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Interview Process Overview

Employers use interviews to get a better sense of you as a person and find out how well your skills, experience and personality match their needs; they want to know how you can contribute to their success and if you will fit in with the organizational culture. Interviewing also gives you a chance to further gauge your own interest in an opportunity.

Before the Interview: Prepare

At the Interview: Make a positive impression

Afterwards: Debrief

Before the Interview: Prepare

By preparing to highlight the experiences, skills and qualities most relevant to positions you’ve targeted, you will build confidence in communicating your qualifications.

Research the job, employer, field, industry

  • The student who has researched the employer and put serious thought into their reasons for applying will be better remembered than one who has only a vague idea of the company’s mission and products or services.
  • Learn what you can about the employer, the role, and who will be interviewing you.
  • Be ready to talk in specific terms about your interest in the position and the company and to ask meaningful questions; it will show motivation and genuine interest. 

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which surveys hundreds of employers each year, the attributes most highly sought after in candidates are:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Analytical/quantitative skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Communication skills (written)
  • Initiative
  • Strong work ethic
  • Technical skills
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Detail-oriented
  • Leadership
  • Communication skills (verbal)
  • Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)

The list varies somewhat from year to year. You will need to ascertain what is most important for the specific role you are targeting and to the particular employers you are interviewing with. You can gather this information from web research and informational interviews.

Study yourself

Examine your past experience and current goals so that you can articulate how you meet the required and desired qualifications, what appeals to you about the opportunity, and what you want the employer to know about you by the end of the interview.

Mine your experience for stories to illustrate your points. These will be especially important for answering behavioral questions that interviewers use to learn about how you have handled, or might handle, various work challenges. These are questions that start with, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…” Big Interview is a virtual tool that provides guidance for crafting answers to behavioral questions.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

See Interview Preparation for more guidance.

At the Interview: Make a positive impression

Nonverbal Communication

  • Arrive early and well-rested. Make sure you know in advance exactly where you are going.
  • Wear neat, appropriate attire (keep it simple). Refer to our Pinterest Boards for guidance.
  • Be cordial to everyone, no matter their role.
  • Be aware of your body language: confident posture, gaze, smile, and handshake. Manage your nerves and avoid fidgeting.
  • Project positive energy and a desire to engage.

Employers know that they are going to have to train new hires in the basics of their profession. An enthusiastic person who demonstrates that they want to learn and contribute will do a lot to convince an employer that they are worth investing in. 

Verbal Communication

  • Listen closely to interviewers’ questions (both manifest & latent content).
  • Think briefly before responding.
  • Monitor your response length (conciseness & completeness); don’t monopolize the conversation.
  • Watch your pace and pauses, clarity & tone.
  • Thank the interviewer(s).

Afterwards: Debrief

How do you think the interview went, and how do you feel about the role and employer now? Record the following:

  • Names and titles of people you met with
  • Main responsibilities of the role
  • Would I be effective in this role? What makes me a fit for the job?
  • What are my general impressions of the people? The position? The organizational culture? Would I feel comfortable there?
  • Would I enjoy the work? Would it make use of my preferred skills and talents? Does it suit my personality and values?
  • What would my resume look like after a year in this job?
  • Would I like the lifestyle that goes with this kind of work (hours, pace, dress code, travel…)?
  • Where would this work fit into my long-range plans? Are there opportunities to move up or to another related field?
  • What did I like most about what I learned? Least?

Send a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview

  • Send it to the primary contact, extending appreciation to the other members of the panel.
  • Use it as an opportunity to restate your key qualifications and your enthusiasm for the job.
  • Refer to a part of the interview that stood out for you; it can be a point where the employer responded particularly positively to you.
  • You can use the letter to present a selling point that you forgot to mention in the interview.

Follow Up

  • If you don’t hear from the employer after the expected time frame, you can send an email to ask about the status of your candidacy and offer to provide any additional information they might need to help with their decision.
  • If you are ultimately offered the position, ask what sold them on you.
  • If another candidate is chosen for the position, ask for feedback.