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What Companies Are Looking for During an Interview

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Insights, People, Resources

Campus recruitment is in full swing. Our employees are visiting college campuses across the country, manning booths at career fairs, meeting students, and interviewing potential co-ops and interns. If you’re a student hoping to work in the construction industry, chances are you’ve either already been, or will be going soon, to a construction or engineering job fair. I love a career fair. It’s a chance to meet students and introduce them to our company. A chance for first impressions and an opportunity to make connections with prospective hires who could be a good fit for Hoar. Although, these events can also be fairly daunting for students and job seekers. And if all goes well at the job fair, you’ll be on your way to a more formal interview — which can be nerve-wracking for anyone. I think it’s natural to place a lot of pressure on yourself before an interview, but you don’t need to! Don’t get me wrong, these are important and you need to be prepared. But I do think sometimes we can psych ourselves up and focus on the wrong things, while overlooking some of the simple but important gestures, mindsets, and questions that can make a great first impression with companies. Here’s my best advice for anyone, whether you’re a student preparing for your first interview or a jobseeker dusting off your resume in search of new opportunities, to make yourself stand out from the crowd and make a long-lasting positive impression.

First Things First

We all know the famous Will Rogers quote, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s famous for a reason, it’s so true. First impressions are tough to shake, and in a situation like an interview where you’re one of several people being considered, sometimes it’s the only impression you’ll get the chance to make. So, make that first impression positive. The good news is, that’s not that hard to do. Just show the interviewer the kind of employee you’d be. Arrive early. Dress appropriately for the job you’re applying for. Make eye contact and show active listening. Don’t be afraid to chime in or ask a quick follow-up question to show the interviewer you understand, and are interested in, what they are saying. Confidence is key. Even if you’re nervous, which is understandable! The job seeking process is naturally nerve-wracking, but you can convey capability and confidence in yourself just by the way you carry yourself. Shake hands, stand as relaxed as possible, and again – eye contact. Really, one of the easiest but most impactful ways to make a good first impression is to seem like you are excited to be speaking to a recruiter or prospective employer. Companies are there to recruit and to find top talent, but if given a choice between someone I’m having to carry a conversation with and someone who seems engaged and happy to be talking with me — I’m going to remember the latter when it comes time to reach out for an interview.

Study Up, Stand Out

So, you’ve made a solid first impression. Now, it’s time to really stand out from your peers. The simplest way to do that is to study. Study up on the company or companies you are most eager to work with. And I don’t mean memorize their “About Us” page, I mean look closely at the types of projects they build. Scan their social media pages and learn more about their company culture. Looking over their core values is a good place to start. Do their company values align with your own? Is community involvement important to you? Or market sector diversity? Are you hoping to travel and work in new locations? It’s important to find the company that is right for you while also showing employers you’ve done your homework. Ask company-specific questions that show you’re not just looking for a job, you’re specifically interested in working for them. It’s also a chance to put them in the hot seat and see if the information you’ve found online represents the company. Bonus – as they answer, take notes on some of the things they say that interest you or resonate with you. It validates that your interest is serious and will also give you specifics to ask about in any follow up interviews.

Here’s just a few examples of some great questions I’ve been asked in interviews:

  • Why do you like working at Hoar? What is your favorite part about working here?
  • Why do people stay at the company so long?
  • What challenges do you face regularly in your job?
  • What attributes does someone need to have to be successful in this position?
  • What learning and development opportunities do you have?
  • How does this position contribute to the company overall? What does growth look like here?
  • How does the company ensure its upholding its core values?

What Makes a Top Candidate

I’ve written before about the specific qualities I look for when hiring for positions in our company. I think they hold true for most roles in our industry. Your resume is important, as is any previous experience. But beyond that, and even more important, are the qualities you can’t be taught — the facets of who you are that make you an asset. I’m looking for people who are driven and have ambition. All the tips I highlighted above about eye contact and engaging in conversation aren’t just about making a first impression, they’re also great indicators of someone who can communicate well — a crucial quality in this people-driven business. Being detail-oriented and able to manage your time and workload are extremely valuable skills as well. Above all, I’m looking for a team player. Someone who both can, and wants, to work together to reach our mutual goals. Specifically looking at internships and entry-level positions, we don’t expect you to know everything or even how to apply what you’ve learned in school. We’re ready to help guide you. We just want to hire someone with a good attitude and an eagerness to learn.

Final Touch

Hear me out, don’t overlook the power of a thank you note. Yes, it can be an email but there’s something about a handwritten thank you note that always makes me remember a candidate in a positive way. It’s about more than saying thank you. It’s about taking the time to show the interviewer you valued their time and are capable of following up. Especially in this virtual and digital age, a thank you note to a prospective employer is a quick and easy way to stand out in a sea of uploaded resumes and emails.

Whether this is your first interview, or your twentieth, interviews can make anyone nervous. Be yourself and answer questions honestly. It’s better to say you haven’t had experience with something yet. Use that moment as an opportunity to highlight your ability to grow and learn, and your thirst to learn. People can tell when you sound too rehearsed, and even worse, when you’re embellishing. Be authentic and focus on some of the actions I’ve highlighted here to make a good, lasting impression.



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