Lauren Kepes

Ok, you’ve nailed the resumé. That cover letter got you through the door. Now what do you do to seal the deal with a great interview? Federation asked the experts.

In December, Federation’s  NEXTGen Connect and JVS co-hosted a panel discussion with six HR professionals from Detroit companies ranging from finance to entertainment. The event was geared specifically to college students seeking summer internship positions or first jobs in Detroit.

“A job interview can be stressful. It also can be a great learning experience,” observed Lauren Kepes, NEXTGen Employment Specialist at JVS, and moderator for the event. “Our goal was to help demystify the process by offering students who may be new to the job market an opportunity to get a few pointers directly from hiring experts.

Guests on the panel included:

  • Johannah Schiffer, Director of People and Places, Telemus
  • Lindsey Schwartz, Senior Manager, Pulse220

. . . and here, in a nutshell are a few of their tips.

  1. Be yourself

Remember the person who is interviewing is probably not nervous, so no need for you to be. Relax. The interview is not just about your skill set. Employers want to know who you are and that you are the right fit for the job and their culture. The way you project yourself has a lot to do with your work ethic. Be positive, show enthusiasm and let yourself shine.

  1. Do your research

Learn as much as you can about the company and know the essence of job you are applying for.  Look at the company’s website. Often it reflects the company’s values and personality.  Look at the role description of the job and what’s required. Those are the things that will indicate the questions that may be asked of you.

  1. Start the conversation and practice your intro

First impressions matter and help set the tone for your interview and for what is taken away from the meeting. It’s the little things you’ve been told all your life: firm handshake, eye contact – and dress like you mean business. Practice your introduction. Start out with a few well-rehearsed sentences about why you are the right person for the job.

  1. Focus! And think S.T.A.R.

Your job in an interview is to explain how you are a good fit for the company. Be prepared to talk about a difficult problem you had to solve. Take the S.T.A.R. approach: Situation. Task. Action. Result. Talk about a project or a task you were given. What did you do? And what were the results. Be specific. Employers want to know about you, not your team or your manager. Talk about what you did to get to the goal.

  1. Be honest

Every question in an interview has a purpose. When you’ve done your homework, studied the website, done everything you thought you could do to prepare, and find yourself still blanking on an answer to a question, be honest. Say you’ll get back on it with email later. You’re not going to say the wrong thing. When someone throws you a quirky question, they are not necessarily looking for some special answer, they are looking for something special about you.

  1. Tell a story

Come prepared with a few stories that exemplify your abilities to solve problems or demonstrate your skills. Stories don’t have to be job related. You can talk about your travel or camp experience, your volunteer work or a time you shadowed a professional in the field. Was there a class that was particularly helpful in preparing you for the job? Talk about it.  For internships and entry positions, you are not expected to have a resumé that’s more than one page. Focus and fill in the holes with a story.

  1. Ask questions

Take notes during the interview. Prepare a list of follow-on questions that show your interest in the job and how you think on your feet. It’s okay to ask for advice, how you stack up with other candidates for the job or how you might improve. Asking questions is how you stand out and how you learn.

  1. Follow up

Within 24 hours of the interview, send a thank-you, expressing your interest in the job. Email is acceptable. In a second interview, where you  have already exchanged email or met with multiple people, send handwritten notes.


NEXTGen Connect is just one example of how the Jewish community helps young people make connections, find jobs and start careers in Detroit.

A free service of Federation, NEXTGen Connect provides assistance with resume writing, career guidance, interviewing skills and networking. Students who have completed their first year of undergraduate studies are eligible to register for the program, which includes access to a job board listing internships in a wide range of fields with new positions posted weekly.

In partnership with Hillel Metro Detroit, NEXTGen Connect will be at Oakland Community Campus, February 10, 2016.  For details on all NEXTGen Connect activities and services, please contact Lauren Kepes,