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Job interview tips shared by Overseer Ford

How do you ace a job interview? That very question is on the minds of many students receiving a diploma next month.

On April 11, Emerson Overseer Emeritus John C. Ford spoke with undergraduate and graduate students about the ins and outs of job interviews in separate presentations in the Beard Room of the Little Building.

“One thing that’s really important is to focus on listening,” Ford told the graduate student audience. “We all have elevator pitches, but a lot of times we may not be listening closely to what the interviewer is asking.”

John C. Ford

Emerson Overseer Emeritus John C. Ford with Kyle Dacuyan, MFA '15, head of the Graduate Student Association, in the Beard Room April 11 before Ford's talk with graduate students on how to ace a job interview. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

Ford is principal of John C. Ford Associates, a New York City consulting firm specializing in organizational development and communications. Ford previously worked in senior human resources positions at CBS, ABC, and HBO. Earlier in his career, he worked in financial services at the American Stock Exchange and Merrill Lynch.

Ford says many job interviewers “listen to what the candidate says and doesn’t say.”

“Often decisions are made on the emotional side,” he said. “It might be about whether a candidate can fit into the unique culture of the organization.”

A skilled interviewer will ask open-ended questions, as opposed to ones with just yes or no answers, Ford said.

“A good interviewer is actually going to begin a conversation with you,” Ford said. “A good interviewer wants to know what makes you tick. A bad interviewer is going to ask you their 10 favorite questions.”

Ford told students it is a good idea to remember a series of professionally related stories that can be used to help interviewers understand their backgrounds.

Ford also spoke at length about the importance of identifying personal strengths before embarking on an interview. And he held a mock interview for about 10 minutes with Yona Weisleder, MA ’14, and took questions from the audience afterward.


Ford holds a mock, 10-minute job interview with Yona Weisleder, MA '14, during his presentation. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

Other job interview tips from Ford were:

-Identify adjectives that describe yourself in the workplace, such as “hardworking” or “analytical.”

-Focus on your core strengths, but be genuine about weaknesses if asked.

-Find out as much information about the company as you can before the interview. This may include researching the company’s website, reading news articles, or looking up financial filings.

-Stay away from talking about money in your first interview. However, it is permissible to ask about benefits.

Ford was one of several Overseers and alumni who met with graduate students on April 11 to discuss launching their careers after receiving their degrees.

There was also a panel discussion, The Communications Industry in Boston, with Travis Small ’97, vice president, Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications; Margie Sullivan ’81, executive producer, Redtree Productions; Jen Ryan, MA ’11, creative manager, Copy and Advertorial Sections; and Joshua D. Wachs ’87, CEO and managing partner, EchoDitto.

Another panel discussion, Entrepreneurship in Theater, featured Guy Ben-Aharon ’12, producing artistic director and founder, Israeli Stage; and McCaela Donovan, senior staff assistant for performance, Boston University College of Fine Arts.

The sessions were organized by the Office of Communications and Marketing, the Office of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Student Association.

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