How to ace a work-term interview

Tips from an upper-year student

You've spent countless hours meticulously adjusting every detail on your résumé. Your cover letter has seen 30 drafts yet you haven't seen sunlight in the last 48 hours. You're in the final stretch with only one critical step left to go: acing your work-term interview.

Any Waterloo co-op student will tell you that this test of charisma and capabilities comes with the territory. It may seem daunting, but performing well in an interview just requires time and preparation. Here are 7 tips to help you through your first work-term interview.


1) Research the company

Don't sweat the small details - you don't need to lurk your interviewer enough on social media to know that they enjoyed their ice cream 3 years ago on their trip to New York City. But what you should know is the company's vision: what do they want to accomplish and how? Leverage your experience to show how you can make this vision happen. Taking the initiative to research the company demonstrates your interest and can give you an edge on other interview candidates. 

2) Learn from the experts

The Centre for Career Action has plenty of free resources to teach you how to shine in an interview. Their one-on-one drop ins, mock interviews, and workshops will give you new skills and strategies specific to your target jobs. 

William M. Tatham Centre at Waterloo

3) Prepare your questions

In co-op interviews, you'll typically get the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. This is a great way to gain more insight about the job logistics, including what you'll be responsible for, the salary, and the office culture. When employer rankings come out, you'll have a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each job, and be prepared to weigh your options. 

4) Arrive early & well dressed

Things move fast in the Tatham Centre, and employers will typically interview their candidates consecutively. It's important to arrive 15 minutes early to be sure you're prepared in case there are changes to the schedule. Being well dressed is another important part of the interview - you may feel great decked out in your dad's old baby blue suit from the 70s, but showing up to your interview looking like Austin Powers may not be your best first impression (although it would be memorable). Get familiar with business and business casual dress codes and dress the part! Your personality will have a chance to shine in the way you choose to answer the interviewers' questions.

5) Attend employer info sessions

Info sessions are events on-campus hosted by recruiters to help promote working for their company and give insight on their company culture. They're a great way to network and get to know the company in a more informal setting. Try to talk to employees from the company to create a memorable impression. Even if you awkwardly stand around or drop your drink in front of the CEO of your dream job, at least you got free food, right?

6) Review interview etiquette

There's nothing worse than walking into the interview only to extend your sweaty palm and have your handshake resemble flailing a wet noodle. You want to make a good first impression so it's important to be prepared. Make sure to maintain eye contact during the interview, and have good posture. Body language is a major component of showing your confidence and transitioning from interview to employee. Remember, most communication happens without words!

7) Be yourself

It's cheesy, but it's true. Interviewers want to see your personality and how you'll fit into their company. Talk about your interests, your passions and your skills in a genuine way that will make stand out from other candidates. They're hiring you, not just your resume.

In your time as a co-op student at Waterloo, you'll get plenty of interview practice. It's okay if you're not a professional from the start, it's all about learning. Inevitably, you'll have one awkward interview that you stumble out of wondering if it's possible to die of embarrassment. But when you secure that dream job term after term, it's all worth it.


Marcus is a third year Statistics & Biology student enrolled in the co-op program. With 40+ interviews under his belt, he's got you covered.