Jun 13

Interview Tips on Being Prepared

If you graduated in May or will be soon, you’ll likely have interviews coming up if not already. Therefore, I wanted to touch base with some tips and resources for the interview process. Feel free to schedule a mock interview with your Graduate Career Consultant, or reach out to them with any follow up questions you might have.

A PDF of our guidebook chapter on general interviews can be found here, while the nuanced tips of academic interviews are described in this chapter. They both have great insights into interview processes, and should help point you in the right direction for success. The STAR method of answering behavioral interview questions (Tell me about a time when…) should also be applied anytime you want to tell a story in order to provide some structure to it. More interview insights can be found on our website starting here.

In the meantime, my #1 tip for interview success is to be as prepared as possible. Think of it like a test, and imagine how you would study for a final exam. The more familiar you are with the material from the course or the chapter, the more confident you are that no matter what questions appear on the exam you’ll know the answer. For interviews, you want to “study” your background and experiences so that no matter what Q’s you get you’ll have stories to share that fit what they’re looking for. If you haven’t thought of those stories in advance, it is much more difficult to remember the details off the top of your head during the interview. Even if you don’t have interviews coming up, you can be thinking about these stories in advance and creating notes that you can study once an interview gets scheduled down the road.

The other half of your homework is to “study” the organization and its industry so you can a) show that you know who they are and what they do, and b) show how your background can help them solve their problems (i.e. you can put the stories of your past achievements in their context to resonate better). The research into their org and industry also helps you ask insightful questions that can be framed by what you found, such as “I noticed on your website you have a new initiative to do ____. What opportunities are there for this role to engage with projects like that?” That contrasts with the less-informed question “What kinds of projects would I work on?”

Finally, remember that in the back of your interviewer’s head they’re always asking themselves “Is this the kind of person who will fit in on our team?” and “Would I enjoy working with this person on a day-to-day basis?” Those aren’t questions they can ask, so it’s more of a feeling or perception based on how well you are connecting with them. I don’t necessarily want to say how “likable” you are, but there’s an element of that. Let your positive energy and enthusiasm come through during the conversation, and don’t forget to smile. Even if it’s a phone interview, smiling will affect how you say things, and that will come through on the phone. More phone and video interview tips are included in the guidebook chapter, too.

Have you applied these tips successfully in the past? What are some of your favorite strategies for interview success? Leave us a comment below to join the conversation.