Congratulations! You have an interview! Welcome to the CWS online Interview Workshop. We hope that this will help prepare you to present yourself to a prospective employer and decide whether the job is a great fit for you. During this workshop, we will go chronologically through steps you should take before, during, and after the interview.
There is a great deal you can do to ensure that your interview goes as well as possible. If you follow these six steps you will arrive at your interview feeling well prepared to present your best self. First you need to assess yourself, then do some research about the opportunity you are seeking. With that information you can evaluate the potential fit and practice your interviewing skills.
Begin by looking inward. By the time you are in college, you have hopefully spent some time getting to know yourself. Think about the skills you are developing, the interests you are exploring, and the values that are meaningful to you in the workplace. Use this list of questions to get started. Make sure you can articulate your goals and understand that everyone knows that goals can be revised throughout your life. Early in the process, check your online presence because employers will.
Looking at yourself is one piece of the puzzle. You also need to look at the opportunity in context. If you are expressing interest in working in a particular field you should be familiar with that field as a whole...issues, trends, thought leaders. No company or organization works in isolation, so it will help you immensely to understand the big picture and the challenges and opportunities that they face.
During an interview you are likely have many opportunities to show what you have learned about the company. There are numerous sources that will help you gather key information. Having done thorough research can only enhance your candidacy because it underscores your interest. It will also help you formulate thoughtful questions to ask in the interview. In the end, it will help you decide if the opportunity is a good fit for you.
To research the position for which you are applying, you should read the job description and make sure you understand everything that is listed. If you can find others who have been in similar positions, talk with them about the responsibilities and challenges of the job.
The final step is to learn about the people with whom you will be speaking. It is helpful to know their titles and backgrounds. This information will help you create rapport with them and ask intelligent questions. You may find out that you have something in common with them…a high school, a sport, a musical interest, etc.
During an interview, you are taking what you know about yourself and what you have learned about the position and making a case for a “fit.” By thinking about the fit in advance, you can prepare a few key points to bring up…showing that you understand the needs of the organization and have the skills and willingness to help fill those needs. If the skills and needs match up well, then you will want to consider other aspects of your future employer. What is the culture like? How do employees get their work done? What are the people like? What is the dress code? How do people communicate? Are there opportunities for flexible schedules or working from remote locations? Is that important to me? Is this a place where I can learn and grow?
Having done the research and the thinking, it’s now time to practice. The importance of practicing out loud cannot be stressed enough. Just thinking about questions you might be asked is far less effective. By forcing yourself to answer out loud you may find yourself surprised at your answers, but you still have time to revise.
Be prepared…..anything else will give the impression that you don’t really care.
Now it’s time to go. Think about what you will wear in advance to prevent your outfit from being an issue during the interview. If possible, find out what the norm is for dress code in your field. It is safer to be more formal than less, and it is safer to be more conservative. The goal is not to turn you into someone you are not, but rather to allow the interviewer to focus on what you have to say and what you can offer without distraction.
These are the generally agreed upon guidelines for interview attire. If you have conspicuous tattoos or body piercings, decide what you are comfortable revealing in a first interview.
Being nervous or anxious can impact your ability to communicate in an interview. Remember these tried and true suggestions to help you do your best. If you are tentative, apathetic, defensive, or apologetic, the interviewer will sense it. If you believe in yourself for the position, you make it easier for he or she to believe in you as well.
Now that you have finished preparing, we will discuss the actual interview….some basic advice, types of questions, and types of interviews.
You’ve probably the advice on this page this many times, but the suggestions remain valid. It is difficult (though not impossible) to recover from being late. First impressions are important and everyone would prefer to work with polite people. A professional greeting is important and can get the meeting off to a great start. Articulate answers can be so impressive. When you use filler words extensively, it has the effect of diminishing all that you have to say: “I created a new system for…..” or “I sort of created a new system for…..” See the difference?
Once you have been welcomed there may be some “small talk” before the interviewer begins with questions. When you are asked a question, it is fine to take a moment to organize your thoughts or ask for clarification if you are not sure what is being asked. With the broad opening questions…..have a summary answer prepared that includes recent work or academic experiences where you gained transferable skills, where your interest in the field originated, and your enthusiasm for the position. With the basic questions why this field or this company….you should have two or three solid answers to each question. If you are asked any question that have a negative element in them, be sure to describe the mistake or weakness concisely, then spend time talking about what you learned from the experience or what you do to help counteract the weakness. Always end an answer on a positive note. Be prepared to talk about choices you have made (Why this major? Why this college?) and what you have learned from classes, activities, and work. You may also be asked about best and worst classes or professors. Be sure that you have a list of 5 or 6 questions to ask your interviewer; you need several because some may be answered during the course of your conversation. Think of them in two categories: big picture questions about the industry, trends, strategy, culture, and more detailed questions about the role, the responsibilities, the projects. If you do not have questions to ask you will appear to be uninterested in the job.
