Landing the Job: How to Interview
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Landing the Job: How to Interview

The following is a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.

by David Smith, Career Development Coordinator

practiceMalcolm Gladwell says that experts like Bill Gates, Roger Federer and Yo-Yo Ma have each put in over 10,000 hours of practice to become the authorities that they are. In learning how to interview and impress an employer, practice is the most constant and important ingredient in the mix of success. But what exactly do I practice and how do I do that?

Start practicing with the job application. Your first contact with an employer is through your job application. It is important that they are neat, clearly filled out and complete. Only apply for jobs that (1) you are qualified for and, (2) you are interested in and willing to do the work. Everyone fills out the same application, so you distinguish yourself through the cover letter process.

Cover Letter

Practice with cover letters is as important as the job application itself. Start with a general one and then for each job you apply to, modify the cover letter for that job. That means to be sure to mention your qualifications and interest clearly in the letter. A rule of thumb is not more than 4 paragraphs and not more than one page. Use different phrases to show how excited you are about the job and how much fun it would be to work for that employer. The practice comes through the modification. You can write a cover letter for each job you are interested in, even if you later decide not to apply.


Shaking hands at interview.Assuming that you have already sent a resume and great cover letter and have been called for an interview, then what do you do? Interviewers often start with a question like, “Tell me about yourself?” So that is where to begin. Write out a short description of who you are and why you are there. Keep it simple. Writing it down is part of the practice of remembering it. The second step is to use friends and others to help you practice this 5-15 second blurb. Have friends ask the question and then answer it for them as many times as you can manage. You will see that your answer will grow and vary only a bit and you will end up with your first marketing piece, The Personal Blurb. With this blurb in your memory (and written on a small index card) you can then start preparing for the remainder of the interview. If you are lucky enough to work with a group of others you can each practice your Practical Blurb with each other. The skill to practice here is role playing.

But 5 or 15 seconds is a small part of an interview.

The next thing to commit to memory is something about the company so that you can explain why you want to work for them. Just wanting a job, even if it is true, doesn’t work well as a reason for applying! Find out something about the company that you really like such as:

  • “Your company takes care of animals who have been abandoned and abused and nurses them back to health and I want to be part of that because I really love animals.”
  • “I like helping students learn and have fun and the Day Care at Happy Valley has been recommended as a great place by a neighbor of mine. I have always wanted to work with children”
  • “I think the Food Bank does an important job of providing food for poor people and I want to be part of that type of a social program.


Flattering the people whose program you want to work for is appropriate and useful. Every company wants to hear how well they are doing and why you want to work there. This is called the Company Blurb. Commit these potential comments to writing as well. As you can see we are breaking the interview experience into little bits. We now have the Personal Blurb and the Company Blurb. Both are important for you to get your foot in the door and have a successful interview.

The next step is to write down a list of all experiences that you have had in your life that will help you do this job, i.e.:

1. I have worked as a food handler for six months
2. My family has always had pets and part of my chores was to take care of the pets.
3. I took a course in Television programming.
4. I took a course in Psychology
5. Etc.

Ask Questions

The next part of the interview process is to prepare a list of questions that you will ask. Most interviewers ask if you have any questions. Ask about the specifics of the job, the hours and days that you are expected to work. Have a clear conversation about how much you will be paid and what other benefits you would be entitled to. Also, if there are any accommodations that you might need, asking about them toward the end of the interview is appropriate. It is okay to write these down and bring them with you along with a current resume.

The final thing to do is to write a thank you note. This is an email you send to the person who interviewed you within 24 hours of the interview. All of these steps are clear and practical steps in becoming comfortable in the interview process.

Practice each of the skills and remember, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, Practice, Practice.

Newsletter Articles – June 2015

Holiday Inn Austin

Work. For most Americans, it is the priority that fills the majority of our waking hours each day. Through our work, we are able to achieve other important milestones in our lives. James H. Douglas, Jr., lawyer and senior-level official in the U.S. government in the mid-20th century, may have put it best when he said: “A good job is more than just a paycheck. A good job fosters independence and discipline, and contributes to the health of the community. A good job is a means to provide for the health and welfare of your family….”

While there are times when we may dream of vacationing the days away and not having the responsibilities of work, the satisfaction of a job well done draws us back to realize how valuable our careers are to our well-being. Benjamin Franklin said, “it is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” Through our work, we gain self-worth, confidence and the sense of contributing to our community at large.

Tyler first paycheck 2

When asked to do an article for the CLE newsletter to highlight a career student’s employment experience it was a no brainer for me on who to pick. Tyler has been employed with TJ Maxx for just a month now, but has stepped into his new role with the tenacity of a seasoned employee. Tyler agreed to do an interview with me regarding his experience as an employee at TJ Maxx, giving me a better sense of what a new job looks like for an individual on the career development pathway.

Ethan Mendick

Ethan started working at Best Friends Pet Care on October 10th, 2014. His role is a Play Time Associate where he takes care of both cats and dogs at the facility.

“I had another job before Best Friends, but I was working there alone for many hours.” Ethan began looking for a new job with the help of Rockville’s Career Development Coordinator, Jacky Cohen. “Even before I had the job, I practiced for the interview with Jacky. She came with me for the interview and for my first day at the job.”

Volunteering - CLE Austin

A volunteer experience is an essential part of the CLE Career Development framework across all centers. While volunteering is good for the community and can give students a great sense of pride, accomplishment, and connection, why is it essential on the Career Development Pathway?

Traditionally volunteer experiences are viewed like an extracurricular activity; something that is a nice addition to your daily routine, but not a necessity. The modern job market, however, demands more and more experience and having a consistent volunteer routine is an ideal way to stay competitive, relevant and create opportunities.

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