Read our Effective Interviewing Handout
Tips for Graduate School and Medical School Interviews
Interviewing is a focused dialogue with an immediate goal - to convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the position. The interviewer may be asking the questions, but it is you who is setting the tone and establishing the relationship that will lead to your success. No one is a "born" interviewee - it takes practice and preparation to perform well in an interview setting. Remember that you have a great deal more control in the interview than you may think. Preparation is the key!
Check out the information below on tips for what to do before, during, and after the interview to help market yourself in the best possible way.
Before the Interview
Learn as much as you can about the type of position you are pursuing.
- Read the job description if it is available. Sometimes job descriptions write about the ideal candidate's skills. Don't be discouraged if you don't have capabilities in every area, but think about your transferable skills or experiences.
- Conduct informational interviews with alumni who are in this type of position.
- Go on-line or use career library resources to read about this type of position, typical duties, and skills that are utilized
- Dress for Success! Syms Dress to Achieve has been created to help college students with the basics of proper dress and other helpful tips to present themselves in the best possible light during job interviews. Check our their website: www.symsdress.com/
Prepare some general background information on your particular career field.
- What have been some of the major news items in the business or other trade publications in the past year or six months?
- What are some of the current trends in this particular career field?
Research the organization.
- Besides going to the employer's web site, read their annual report (call and ask for one).
- Know what products or services the employer produces or performs.
- Find out about the employer's reputation within the industry.
- Research the employer's competitors. What are they doing in the field? What new advances are being made?
Keep calm through preparation.
- Attend an interview workshop and/or schedule a mock interview through the Center for Career Development.
- Practice the "tough" questions with a career counselor so you won't be caught off guard in the interview.
- Think about your strengths and work skills and be able to demonstrate these through an example or story.
- Practice talking about your skills and accomplishments as they relate to the types of skills that are required for the job.
- Do a "dry run" before the interview. If possible, go to the location a few days before your interview to see how long it takes, to learn where parking is available, and to see the building. This will take one less thing off your mind before the interview.
- Practice the "Tell me about yourself" question. Develop a 1-2 minute speech that introduces you, briefly tells about your background and education, and makes 2-3 points that you'll want to re-visit during the rest of the interview. For example, if you had a relevant internship, make sure to introduce it during your 2-minute drill.
- Write down, in advance, questions you would like to ask the interviewer
During the Interview
First impressions matter.
- Arrive 10-15 minutes ahead of time. This gives you time to go to the restroom one last time to check your hair and clothes and to get to the waiting area in advance. When you enter the building where you will be interviewed, consider that the interview has begun. Be pleasant and polite to everyone you see. You never know who you may be meeting.
- Smile and introduce yourself to the receptionist. That person can be a true ally to you.
- Stand when the interviewer comes to greet you. Smile and show enthusiasm. Establish good eye contact and greet the interviewer with a firm handshake.
- Have the interviewer indicate where you should sit. Keep your hands and your portfolio in your lap.
Make the actual interview great.
- The interviewer will probably ask some kind of introductory question or will ask you to "kick off" the interview. This is where your practice on "tell me about yourself" will pay off.
- Really listen to the question, reflect first on your response and then answer the question. If you do not understand the question, politely ask for clarification.
- Keep your responses short - no longer than 2 minutes.
- Be specific about your skills and experiences and how they can be of benefit to the employer. This is where many interviewees get in trouble. They are too general or vague. Examples help to emphasize the points you want to make.
- If you are in a group interview, make eye contact with everyone as you speak. Start and end with the person who asked the question.
Read Our Ten Top Tips on Writing Thank-you Notes
Wrapping it up.
- Raise questions throughout the interview if appropriate, be ready at the end to ask your questions that you wrote down earlier.
- It is generally not appropriate for you to bring up salary and benefits in a first interview, but be prepared to talk about this if the interviewer introduces it.
- Sum up your interest and enthusiasm for the position. Let the interviewer know that you want the job.
- Ask the interviewer about the timeline for making decisions and follow-up.
- Make sure to get each interviewer's business card, and thank the person for the opportunity to interview.
After the Interview
Reflect on your experience.
- What parts of the interview went well for you? What went poorly?
- Pat yourself on the back that you have learned from the experience and will use it to improve future interviews.
Thank the interviewer.
- Send a thank-you email to each interviewer within 24 hours of the interview.
- Write a thank-you note to each interviewer within 24-48 hours of the interview. It may be typed or hand-written. Use the same paper you used for your resume and cover letter or use conservative note cards.
- Make sure to briefly include things that you might want the interviewer to know about you that you missed in the interview. Keep it personal, mentioning specific things you discussed.
- Check the samples of thank-you letters in the Center for Career Development if you need ideas.