Bruin Tracks: Art of the Interview
By Anthony Cube
Published Jan 1, 2012 12:00 AM
She walks into the room, palms sweating, stomach churning, knees trembling. She mutters under her breath, "I can do this. I can do this." Slowly she approaches the tall, middle-aged man in a gray suit awaiting her behind a table.
After a soft handshake and an awkward introduction, the man peers down at her résumé and then makes eye contact. "Tell me, why are you interested in this position?"
Never having answered this question before, she responds, "Well, um, I need a job."
Lucky for our hypothetical candidate, this was only a mock interview with an alumni volunteer.
In one of the university's most valuable career programs — Interview with a Bruin, organized by the UCLA Alumni Association — hundreds of alumni volunteers provide critical feedback to current UCLA students. Participating alumni meet and greet their fellow volunteers during a welcome orientation, then conduct two rounds of one-on-one practice interviews with students who have expressed interest in the volunteer's industry. A 15-minute feedback session follows each 30-minute interview. A joint student-alumni networking reception caps off the night.
"It is very rewarding to provide an opportunity for students to hone their interview skills before they embark on real job interviews," says longtime volunteer Michael Jedlicka '78. But while the success of Interview with a Bruin hinges on willing alumni volunteers, they aren't the only ones who relish the opportunity. Students arrive in professional attire with résumés and portfolios in hand, attend a preliminary workshop on interview dos and don'ts, and then do their best to impress the stranger across the table.
Most important, students learn how to approach an interview with confidence. "In a competitive job market, I realized that Interview with a Bruin was ideal practice for that make-or-break moment," says Matt Murray, a third-year philosophy major. "The knowledge I've acquired in college can't get me the job if I can't communicate it in an interview."
With unemployment above 12 percent in California and 9 percent nationally, students feel a sense of urgency to be on their game when it matters most. "I need a job" may have been the wrong answer in an interview, but it's the right motivation for students to sign up for Interview with a Bruin. For alumni, it's the desire to help the next generation of leaders.