Interviewing Advice

Tips for In-Person and Over-The-Phone Interviews

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For any interview

  • Over-prepare rather than under-prepare. Be able to demonstrate a very solid knowledge of the program or position you are applying for.
  • Research the program thoroughly via their website and any other materials the interviewers have shared with you. If possible, talk with someone who has experience with the organization or program for which you are being interviewed
  • Organize your thoughts about your own experience in relation to the job or program. Think of experiences you’ve had that match the criteria of the job or internship. Be ready to answer standard questions, for example your strengths/weaknesses, experience working on a team, thinking creatively, or how you solved a problem. The more specific you can be while showing how you fit what they are looking for the better.
  • Practice beforehand, especially if you are given questions in advance. Rehearse not just the content of your responses, but actually do some mock interviews with friends, family, instructors, or mentors
  • Dress professionally: suit or business casual for men; suit, skirt or pants outfit for women (nothing tight, low-cut, or “distressed” )
  • Plan your travel to the interview carefully, and arrive at least 10 minutes early.
  • Bring tissues, water, cough drops, breath strips, etc. for various eventualities (but DO NOT chew gum during the interview).
  • Smile and relax throughout your interview.
  • Greet each person who is conducting the interview. Follow the interviewers’ lead as to formality: assume you will address your interviewers by title and last name unless they initiate a first-name basis.
  • Make eye contact with your conversation partner(s).
  • Speak naturally, at a moderate pace, but clearly and with confidence. When we get nervous, people naturally speak faster than usual, so make conscious effort to speak slowly.
  • Bring a copy of your resume for each person participating in the interview.
  • It is OK to say you are nervous, but don’t be self-deprecating: “This is my first internship interview ever, so I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited about this program and I’m looking forward to speaking with you.”
  • People often tear themselves down to stave off criticism or quiet their own fears about giving a poor performance—resist the urge to lower expectations! Keep your statements about yourself honest and authentic, but positive.
  • Take your time responding to questions—acknowledge the question, but know that it is alright to begin slowly, rephrasing the question to collect your thoughts and remind yourself of where you want to go with your response.
  • Expect to be asked something that you can’t think of an answer to on the spot. It happens all the time. The important thing is not to be thrown by it; in most cases, it is best not to say simply “I don’t know,” or “I can’t think of anything.” For example if they ask about something you haven’t done or are unfamiliar with, then briefly tell them about one of the experiences you’ve come up with that highlights things the job/internship requires. Acknowledge you know it isn’t what they were asking for specifically, and state why you thought it was relevant.
  • Have questions ready for the interviewers beyond the bare bones of the program; find something to ask about that shows you are interested in them and have been listening to what they’ve said about their organization.
  • No matter how well or poorly you feel the interview has gone, smile at the end and thank each interviewer.
  • Follow up afterwards with an email or hand-written note to the person who interviewed you, or if it was a committee, to the chair, with all the participants’ names included in the greeting.

For phone interviews

  • Treat the interview like an in-person interview in a professional setting. Dress accordingly (don’t do the interview in sweats or pajamas even though theoretically you could). This is even more important if you are interviewing via Skype or other webcam system—be as professional as if you were meeting in person, in an office.
  • Maintain good, upright posture. Many studies show that body posture affects confidence, thinking, and the tone of voice of the speaker.
  • Make sure you can be reached at the number you have given the interviewers, and be ready at least 5-10 minutes beforehand to take the call—the equivalent of showing up early to an in-person interview. When you set up in the interview, ask what you should do if the call doesn’t come through at the appointed time. Have the contact information for your interview on hand.
  • Set yourself up in a quiet place with no distractions or extraneous noises, including food or beverages. Water is OK if sipped quietly, preferably in something covered so there is no danger of spilling during your interview.
  • Avoid tasks on electronic devices other than your interview medium, and make sure they are set on “mute.” If possible, turn them off altogether to avoid distractions. If you are not using your cell phone as your communication device, turn it off too.
  • Have a crib sheet with details you want to make sure to highlight, and a copy of the resume you submitted as part of your application, within easy sight and reach.
  • Have pen and paper handy to take notes and keep track of multi-part questions. Keep other reference materials besides these, your crib sheet, and resume to a minimum to avoid distraction.
  • Practice the interview content, a graceful greeting at the beginning, and sign-off at the end of the conversation; get someone to practice a mock interview with you if you can.
  • As mentioned above, it’s okay to say "I'm a little nervous, I've never done a phone interview before, but I appreciate being chosen for an interview and I'm looking forward to speaking with you." No self-criticism though! Keep your comments authentic and honest, but positive.
  • If there is more than one person doing the interview, they will probably introduce themselves at the beginning. Write down their names and acknowledge each when they ask a question or have a follow-up comment. It's also acceptable to clarify who is speaking as you get into the conversation if you're not sure.
  • Stay focused throughout the interview, listen carefully.
  • Take a little time to think before answering a question. You can acknowledge the interviewer's question and take a beat to get your answer ready (without ums or fillers) before launching into your response: "OK...I'm just making a couple of notes to remind myself to address each part of your question."
  • Make sure you have some kind of query ready for when interviewers ask if you have questions. You can ask about the interviewers’ timeline for selection and notification if they don't volunteer it.
  • Remember to say "thank you" without fail at the end of the interview. Even if you aren’t using a webcam, smile during your conversation and especially when saying goodbye—it’s odd, but smiles are audible in people’s voices. End on a positive note.
  • Follow up with an email or snail mail thank-you note as with an in-person interview.

Last Updated 5/7/19

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