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Eight Questions That Will Help College Music Grads Crush the Interview

A question every freshly minted college grad hears from prospective employers goes something like, “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

Everybody knows it’s coming, but surprisingly, few are prepared for it.

So, if you take the time and effort to think through your response and how to deliver it smoothly, you automatically have an advantage over your competition because there’s always competition.

To help you prepare, here are some other questions to ask yourself to prepare for an interview. Think them through, and when you settle on the answers, own them. Simply memorizing them will make you sound stiff. Instead, make the answers part of your brand story.

Where Do I See Myself in Five Years?

That’s another standard interview question. Here are some questions to ask yourself while thinking through the answer to it:

  • What is my dream job?

  • What milestones have I set for getting there?

  • In the best of all possible worlds, how would I spend my hours, days, and weeks?

  • Who are my role models and how would I collaborate with them??

  • How much I need to earn to live a comfortable life and how can I earn it?

  • How can I contribute to the employer’s objectives starting on Day 1?

  • What are my core skills and how do I plan to sharpen them?

Roll all that up and you have a vision of success that speaks volumes about your motivation, enthusiasm, dedication, and collaborative spirit. Interviewers love to hear about those qualities.

Pro tip: Think about it as a career blueprint. You can’t build a house without a plan, and you can’t achieve your musical career goals—which begin with landing that first job—without designing it first.

What Have I Achieved So Far?

If you get bogged down thinking about the future, remember: today was the future not so long ago … yesterday, in fact.

So, think about the things you’ve already accomplished—in school, in your personal life, and as a musician. Don’t be shy. Everything—big and small—you’ve achieved so far makes you who you are.

Pro tip: Use that list to update your résumé, website, and online profiles. And maybe use it to frame your answers to question No. 1, where do you see yourself in five years? For instance, how has what you achieved contributed to your vision of your dream job and your blueprint for getting there? Owning your achievements and using them in the context of your ambitions goes a long way to impressing potential employers and new music industry contacts.

Whom Do I Know in the Business—and Whom Do I Want to Know?

Just as you compiled a list of your achievement, think about all the people you know. Include instructors, classmates, band directors, and music industry professionals. How could they help you land the interview? You might ask some if you may use them as references.

Pro tip: Start keeping a list before you need it. You’ll likely find that you know more music industry professionals than you think, and the ones you want to meet are more accessible than you imagine.

Are My Social Media Accounts Ready?

Are you making the most of social media? That’s one of the first places potential employers look for information about job candidates.

Think about different things you can do to increase your exposure on different social platforms to music industry professionals.

Update your LinkedIn or create one if you don’t have an account. Make sure it reflects where you are in your career and life. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, so use it to highlight your skills and expertise—not your vacation or pets. Employers today are being more aggressive in their outreach to potential workers than usual because of today’s tight job market.

Pro tip: Create and post unique videos and recordings that showcase your talent on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. They are top sites for discovering new talent.

Are You Marketing Yourself?

As a musician, you’re a person first. But you are a business as well. It’s critical that you actively market yourself. Sure, in today’s hot job market, there’s a chance an employer will reach out to connect with you. However, your odds of getting hired will be better if you have a marketing plan. Leverage everything from your website, to social media, to posters and flyers to get yourself noticed.

Pro tip: Until you have representation, it’s your job to figure out how to position yourself and your product where the market can find it.

Are You Thinking Big Enough?

Breaking in and moving up takes a lot of work. Get started by casting a wide net.

Apply for everything (within reason, of course) to increase your chances of landing the interview and maybe the job. Every application you send will get seen by somebody, and that puts you on the radar. Keep track of companies and organizations you find attractive. Set up notifications on job search engines. Don’t limit what you’re willing to consider. For example: If you see yourself working as a producer, look beyond studios to include record labels and publishing companies.

Pro tip: You never know what you could end up doing or who you could meet, so treat everyone like the person who can help you get in the door.

Are You Helping Others to Help Yourself?

If you’re not getting paid opportunities right away, you can get a foot in the door by volunteering your talent and abilities at a school, senior center, performing arts organization, or church. Some internships pay, others don’t. Regardless, taking one fills someone else’s need while you learn new skills and gain real-world experience.

Pro tip: You never know who you could meet or see as a volunteer or intern, and both commitments look great on a resume.

Have I Thought About Being My Own Boss?

Not finding anything in your field? Not interested in working for free? Why not start your own business?

Get creative and think about all the services you could offer, from teaching to producing to playing. Get creative! You might find it surprising how many ways you can earn an income on your own. Make sure you consult with a friend or relative who knows about business to get everything right. Or find gig work through an online service that can help guide you and offer some level of protection.

Pro tip: Remember that marketing plan mentioned earlier? It won’t just be a nice-to-have here—it will be mandatory for success.

Be Kind to Yourself.

Searching for a job can feel overwhelming and stressful. Always remember, you’re not alone!

Turn to friends and family members when you need help and support. Don’t go it alone.

Also, make it a point to celebrate every win, from getting a callback or interview to receiving an offer. Recognizing all the good things that happen while searching for a job will make getting through the negative ones easier. While you may not receive offers for every job you apply for, your next job is out there, even if it's one you will create for yourself.

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