THHS alumnus returns to host interview strategies workshop

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On Thursday, February 7, students, parents, and faculty gathered in the cafeteria of Townsend Harris High School for an interview seminar hosted by Vincent Yuen, THHS alumnus and current Construction Audit Manager at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. From 5:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M., he gave tips to students regarding the interview process.

Based on Mr. Yuen’s immense experience as both an interviewee and interviewer, he considers the most important part of an interview to be “preparation before the actual interview.” He reminded students to dress appropriately, maintain professionalism, and “remember [they] are being evaluated by both what [they] say [verbally] and how [they] come across [nonverbally].”

Anticipation of a communicative evaluation can be intimidating. As junior Hope Ha recalled her interview experience, she said, “It was kind of daunting because you had to listen to what other interviewees were saying while forming your own response and thinking about how it would reflect upon you to the interviewer.”

Mr. Yuen offered counsel to students concerning the nerve wracking experience. He said,  “Although you will be nervous [which is only natural], you need to come across as confident and calm. Think of a good interview as a comfortable conversation.”

Senior Kevin Lin, who encountered his own alumni interview experience while applying to college, added,  “I think the best strategy for me was to talk from the heart. It doesn’t help to treat your alumni interviewer like they are super authoritative figures, but more like professional friends.”

Going off script and incorporating levity can also be effective strategies for dissolving tension in an interview situation. “It’s great to make your interviewer ask questions outside of their given question list and it’s even better if you can make them laugh,” Kevin proposed.

Another technique to manage trepidation during an interview is to have a cold drink at hand. “If you get nervous, you can take a super short break to drink your drink; if you get jittery, you can hold the drink in place; and if your hands get sweaty and you’re going in for a handshake, your interviewer would assume that the sweat is the condensation of your drink,” Kevin suggested.

When citing his own experience, Mr. Yuen called to mind an interview he attended between his junior and senior year for his first engineering internship at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in which the office manager immediately prompted the question: “Why should I hire you versus the five other guys I just saw?” During interviews like this one, Mr. Yuen reasoned that being clear and concise are crucial qualities because “Ultimately, all candidates need to get their point across one way or another.”

“I remember a friend being interviewed for a finance position being asked if she was ‘Comfortable working in a high testosterone environment?’ [essentially translating to:]  Are you comfortable working with a lot of young alpha/ex-athletes/fraternity etc. males?” Mr. Yuen recounted. He suggested prospective interviewees under similar circumstances to ask themselves, “If this is the manager I potentially will be working for, can I work with him/her and his/her team?”

With this, Mr. Yuen stressed the importance of paying attention to the interviewer and asking questions of your own, if necessary. “They are interviewing you [while] you are [also] interviewing them,” he pointed out. By asking questions about the nature of the job, internship, or college that you interview for, you have stronger sense of “what you are getting into.”