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Berkeley students gain a lot of valuable knowledge in the classroom. However, their academic courses don’t always provide them with practical “real life” skills. Inevitably, at some point after graduating, students will be entering the job market. In order to land the job of one’s dreams, it’s important to learn how to successfully navigate a job interview.

At a recent Berkeley Connect ESPM small-group discussion, graduate student mentor Adam Calo gave students some important tips on being a good interviewee. One point he particularly emphasized was nonverbal communication. As a fun warm-up exercise, he had students think of animals, then act them out for the rest of the class. Based only on their nonverbal communication, their classmates had to guess which animals they had chosen.  

Calo then explained the importance of the “elevator pitch.” The elevator pitch is an approximately 30-second summary delivered to an interviewer. According to Calo, the elevator pitch should briefly answer the questions “Who are you?” “What are you doing?” and “What are you looking for?” It should be tailored to the audience, avoid jargon, and be accompanied with confident body language and tone of voice.

To demonstrate the difference between a good interview and a bad one, Calo acted out two scenarios. Inviting a student to ask him for his elevator pitch, he first demonstrated a poor interview. In this scene, Calo avoided eye contact, hunched over, spoke quietly, and talked for far too long in a wandering, unclear manner. There was no organization to his pitch, and he included unnecessary jargon. “It seems like you just made it up on the spot,” commented one student.

Calo’s second demonstration stood in stark contrast to the first. He oozed confidence and energy, made eye contact with the interviewer, sat up tall, and gave a succinct, organized, and well-rounded response. This demonstration elicited a spontaneous round of applause from the students.

After hearing feedback from students on the two scenarios, Calo gave them a chance to practice their own interviewing skills. Distributing job openings related to the environmental field, he asked students to pair up and discuss a position in which they were interested. Students then practiced their elevator pitches and asked each other a few questions specific to the job for which they were mock-interviewing.

Having a degree from Berkeley on your resume can help you get a job interview—but it’s important to know what to do once you get in the door. By practicing being interviewed, students learned valuable skills that will help them tremendously in the future.

Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant