The Show-and-Tell Technique
If appropriate (the key words here being "if appropriate"), feel free to bring samples or copies of your work to the interview as concrete examples of your capabilities. Use reports, projects, photos, programs, or whatever it is that provides a tangible example of what you have done. It's one thing to say "I developed a report," and quite another to actually show the report you developed. You can incorporate several samples and examples into an effective job portfolio.
While the types of samples you use may vary, they can include information developed either through capstone-level classes or internship projects.
Following are a few examples that have been used successfully:
- Programs and system design specs by an Information Systems major
- Complex financial analysis done by a Finance major
- Working product prototype developed by a Mechanical Engineering major
- Samples of your best lesson plan for an Education major
Be fully prepared not only "to show" but also "to tell" about your sample. Be ready to answer any and all possible questions that might come up. This should not be a casual sample—it should be an example of your very best work. It will stand as the icon of what your capabilities are. If you are extremely proud of something you have done, show—and tell why.
If possible, you might want to consider using your show-and-tell samples as leave-behinds for the interviewer to further review later. There is usually not enough time within the course of the interview to fully explore a good show-and-tell item. This also puts another hook into the company for necessary future contact.
If you are using an item from a prior internship, make sure you are not discussing nor revealing any confidential or otherwise restricted information. If it is questionable, make sure you get permission in writing (email response is fine) before sharing with others.
Although using your sample as a leave-behind should only be done if the item is reproducible, you might want to consider leaving behind sample only items with an employer, if you are truly interested. Tell them: "I'll just pick it up when I'm here for my next interview" or (if this is your final interview) "I would be more than happy to pick it up on my start date." Presumptuous? Possibly. But it may also be your golden opportunity to close the sale!
The Sneak Preview Technique
A variation on the Show-and-Tell Technique is to provide the company with a sneak preview of what they can expect of you as an employee. While Show-and-Tell looks backward at job portfolio material you have developed in the past, the Sneak Preview focuses on the future. This technique works well when you have been given an indication (perhaps in a previous on-campus interview or phone interview) that there is a certain level of proficiency which the company is seeking. Take this as your cue to prepare for that question in advance.
An example of the use of this technique comes from a Multimedia Developer, who was asked in an initial interview if he knew a particular multimedia presentation software package. While he acknowledged that he did not at the time, he promised to research the package and provide a demo of his results at the next interview.
He found the presentation software to be very similar to one he had worked with extensively. After developing a full presentation based on company marketing materials, he presented the results in the office of his future manager. He noted that the presentation was put together in his spare time with little training. That sneak preview not only landed him a job offer, but also expanded the scope of initial responsibilities on the job (and his overall pay).
The Proof Positive Technique
Another variation of the Show-and-Tell Technique and Sneak Preview Technique will provide you with a way to fill a stated need, especially in a later or final interview. The need for a required proficiency may be requested in the form of a "Have you ever" question. If the answer is no, you can still show proficiency by offering to provide them with the output or results in a short period of time. This is an ideal way to answer the unanswerable question. Ask the interviewer for time to solve the problem, then take it home, do your research, prepare your result, and present your solution. Then ask for the job.
You cannot prepare for this technique as you could for the previous techniques. But it is an excellent way to respond to an interview question for which you have no experience to reference. Everyone says they are a fast learner. This technique is your way to prove it.
For example, a Communications major was asked if she had ever developed Flash presentations. She stated that she had not, but went on to say that she was a quick study. To prove the point, she would take the corporate flyer which she had been given, put it into Flash format, and deliver the result via email by 8:00 A.M. the following morning.
She went straight from the interview to her computer, downloaded a trial copy of Flash, spent the better part of the evening researching Flash development, then developed and delivered the final product on time the following morning. Proof positive indeed!