An interview provides an important opportunity to communicate your ability to perform well in a job or internship. Preparation is crucial in properly describing your readiness for a position. Just as you customize and review a resume and cover letter before applying for a position, practice and research prior to an interview will help you make a positive impression.
Types of interviews
Employers will use different interview approaches. The process may begin with a phone interview, which is generally used to screen a larger number of applicants before moving on to an in-person interview. During an in-person interview, an applicant might meet with one interviewer, a panel or have several one-on-one interviews with decision-makers. Interviews sometimes include personality or aptitude assessments, presentations or problem-solving exercises.
Ask for a schedule: When you receive an interview offer, ask for an interview schedule and for the names and/or position titles of the people you will meet. A schedule can offer insight into the structure of the interview and will help you prepare specific examples and questions for the interviewers.
Review specific interviewing resources: Vault is an online career library with resources that include in-depth interview preparation guides on topics including: investment banking, case interviews and more. In addition to conducting online research, talk with Business Career Center staff, faculty and networking contacts in your field to acquaint yourself with interviewing norms for your industry.
Consider the needs of the employer and position
Just as resumes should be customized for different positions and industries, consider employers’ needs within your interview preparation. Use the job description as a guide. Employers create job descriptions to summarize the knowledge, qualities and experiences they’re looking for.
Additionally, consider the company and industry as a whole. What growth, challenges or new developments are occurring with this company and within its industry? Be prepared to articulate what skills, knowledge and experiences you have that demonstrate your understanding of or your ability to transition into this company or industry.
To help interviewers learn about you as effectively as possible, share examples to demonstrate the ideas and skills you describe in your resume. For example, an applicant who says he is a good communicator has mentioned a positive skill. An applicant who says she is a good communicator and provides an example of a time when she communicated with 15 team members from different departments to complete a project on time gives the interviewer a more complete understanding of her communication abilities.
For each skill that you describe, be ready to provide an example to prove your value and add more detail. The skills and examples worksheet can be a helpful tool in brainstorming an employer’s needs and the examples you could share in response.
Attitude and demeanor
Employers are evaluating more than your responses to their questions: they are observing how you present yourself and interact with others.
- Dress: In almost all instances, a suit is appropriate interview attire. There may be some industry areas (non-profit or design/creative organizations, for example) where a suit is unnecessary. However, a suit is generally a safe approach. In other fields such as accounting or finance, suits are required and there are expectations about suit styles, colors and formality. Talk with Business Career Center staff, faculty and mentors about industry norms.
- Nervousness: Nervousness is natural for many applicants. Practicing responses ahead of time can be very helpful. And remember: an employer is interviewing you because they think you could be a good fit for the role. While an interview is a screening process, it is also your opportunity to show that you are the right person for the position. Business Career Center staff are happy to talk with you about your questions and expectations.
- Etiquette: How an applicant interacts with staff throughout the organization (from greeters to decision-makers) and conducts himself or herself in a waiting area are equally important. Make a positive impression throughout your interview by practicing good etiquette. For example, keep your cell phone off and wait patiently during breaks.
Questions for them
During each interview, an employer will likely ask whether you have any questions for him or her. To learn more about the opportunity and demonstrate your interest, you should absolutely have questions for them. Be prepared to ask about specific job responsibilities, company culture, the department to which you’re applying, the context of the position within the company or other role-related details you’d like to know (except salary). This is the one portion of the interview when it is acceptable to reference prepared notes.
The final section of the Career Services Center interview preparation website contains a list of sample questions.
Thank you correspondence
A thank you card or e-mail should be sent within 24 hours to each staff member with whom you met. If a hiring decision will be made very quickly, an e-mail is appropriate to ensure that your appreciation and etiquette are considered. If a hiring decision will not be made in the very short term, a hand-written note demonstrates initiative and a high level of courtesy. Your thank you correspondence will continue to build an impression: use correct spelling and grammar within your letter or e-mail.
See the Business Career Center thank-you correspondence reference page for more information.
Schedule a practice interview
Practicing interview responses aloud and getting feedback from a career counselor or mentor is a helpful way to prepare. To schedule a practice interview, undergraduate students may contact the Business Career Center or the campus-wide Career Services Center. Graduate students and alumni, please contact the Business Career Center.
- Practice interview days: The Career Services Center plans a practice interview day with employer representatives each semester. Review the CSC events calendar for dates.
Additional preparation resources