The most important interview question you’ll ever be asked

By Claire Klieger

Most interviewers make up their minds about a candidate within the first few minutes of an interview. There are a few key questions and responses that form an interviewer’s opinion of a candidate. In addition to the candidate’s introduction, the question that defines any interview is “why are you interested in this position?” While any candidate should be expecting this question, it is amazing how often people seem unprepared to adequately answer this seemingly straight forward question.


Why is this question so important? Any person who is invited to interview the employer believes is qualified to do the job. What sets someone apart, then, what makes a truly compelling candidate, is the ability to demonstrate genuine enthusiasm for both the role and the organization. This is because interviewers seek caring and dedicated colleagues, not individuals who are merely looking for a job, a resume builder, or paycheck, even if all of those things are of course also true. Thus, interviewers listen carefully to the answer candidates provide to the question “why are you interested in this role?” This question, often more than any other, may determine the fate of an interview performance.


What’s the best answer? While there is no single correct response to this question, the more specific the better. Answers that wax on about a role that ideally fits as the next logical step in a career trajectory fall short because there are always multiple other positions that could also fit that bill. Rather, focus on what it is about the organization’s work, mission, culture, or people that specifically resonates. If a candidate cannot answer that question, they are unlikely to be selected for the position.

CS Radio – Episode 69: “Long Term Goals”

Early in your career but not sure where you’re ultimately headed? Just starting the job search but don’t know what your end game is?  Just starting out but totally don’t know what you want to do with your life?  A. Mylène Kerschner and J. Michael DeAngelis have you covered.  Enjoy!

Show Notes

Setting Long Term Career Goals (via The Muse)

Asian Americans for Community Involvement

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Ken Yanagisawa, COL ’20

This summer, I worked as a systems analyst at a local nonprofit clinic in San Jose, California called Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI). In the Silicon Valley, the cost of living has risen, and many struggle to make ends meet, let alone seek healthcare. AACI aims to promote community wellbeing by providing affordable health care to the community, especially to the underserved. Financial resources are tight for a nonprofit health clinic, so I am thankful to receive Penn Career Service’s summer internship grant and am grateful to the donors who have made this summer internship experience possible.

As a computational biology major, I believe it to be important to learn skills in data analytics, and at this internship, I learned to work with a health records database in SQL. I studied SQL through online resources and applied what I learned with the real-world database. Working with a live database provided me with valuable insight that I would not have been able to gain from just learning SQL online.

I learned through experience that though there are best practices in how to design a SQL query script, sometimes the database design requires analysts to sacrifice efficiency. The clinic I work at uses NextGen’s proprietary electronic health record system. Because we are not provided with a database schema or data dictionary, the lead systems engineer, the other systems analyst, and I must figure out on our own how to access the relevant data values. Therefore, sometimes the query scripts we create employ SQL functions that are not considered best practice but allow us to create a viable work around solution for our situation.

Furthermore, querying data from a database has also taught me to consider other perspectives to data. One of my projects that I worked on created a SQL report of behavioral health patient discharge reasons. The electronic medical record form that the providers use at the clinic are provided by the county government. The data values it provides to the database are unintuitive, so I asked to understand the workflow of the providers, or how the data is being inputted and what the providers are trying to convey with those inputs. This gave me insight in how the electronic form behaves and what inputs are possible, allowing me to design a SQL query that best portrays what the providers meant when discharging the patient. My final product will help management understand the performance of their behavioral health center and how behavioral health patients improve.

Working in SQL and databases is a valuable skill in data analytics, and I hope to build upon the skills and experience I have gained from this internship. I have already started to see how I can combine SQL with Python to add a deeper analysis of the data. This internship has given me a solid skill base to pursue more opportunities in data science and analytics in the future. Thank you again to Penn Career Services and the donors for making this summer internship possible.

Career Services and CAPS Programming

Looking for a job or internship can be stressful.  Asking yourself big questions about what you want to do “with the rest of your life” can feel weighty and challenging at times.  Working with a career advisor at Career Services or seeing a counselor at CAPS can help with the natural stress and uneasiness that comes with job searching.  In addition to individual appointments, did you know that Career Services and CAPS collaborate on programing geared toward your job search?  Both Career Services and CAPS fall under the umbrella of the Vice President for University Life, and so it is only natural that we work together.  Below is a sampling of the programming we have scheduled for the fall semester; register today for a topic of interest!

Participating in any of these workshops will provide you with tools to develop career readiness competencies that will be valuable as you transition from the academic environment to your professional life, including:

  • Building personal and professional development strategies and goals
  • Managing stress and balancing work/life commitments
  • Identifying and expressing your values, skills, and strengths

These workshops cover a wide range of information on self-exploration and career development, including three tools that Career Services and CAPS offer to students:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): provides a foundation for understanding individual differences and preferences, and applying that understanding to the ways people think, communicate, and interact. This tool identifies your basic “personality type” which can be related to future career choices & working environments.

Strong Interest Inventory: reflects your interests in relation to occupations. Compares your interests to the interests of people happily employed in a wide variety of occupations and identifies job titles related to your interests. Understanding your Strong Profile can help you identify a career focus and begin your career planning and exploration process. This assessment is ideal for undergraduate and Master’s students.

CliftonStrengths: identifies your strengths and relates them to your educational and career plans. Helps you gain insight into your areas of greatest potential.  CliftonStrengths is not a career assessment and will not tell you what career you pursue, but can provide valuable information about who you are and the type of work environments in which you are most likely to thrive.

Students will need to register for these programs in order to complete the free assessments prior to the workshop. To see a complete list of workshops and to register, visit:

Starting Up in Philly

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Matthew Hanna, MSE ’19

I want to start this reflection off by thanking career services for funding my summer. The money I was awarded helped me out so much, as without it I would not have been able to cover the cost of rent and expenses while living and working in Philadelphia. As a FGLI student, opportunities like this are not available very often, and so I did my very best to maximize the experience and use the funds optimally.

This summer, I spent my time in Philadelphia developing my startup, InstaHub. We developed a light-automation device that installs on top of the existing light switch, eliminating the need for replacement and professional installation. I acted as an engineering lead, working to bring several technical components of our product to life, such as a portion of the device that gathers data for the customer; I also assisted heavily on power management of the device.

We iterated on each prototype at NextFab, a community makerspace located in South Philly. Each day, I spent 6-7 hours at the facility designing, checking, redesigning, and checking again as we made progress. The work was hard, tedious at some points, but ultimately being in the space with my other co-founders fueled our growth and bought us closer together as a team. It forced me to communicate in a clear way, which is something I’ve always struggled with. You don’t truly know yourself or what you stand for until you’re forced to reflect and admit when you’re wrong for the sake of team chemistry. These lessons mean the world to me and I will carry them through my career.  And even better, we made clear progress on bringing our product forward.

Being an entrepreneur is by far the most difficult career path I’ve chosen because of how demanding it is and how much sacrifice is required. This was the first summer I was able to focus solely on my business, and the funding was critical for making that a reality. Ultimately, it is not the sales or design experience that I will take away from this past summer, but it is more the independence that I gained. It is an independence that fueled me to try things that scare me – like starting a company, cooking new dishes, or biking alone from South Philly to Chinatown at night (and yes, all of those things happened).

Philly felt like, and still does, a home for me this summer. I look back at the time I spent and take the entire experience with a deep joy – joy that I could explore my passions and build a company and career, all while bonding with my friends in the area as well. Ultimately, it is not what we do that matters, but the connections we make and how we maintain them that give us meaning. The icing on the cake is that I’ve successfully integrated “jawn” into my vocabulary.