There are a few pieces of advice we can offer specific to different types of interviews. First on the list are behavioral interviews. You may be asked several questions about specific situations you have been in and asked to discuss them: “Tell me about a time when…. you had to make a difficult decision, had to accomplish a big task, had to create a new approach to a problem, had to be an effective team member. To prepare for those questions, think about your work, volunteer, and academic experiences and how they could be relevant to those questions. For telephone interviews, make sure you have privacy and will not be interrupted. Remember to be seated and dressed (at least not in your pajamas) as you have the conversation. Smile just as you would in person. If you are being interviewed by a group, make sure to make eye contact with everyone in the room, even if only one or two are asking questions. If you are being interviewed in a group, try to strike a balance between participating but not dominating the conversation. If you are interviewed during a meal, please order something easy to eat and remember your table manners! Case questions require focused practice and preparation, and the CWS has resources to help you get ready. Finally, when you are invited for a second interview, remember to incorporate information learned during your first round. Be sure to do additional research with what you have learned to better assess the fit. Communicate your genuine excitement and enthusiasm about moving along in the process.
After your interview, be sure to follow through if you were asked to send any additional information—writing sample or references for example. Do not underestimate the importance of taking notes. It can be extremely helpful if you are interviewing with multiple firms or if there are days or weeks between interviews. Think about what you have learned and see if new questions arise for you. Do more research based on your new information to get a more in depth sense of how your skills match the needs of the organization. Absolutely send a thank you note.
Thank you notes are both good manners and useful pieces of communication in the job search process. They should be prompt, brief, and professional. Use the opportunity to underscore your interest in the job and/or highlight important information about yourself. You are also showing appreciation for the time and effort that the interviewer is extending on your behalf.
Every interview you have adds to your collective experience….the more you have, the more comfortable you will be with the whole process. Even if you don’t get a particular job, think about what you might have done differently and continue your professional communication with the organization. Even a “no thank you” for one position can sometimes lead to a new job.Good luck!
1. InterviewWorkshopCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
2. Before the Interview Assess yourself Research the field, company or organization, and position Learn about your interviewer(s) Evaluate the potential fit Practice your interviewing skills Decide what to wear and prepare what to bringCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
3. Assess YourselfAsk yourself some key questions: What are your skills, interests, and values? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Of what accomplishments are you most proud? What motivates you? What are your goals? Describe your personality.Make sure that your online presence and phone messages are professionaland reflect the candidacy you are presenting to a future employer.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
4. Research Field Read online and hard copy newspapers, magazines, blogs in yourtarget industry. Join professional organizations to learn about your field fromfellow members and events.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
5. Research Company/Organization Read company and organization websites and LinkedIn profiles. Use professional directories, the Vault guides, the Wetfeetwebsite,etc – available at the CWS. Attend company informational meetings, meet withrepresentatives, ask questions, and stay in touch. Read recent news articles regarding mergers/acquisitions, awards,accomplishments, new products, leadership changes, competitors.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
6. Research PositionCarefully review job description: Skills, education, qualifications Travel requirements Compensation/benefits Daily responsibilities, long term goalsLearn about similar positions in other firms through networkingCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
7. Research Your Interviewer(s) Check Google and LinkedIn to learn all you can about the people withwhom you will meet Through LinkedIn you can determine if you have any connections incommonCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
8. Evaluate the fitFit based on several factors: Skills and needs Company culture Work style, personality Diversity, formality, flexibility Level of responsibility, opportunities for learning and/oradvancementCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
9. Practice, Practice, Practice Review lists of interview questions online Consider doing mock interviews with friends, a CWS counselor, or analumna Prepare key points for basic questions Practice OUT LOUDCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
10. What To Bring Several copies of your resume Paper and pen Directions and number to call if you have an unforeseen transportationdifficulty Names/titles of those you are to meetCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
11. What To Wear Be true to your own style and culture. Err on the side of being overdressed and/or conservative. What you wear should not be a distraction. You want your interview tobe listening to you, not wondering about what you are wearing.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
12. WhatTo Wear, Part 2For a conservative interview: Dark suit, pants or skirt Pressed and clean blouse Closed toe shoes Minimal jewelry Beware overdone makeup or perfumeFor business casual: Dress pants Pressed and clean blouse or turtleneck Blazer, jacket, or dressy cardiganCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
13. Reduce Stress Prepare well Get a good night’s sleep Eat a healthy breakfast Breathe deeply Think positively and confidentlyCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
14. During the Interview Basics Questions Types of interviewsCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
15. Basics Arrive 10-15 minutes early Treat everyone you meet with kindness and professionalism When you meet your interviewers SMILE Look them in the eye Have a firm handshake Have good posture Try to work on eliminating filler words such as “like,” “you know,” “sortof, “kind of, “ and “um.”Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
16. Questions Tell me about yourself and other openings Why this field, company/organization, position? Mistake, failure, weakness or anything else negative Decisions you have made, what you have learned from yourexperiences, favorite classes/professors. Questions you should askCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
17. Types of Interviews Basic/behavioral Telephone Group Meal Case question Second interviewsCopyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
18. After the Interview Follow through on any instructions received during the interview. As soon as possible, write notes from the interview on key points ofthe conversation for future reference. Consider the fit and do further research if necessary. Send a thank you note via email within 24 hours.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
19. Thank You Note Write a different thank you note to each interviewer if you met withdifferent people. The exception would be if two people interviewed youtogether and one did all or most of the talking. Use your note to reaffirm your excitement about the position. Try to mention something unique about each conversation you had. You can also use your note to bring up something that didn’t come upbut you would like the interviewer to know.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service
20. Conclusion Consider each interview you have to be valuable experience. If you receive a job offer, great! If you do not, you may politely request feedback from your interviewer. Stay positive, stay professional: you never know when the person youmet may have the occasion to recommend you or invite you in again.Copyright 2013, Wellesley College Center for Work and Service