February 26, 2016

Professional Development for Students: Interviewing 101

Executive Director of the U A M S Centers for Simulation Education Mary Cantrell, M A  speaking at workshop

Mary Cantrell, MA

College of Public Health students were treated Feb. 17 to a workshop on the basics of a successful job interview, led by Mary Cantrell, MA, the Executive Director of the UAMS Centers for Simulation Education.

The COPH Office of Student Affairs organized the event, which is part of its 2015-16 Professional Development for Students series.

Ms. Cantrell has worked at UAMS for more than 20 years. She built its standardized patient and simulated education programs and founded the International Association of Standardized Patient Education. She has degrees in drama and organizational communication. She has interviewed countless job applicants and medical school candidates.

The workshop was packed with pithy bits of advice from this astute observer of human behavior.

Do your homework — research the company before the interview and come with a set of written questions. “You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you,” she said. Students had the chance to try out questions that they might ask at an interview and get Ms. Cantrell’s feedback.

With a friend, practice your answers to the stock, tough interview questions: “Why did you leave your previous job?”; “Where do you want to be in 5 to 10 years?”; “What do people say about you?”

If asked, “What is your preferred salary range?” the best reply is, “It’s negotiable.” Don’t talk about salary in the first interview unless the interviewer brings it up.

To answer the inevitable “Tell me about yourself,” don’t bore with a life history (even a short one). Create and rehearse a compelling story from your life experience that reveals your values, personality traits, what motivates you, your strengths and weaknesses. “People like stories — short and sweet stories. You can tell them the details later.” NEVER lie. Be yourself.

You don’t want to be late or remembered as the candidate who got lost. Find where you are going in advance and carry a phone number to call in case you are delayed.

On wardrobe: Be conservative, dress simply and professionally, “but stand out so they will remember you.” Ladies, a large handbag carries the psychological meaning of lots of baggage. A small purse connotes simplicity and tidiness. Men, don’t go with pockets bulging or filled with change.

Ms. Cantrell “did an excellent job of explaining specific techniques interviewees can employ to make a good impression throughout the process — from preparation to job interview to employer follow-up,” workshop attendee David Vrudny said.

The 2015-16 Professional Development for Students series included workshops last fall on working with the IRB and APA style and formatting. Another workshop on the IRB is planned for the spring.