Five Job Interview Tips from a Human Resources Professional

December 11, 2013

Karen MacKenzie '95 at Career iMPACT Summit

by Mary Kate Murray '14

Karen MacKenzie '95, a human resources manager at Caterpillar Inc., returned to Knox College to give students tips on how to conduct a successful job interview.

MacKenzie has worked in various positions at Caterpillar since 1997. Before that, she earned a graduate degree in library science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor's degree at Knox, where she majored in history. At Knox, she also participated in several activities and organizations such as APO, Student Senate, Delta Delta Delta, the swim team, and History Club.

According to MacKenzie, interviews are about determining the interviewee's competency as well as compatibility with the organization. Her presentation was part of the Career iMPACT Summit, organized by the Bastian Family Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development.

Here are five important things to remember before and during a job interview, according to MacKenzie.

1. Research.
Research everything you can about an organization (websites, financial statements, social media, etc.) and reframe the experiences you talk about in the interview based on what you learn. Being prepared and knowledgeable about a company shows interest and a willingness to go the extra mile.

MacKenzie says: "A company hiring someone is a significant investment. You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

2. Prepare mentally.
Consider what questions are likely to be asked (Google "common job interview questions" if you're unsure) and come up with answers that best represent you and fit with the culture of the organization at which you're applying.

MacKenzie says: "Preparation increases confidence. If you've thought about those key stories you can tell, you're more confident. You might not remember every single story, but they're at the front of your mind."

3. Silence is OK.
Allowing yourself time to think is a good thing, and you will seem conscientious when you do so.

MacKenzie says: "Some people, when they get nervous, start rambling and stuttering. Don't ramble. It's OK to take 10 to 15 seconds to collect yourself and really think about what you're saying before you answer a question."

4. Interview them.
Asking questions and engaging in discussion with the interviewer means that you are proactive and interested in the organization. It also allows you to learn whether or not the position you're applying for is really right for you.

MacKenzie says: "You need to be comfortable accepting a job if the time comes for an offer."

5. Sell yourself.
Be proud of your skills and accomplishments. Promote them.

MacKenzie says: "You may not be a marketing professional, but you need to be in an interview. It's not bragging if you do it. The best person to sell yourself is you."