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In August 2019 I transferred to the university with minimal interview knowledge. However, after following the advice of the Humanities Professional Resource Center I was fortunate enough to secure a summer internship at one of the tech companies housed in Research Park.

As a humanities major, I’m well aware of the stigma surrounding our choice of study. We don’t get jobs, we’re not in demand, our degrees are useless, and so on. Honestly, I don’t believe any of that, and neither should you because humanities majors do get hired and our skills are in demand.

That being said, it is time to dive into the most important step in making sure that in the near future, you find yourself completing new-hire paperwork. From one humanities major to another, here’s how you can ace your next interview and get that internship or job you’ve got your eye on.

 

Research The Company/Organization.

Before your interview, you need to take the time to familiarize yourself with the company/organization. Research their products/services, mission, values, audience, competition, and more. When I was doing this step I used this guide for help.

 

Practice Both Common & Behavioral Interview Questions.

The interview questions are the most important aspect of the interview and your answers to them are crucial. That sounds scary, but no worries, this part of the interview could be a breeze if you practice. 

Here’s a list of common interview questions and here’s a list of behavioral questions to get you started. When answering them, try to tell a story and at the end of the story make sure you’ve shared what you learned from the experience. When practicing for my interview, I used Quizlet to create flashcards that allowed me to keep track of my answers. I then spent at least an hour every day practicing in front of a mirror.

One question that you should try to perfect is, “Tell us about yourself”. This will most likely be the first thing you get asked. Naturally, you’ll think to share your life story, but what employers really want to find out are the things about you that are relevant to the position and company. Therefore, use this question to share what you can do. Highlight your skills and past experiences, and if you really want to impress them, share how you think you could help improve on what they already do (here’s where your research will come in handy). Lastly, be sure to use this question to display your passion for the main requirement of the job. This means, explain what lead you to become interested in the position or industry that you’re going after.

 

Have To Do An Assessment? Practice Beforehand.

Increasingly, companies are adding skill tests to the interview process. As a humanities major, you’ll probably be applying to jobs or internships where you’ll be asked to complete a written assessment.

If you’re required to complete a written assessment at your interview, you can prepare for it by analyzing the company’s written work and considering what you can add to make it even better. Spend some time on the company’s social media and official website to get a feel of their brand voice and writing style. Lastly, If given the prompt of the assessment before the interview, practice it!

A couple of days before my interview, I received an email saying a portion of the interview would involve writing mock social media posts for Twitter, Instagram, & LinkedIn, as well as writing a short mock blog post about anything that interested me. Knowing this, I visited the company’s blog and social media pages to figure out their company voice/tone and the common phrases or hashtags they used.

After reviewing their work, I decided I could make the company’s social media more engaging by providing urgent calls to action. When practicing writing for the mock blog post, I wrote two different versions of it and then read it over multiple times to memorize my main arguments. 

 

Prepare A List Of Questions For The Interviewer.

You should always ask the interviewer questions. Asking questions shows you are interested in the position, the company, the people you’d potentially be working with. Make sure you write the questions down and bring them with you to the interview. Here are the questions I asked during my interview, feel free to use them for yours:

  • Can you describe a typical day of a [position title] at [company name]?
  • What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?
  • How will you measure the success of the person in this position?
  • Thinking back to interns you’ve had before, what differentiates the ones who were good from the ones who were really great in this role?
  • How would you describe the company culture here?
  • What do you enjoy about working here?
  • What, if anything, in my background gives you pause? (This question gives you the chance to address any hesitations they may have about hiring you.)
  • What does the timeline for next steps look like?

 

Make A Good First Impression.

You only have one first impression, so you’ve got to make it count. First impressions aren’t just about what you’re wearing (though you should make sure you dress appropriately), they also include your personality and sincerity for the role.

One piece of advice from my academic advisor that I would like to share is that an interviewer isn’t only assessing how well you’ll do the job, they’re also trying to see if your personality will fit in with the team. That being said, be yourself. 

Additionally, there’s no better way to show that you are sincere about wanting the position than preparing for the interview. Basically, you need to show that you’re serious about getting this job- do your research on the company, practice your answers, come with questions, and make sure you look nice.

 

Send A “Thank You” Email.

After the interview, you need to send a “thank you” email. Not everyone communicates their appreciation for the opportunity to interview, which is why doing so could set you apart (Remember what I said about making good first impressions?). Also, it’s always nice to thank people for their time. I recommend sending the email the same day as your interview but wait an hour or two after the interview has ended to send it.

After my interview, I ate dinner and then went back to my dorm to send a thank you email to the person I interviewed with. That same night I got offered the position. Because this was my first time sending a thank you email after an interview, I wasn’t completely sure what to write so I used this template from the Career Center for inspiration.

 

Consider Doing A Mock Interview.

The Humanities Professional Resource Center does mock interviews! Email them at Humanitiesprc@illinois.edu to set one up.

 

I hope you find this information helpful. Interviews are nerve-wracking, but if you prepare for them, they don’t have to be. Good luck with your future interviews!