Held Hostage—and Ode to an Interview

by Anne Guldin Lucas, CAS Counselor, Penn Career Services

In honor of my son’s 31st birthday this weekend, I’m sharing a family story with you. In the summer of 1997, J.T. and I got in the car for an eight-hour drive to visit colleges. Since this was The Dark Ages, a time before Blackberrys and iPhones, most families listened to music or books on tape (yes, tape) during long trips. Remember, though, I am Career Counselor Mother, so naturally I insisted that we practice interviewing. J.T. was filled with joy at the prospect of eight hours in the car with his mother AND practicing potential admissions interview questions with me.

J.T. fielded my questions more expertly as the hours passed, and we only missed one turn. (This was also the Time Before Navigational Systems.) After arriving on campus. J.T. went for the interview while I sat in the Admissions waiting room, reading glossy college publications. (Somehow we survived without Kindles and iPads too.) Eventually J.T. entered the waiting room smiling, followed by a laughing Admissions counselor. Apparently J.T. had told her, in amazement, that she had asked him the very same questions that he and I practiced during our long car ride! Viewed as a capable and forthright young man, J.T. was accepted to that college and enrolled about a year later.

That college trip was almost 14 years ago, and yet to this day, J.T. remains confident in his interviewing skills. My MBA son knows that if he can just land the interview—through the powers of a strong resume, sparkling cover letter, and all-important networking, he stands a very good chance of acing the interview and winning the job offer.

No, I’m not recommending that you schedule a road trip with me–although that might be fun. Rather, I do recommend that you take advantage of our many Career Services resources to help you polish your interviewing skills. Check out our web site. Schedule a mock interview. In case you haven’t noticed, we also offer a new interview practice experience called Interview Stream. You can find it on our web site, in Penn Link.

If you have a web cam on your computer, you practice interviewing on your own time and then email the interview to family, friends—or even CS counselors—for review. I’m offering a prize to the first student who sends me his/her Interview Stream session. Please remember that since I grew up and even raised children during the Dark Ages, I may not know what to do with it. However, I will give it a shot!

In the meantime, I’d like to propose another deal. If, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day poetry, I make a fool of myself by closing with a few common-sense interview tips—in verse, will you please join this blog by sharing your favorite—and/or most dreadful—interview questions and stories?

Ode to an Interview

Yahoo—an interview!
Do your prep,
Comb your hair.
Got a tattoo?
Cover up there.

Get some rest
To do your best.
Get there on time,
Keep answers succinct,
No need to rhyme.

Relax and smile,
You’re doing great.
Stay positive in all you say,
The “fit” is the thing
That wins the day.

Practice makes perfect
So make an appointment.
CS counselors or Interview Stream
Will help you achieve
The job of your dreams.

Now it’s YOUR turn! Please submit
those “unique” interview questions and anecdotes. Blog away!

Author: Anne Lucas

Anne Lucas is a career counselor at Penn Career Services. Currently, she works with students in the College of Arts & Sciences.