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Interviewing Basics

Just the thought of interviewing for a job, internship, or fellowship can make many students extremely nervous.  You may imagine yourself sitting across from an employer, palms sweaty, breath uneven, mind racing, while the interviewer drills you relentlessly with question after difficult question.   If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

Interview Questions

Obviously, the interviewer’s goal is to hire the best person for the job.  To do so, the focus is typically on three issues: can you do the job, will you do the job, and will you fit in with the team.  Your answers need to be honest, thorough, and substantive.  Similar to the bullets on your resume or CV that describe your experiences in detail, you need to back up your interview answers with specific, tangible examples.

General Questions

Employers will usually ask some standard questions to help them learn more about you.  Examples include:

Case Interviews

Some fields, like consulting, use the case interview technique to screen candidates.  Unlike traditional behavioral questions that focus on your past experiences, research, and/or accomplishments, case interviews focus on the way you think and how you go about addressing complex issues and solving problems.

Typically, you will be presented with a challenging scenario (or case) with varying background or details.  Cases may come in the form of a brainteaser, market-sizing scenario, financial analysis, or management/strategy issue.

 Sample Case Questions include:

Lunch/Dinner Interviews

Being interviewed by an employer in a restaurant setting carries with it some unique challenges.  Though you may feel more relaxed being interviewed over a meal, do not forget that this is a very important part of the interview. 

Employers will be assessing your conversational and interpersonal skills to determine how well you would fit in with the organization and/or their clients. UCS offers etiquette dinners each year to help you practice and enhance your knowledge.

Here are some tips to consider during the lunch/dinner interview:

Phone/Virtual Interviews

Many employers will conduct their first round interviews via the phone or virtually using Skype or another online videoconferencing tool. These interviews typically last from 15-60 minutes, and are used as a precursor to an in-person interview. Since so much of how and what we communicate is done non-verbally, the phone interview can present some unique challenges. The virtual interview also has its challenges.

Informational Interviewing

One of the most effective ways to explore and learn about different careers and to make contacts is to talk to people who are already working in the fields you are curious about.

An informational interview is an interview that you initiate with an experienced professional: you do the research and you ask the questions. It is important to keep in mind that the purpose is to obtain information, not to get a job.