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Job Interviews

General Interview Guidelines

A job interview is a chance for an employer to evaluate you—your skills, your experience, and whether you would be a good fit for the organization. It is also your chance to evaluate a potential employer: Is this the type of position that is a good next step for you? Do these people seem like people you would like to have as colleagues?

Your goal in an interview is to articulate to a potential employer why you are the best person for the job. So, think carefully about this. What combination of knowledge, skills, and personal attributes makes you the best person for the job?

Preparing for an Interview

You should begin your interview preparation with research on the company or organization with which you will be interviewing. (You should have started this while writing your resume and cover letter.) How does the position for which you are interested fit in the organization? Has the employer been in the news lately? Take the time to find out all you can about the employer. Doing so will help you develop ideas for how you can contribute to the employer’s mission and goals.

It can help to prepare 3 or 4 points that you absolutely want to get across to an employer. This is your message. Then, think of examples from your past that illustrate these points.

If your interview will be in person, be sure you know where you are going and arrange your schedule that day so that you can arrive early. If your interview will take place via phone or Skype, be sure you will have a quiet place to speak, and make sure all of your technology is working.

Preparing for an interview should involve practicing aloud talking about yourself, your previous experience, and where you see yourself in the future. This is particularly true if you don’t have a lot of interviewing experience.

Finally, before your interview, the organization should be able to give you a schedule and the names of those you’ll be meeting with. If you do not receive this information, ask for it.

What to Expect in a Job Interview

Most interviews will begin with introductions. If you are meeting in person, shake hands. Smile. These may sound like obvious points. Nonetheless, it is important to shake hands firmly, to look your interviewer(s) in the eye, and to project confidence. Make a good first impression. Try your best to remember the names of your interviewer(s)—doing so can make a good impression throughout the process.

Most interviews will begin with a question that is something along the lines of “tell us about yourself.” This is not a time to give your listeners a full autobiography (e.g., “Well, I was born in Akron, Ohio …”). Rather, it is your chance to make a focused statement about the things that make you the best candidate for this job. This is a great time to use those 3-4 points you prepared about your candidacy before the interview.

Types of interview questions that tend to challenge job-seeking graduate students include:

Behavioral Questions

(the dreaded “tell me about a time when…” questions)

These are best answered with the STAR method, in which you describe the situation, the task, the action, and the result. This will enable you to provide your listener with a short narrative describing a similar situation—and what you learned from it.

Case Interview Questions

In this type of interview question, you will be asked by your interviewer to analyze a business-related case. He or she will present you with a situation (e.g., Campbell’s chicken noodle soup is losing market share. Why?) and some data points. You will be expected to ask further questions and come up with an answer to the question posed by your interviewer. Strategy consulting firms are well-known for asking these types of questions.

Technical Questions & Brainteasers

Some industries will ask you very technical questions about your programming and related skills (e.g., “Most Common Technical Interview Questions”). In interviews in the finance industry, it is not uncommon to get some very challenging brainteaser questions, particularly if you are interviewing for quantitative analyst positions. It’s very important to practice some of these beforehand.

You can’t anticipate every interview question that you will be asked. Practicing will very much help to improve your performance and we are happy to help you with this—simply schedule to meet with a career adviser and, while making the appointment in GC Connect, indicate that you wish to set up a mock (practice) interview.

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