Prepare for an Interview
Interviewing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll do. Contact us to schedule a mock interview.
Before the Interview
Employers look for a variety of transferable skills, as well as candidates who have carefully considered their goals and can connect them to a position and organization.
- History, current position and future prospects. Begin with the employer’s website and proceed to trade journals, professional organizations and media coverage.
- Mission, culture, and challenges. Get a 360-degree perspective with these career exploration tools. Alumni, see Explore Careers for additional info.
- The nature and format of the interview. Ask the recruiter if you will be meeting with a single individual from HR, the hiring manager, and/or potential co-workers. Will there be case questions (typical of consulting or technical interviews)?
Compare your employer research to your understanding of where you might fit in the organization. Most importantly, think about how you can contribute to the organization’s goals.
- Why are you interested in this organization? This field? This specific position?
- Why are you the best person for this job?
If you’ve done your homework – and you’re sincere about your interest – you’ll be prepared to differentiate yourself from your competition.
- Describe your skills and experience that match the position
- Get information about the position and organization
- Determine whether the position is right for you
- Determine whether you can do the job
- Assess your fit with the team/organization
- Sell the organization and position
Be prepared to discuss every bullet point, from internships and employment to coursework and activities. Experienced candidates should be prepared to discuss graduate or professional school experiences and any gaps in work history.
- Develop scripts to respond to typical questions.
- Rehearse your answers alone, with a trusted friend, or with a Career Advisor in a mock interview to ensure a professional, articulate performance.
- Think of questions to ask the employer that will convey your research, interest and enthusiasm.
- Don’t postpone your practice! Allow enough time to improve based on feedback.
Review proper interview attire for Men, Women, and those beyond the binary. Model your outfit for a friend at least two days ahead. Business attire is appropriate for all interviews, unless you’ve been instructed differently. You may note some interview attire guidelines portray traditional gender roles: Remember, you are the final judge of what will work for you. Job seekers should dress professionally for the gender they would choose to present at work or in gender-neutral attire. The most important consideration for appropriateness of attire is that clothes be professional, fit well, and be consistent with organizational culture.
Take a test drive if you are at all uncertain about how to get to the interview location. Consider unexpected factors such as traffic/public transport delays, parking, and/or money for meters. Check the weather and prepare accordingly.
Day of the Interview
- Arrive prepared. Bring extra copies of your resume in a portfolio and arrive 10-15 minutes early so you don’t appear rushed or hassled. The interview begins at the moment you cross an employer’s threshold, sometimes earlier. Behave respectfully toward everyone you meet, from administrative assistants to managers.
- Present a positive image. Offer a firm handshake and greet the interviewer by name. Pay attention to nonverbal communication, especially eye contact and physical posture, and display energy and enthusiasm in a way that fits your personal style.
- Be ready for small talk. You’re being evaluated from many angles, including informal conversation. Watch your grammar and enunciation.
- Ask questions when you need clarification or want to know more. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the job, the requirements and the challenges.
- Never criticize a former employer and don’t bring up salary or benefits in the first interview.
- Be prepared to discuss your qualifications as well as anything negative, Talk with a career advisor for advice on how to address issues like a low GPA, few outside activities, no related work experience, lack of an obvious fit, or gaps in work history.
- Remain enthusiastic and courteous. As the discussion ends, the interviewer is assessing your overall performance.
- Ask about next steps in the hiring process. Ask the interviewer when they you expect to be making a decision.
- Wrap up. Shake the recruiter’s hand, thank them for the opportunity to interview, and request a business card. This will give you contact info for your thank you letter.
After the Interview
Jot down the pertinent facts and make note of any questions.
- Email every person who interviewed you. Use the subject line “Thank you from [Your Name].” A handwritten/typed note may stand out in a positive way, but the employer won’t receive it as quickly, which could be risky.
- Mention specifics from your interview. For instance, “I enjoyed our discussion about [topic]” or “I appreciate the info you shared about [something you learned].”
- Reiterate your interest in the position. Remind the interviewer of the top skills you would bring to the job. Use this as an opportunity to clarify or to mention something you might have overlooked in the interview.
- Be professional. Ensure that your message is formal and professional regardless of whether you send it via email or snail mail.