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Congratulations!  You’ve made it to the final round of interviews.  Now what?

The final round of an interview signifies a more rigorous and detailed evaluation. Your projects and experiences will undergo a deeper analysis, and your personality traits will be critically assessed. This is the stage where you will find yourself amidst the crème de la crème of candidates—each one already validated as qualified. So, the challenge here is not just to prove your qualifications, but to distinctly stand out. How do you make a remarkable impression? And, how do you ascertain that this job aligns with your aspirations and capabilities?

 

Firstly, prepare to reiterate and possibly expand upon the stories and experiences you shared in the preliminary rounds. Your journey till the final round has been paved by your unique experiences and the way you've articulated them. While it's essential to bring forth various facets of your experiences, don’t hesitate to revisit significant stories that effectively highlight your skills and lessons learned. Remember, preparation is twice as important in this final round.

 

Next, pay particular attention to the cultural alignment between you and the prospective organization. Try to glean insights about the company's culture—connect with alumni, current employees, or mentors who can share valuable perspectives based on their interactions or experiences with the company. Express your enthusiasm and curiosity by asking the interviewers thoughtful questions about the organizational culture. Creating a shared understanding of how well you fit is crucial both for the company, which wants a candidate that aligns with its values, and for your own long-term happiness and development.

 

Asking insightful questions can greatly help you stand out in the final interview. Begin with questions that revolve around the organizational culture and specifics of the role you are eyeing. For instance, queries like, “What motivates you to stay here?” or “What industry trends are currently influencing your role?” reveal your eagerness to understand the deeper operational and cultural aspects of the company.

 

Moreover, well-researched questions reflecting your diligence can make a remarkable difference. Invest time in understanding the company’s latest achievements, strategies, and vision by reviewing recent financial statements, earnings calls, and other pertinent resources. Your questions, infused with this researched knowledge, can exhibit your intrinsic curiosity, initiative, and the earnestness in understanding your potential future workspace.

 

Lastly, remember that spontaneous, "off-the-cuff" questions often leave a lasting impression. These questions, usually follow-ups, echo your active listening and genuine interest. They underline your adaptability, engagement, and an intense curiosity essential for swift learning and high performance in the early stages of your career.

 

Navigating through the final interview with a blend of preparedness, curiosity, and adaptability, will not only accentuate your distinctiveness but also bolster your chances of thriving in the chosen path.

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Imagine spending your entire childhood as a top performer in a subject.  Each year in class you are seen by your peers as a resource and an expert.  You consistently get top grades.  You may even get awards and recognition.  Anyone who has had this experience as a child knows that this becomes a part of your identity.  It has a massive impact on our measurement of self-worth, on your future expectations and your future aspirations.  You would think the students who perform at the highest level would excel regardless of their higher education institution.  In fact, you might assume the better the quality of the institution, the more likely they are to succeed.  If you look at the percentage of students that make it through to graduation, it is relatively consistent across institutions.  This is because our perceived capabilities are RELATIVE, not ABSOLUTE.


Malcolm Gladwell points this out, in his book “David and Goliath” when comparing Hartwick (a middle tier University) and Harvard.  The graduation rates, split by thirds, are almost identical between the two schools (only roughly 15% of Harvard’s bottom third make it to graduation), despite the differences in qualifications of the students.  So, a student that would be in the bottom third at Harvard would do much better as the top 10% at a middle tier university.

 The benefits extend beyond graduation rates.  Students at the very top of their institutions are far more likely to get scholarships, they are often among the most sought-after candidates at career fairs, and generally get favorable treatment from professors (like research opportunities and on campus job recommendations).  There is also a higher sense of self-worth that generally leads to more happiness and life satisfaction.


These findings also lead to another conclusion.  Students at top tier institutions and very difficult majors that are performing in the bottom third (or bottom two thirds) of their class may really be highly capable and would perform at the top percentiles of their respective professions but are currently facing internal issues of self-worth and belonging.  This is something professors should be increasingly sensitive to.  How do you identify and support highly capable students that are at the bottom of a high competency, high intellect academic track?  They are obviously among the brightest students in the institution but may be having emotional challenges as they struggle relative to their other high performing peers.


Parents want the best for their kids, professors want their students to succeed.  Understanding the psychological and emotional struggles of students can help us reframe what success looks like, and the paths to achieve it.

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