Wrap Up Your Interview with Smart, Well-Prepared Questions

This entry was written by Blair Canner, a Graduate Assistant working in Career Services this year.

Picture this: you have just spent the last half an hour answering every question thrown at you. Walk me through your resume? What are your strengths? Tell me about a time you failed. Finally the interviewer looks at you and asks “Do you have any questions for me?”

While you may be inclined to shake your head and end the interview as soon as possible, having questions prepared will prove your interest not just in the role but in the opinions of the interviewer.

While any question is technically fair game, you should use this time as an opportunity to:

  • Reemphasize your fit in the job

Asking what qualities are most common in successful employees gives you one final opportunity to demonstrate that you possess those critical skills. Alternatively, ask what skills the team is seeking in a new hire. Specifically connecting your experiences and skills to their needs will reemphasize that you’re the right candidate for the job.

  • Understand the culture from a personal point of view

If an interviewer has been at the company for a while, ask them what they like the most about the organization. Find out why they joined the company and what has convinced them to stay. If you’re interviewing with a specific team, ask about the team’s culture and find out if they hold any team-building events. Culture can differ across teams – make sure your team’s culture suits your work style.

  • Identify professional development opportunities

If this is one of your first jobs out of school, demonstrate your commitment to continuous development by asking about available training & mentoring opportunities. Does the organization offer formal support networks and do those networks hold events? What about continuing education – if you want to learn a new skill, are you expected to learn it on the job or are there courses available?

The final part of the interview is just as evaluative as the first 25 minutes. But in this case, it’s also an opportunity for you to determine if this company is the right fit for you. Preparing 5-10 questions in advance will help you come across as genuinely curious and invested in the job at hand.

Email Signatures for Students Searching for Internships or Jobs

By: S. David Ross, Senior Associate Director

As you think about communicating via email with potential employers, alumni and other networking contacts, consider creating a personalized email signature to showcase your professionalism and attributes that differentiate you as a candidate.

What information should you include at the bottom of your email in your email signature?  Here are some ideas:

Begin with your name.  This may seem very obvious, but for those who are more comfortable using a different name than their legal name, you can signal that here.

List your institution and school (if relevant).  While including the university name is a given, you may want to specify which school within the university – especially if that aligns with the type of job or internship you want to pursue.

Adding degree information may be helpful.  Particularly in fields where your specific degree is a requirement for the jobs or internships you want to pursue.  Similarly, majors or concentrations may be worth noting here.

Involvement in specific academic, research or honors program.  Some examples at Penn include Huntsman, M&T, VIPER, LSM, Ben Franklin Scholars, Joseph Wharton Scholars.

LinkedIn and/or website URLs.  For quick access to information on your background, you may want to include your LinkedIn URL.  If you have examples of project or other work that is relevant for the positions you want, you can also add a link to your website.  Other options can include social media links depending on the content and relevance – as long as they are professional!

Contact information.  The best phone number to reach you can be helpful to include – although you may prefer to simply restate your school email address as an alternative

Other considerations:
– Keep in mind that some emails may be viewed in plain text – so you may want to avoid using icons or images that will not display properly in plain text emails
– If you have several things to include in your email signature, including a divider between entries may help utilize space more efficiently across the email

Finally, don’t feel compelled to include all of these examples – pick the options that are best for you given your experiences, interests and pursuits.

Spring Break Checklist

By: David Ross, Associate Director

Spring break is here and there are several things that you can do to keep your job or internship search alive during your break:

Take some time to reflect.  Now would be a great time to reflect on what you have done with your search thus far.  It may also be time to make some adjustments, try some new tactics or shift your focus.  With limited free time during the semester, it can be easy to just focus on getting things done to meet deadlines.  Take some time now to review what you have done already and think about how you want to proceed with your search.  Create an action plan with small, manageable goals moving forward.

Don’t miss out on networking opportunities! If you are leaving Philadelphia, you never know who you will meet while you are away. Expanding your networks and making new connections can open doors to a job, internship or other career pursuits in the future. When opportunity knocks unexpectedly, take advantage of the situation.

Continue to search Handshake and iNet. Handshake and iNet are updated during the week with new job and internship opportunities – try a quick search each day. Just remember to have your resume and other application documents accessible before you leave campus – you never know what positions may have deadlines over break.

Attend a local career fair. Search for local career fairs in the area you plan to be during Spring Break to see if any events are scheduled during this time – you never know who might be hiring.

(Informational) Interview. If you are pursuing a job or  internship outside of Philadelphia, Spring Break is a great time to travel to that interview you could not schedule with classes in session. You may also consider an informational interview with Penn alumni or other professionals at companies of interest.

– Feel free to schedule a career advising appointment.  Career Services will be open during Spring Break. Feel free to schedule an appointment through Handshake to discuss your search.

Relax. Take time to sleep in, eat healthy or just take a deep breath. Spending time to rejuvenate yourself is an important aspect of Spring Break that can be easy to forget. 

Informal Networking Opportunities

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

Much has been written about networking and its importance in the job and internship search process. When meeting with students, I try to make a distinction between formal networking and informal networking. While formal networking opportunities include events such as career fairs and information sessions where the assumption is that attendees will “network” with each other, it can be easy to forget that informal networking can lead to some interesting possibilities. A recent experience reminded of the value of informal networking.

While on my commute to work one morning, I was standing next to two individuals engaged in conversation.  Everything else was so quiet that the only thing you could hear was the loud conversation.  After a few minutes, it was very clear the two individuals did not previously know each other – they just happened to be sitting near each other and decided to strike up a conversation.  I noticed that one person was a college student seeking advice and the other a working professional.  One thing that was memorable was the end of the conversation where the professional offered his business card and his willingness to connect the student with someone he knew that could possibly help.  And all of this happened on a random commute one morning – an example of an informal networking situation that you may find yourself in when you least expect it.

So if you have the chance to engage in informal networking and have a conversation with someone outside of a formalized networking event, think of it as a opportunity.  You never know who you will meet and where the conversation may lead.


How to Navigate Professional Conferences

By: Fiona Tang, Graduate Assistant

It’s the time of the year again for professional conferences organized by different student groups. Selecting which conferences to attend and how to best maximize the value of each conference can be a challenge for students who are busy with school and recruiting.

Therefore, I will share some tips on how to successfully navigate various professional conferences organized by student groups.

Which conferences to attend?

Many conferences take an entire day, which is quite a time commitment. Therefore, carefully selecting which conferences to attend is important for your time management.

For freshmen and sophomores, conferences are some of the best boot camps to explore an industry and geographic location. If you are interested in learning about private equity and venture capital, then attending a private equity/venture capital conference is the best way to learn about the biggest funds, industry trends and network with potential future employers. If you are interested in an internship in China, then attending China Forum is the easiest way to connect with local employers and students. I would also recommend expanding your horizons by participating in conferences focused on industries you have not explored thus far – there are more job opportunities available beyond finance and consulting. Attending different conferences during freshman and sophomore years can potentially expand your career options.

For juniors and seniors, conferences can also be opportunities to learn about industries/geographic locations, but more importantly they are valuable for networking with future employers. By junior and senior year, it is helpful to have a sense of the industry/location that you would like to target. Given the busy schedules of recruiting and classes, being selective and targeted at which conferences to attend is important. Try your best to Identify you career interests first and attend relevant professional conferences is probably a better option than attending all of them.

How to maximize the value of the conference?

Being well-prepared in advance can save you time and maximize the value of the conference. Review the conference schedule prior to the event and identify specific workshops/forums that you would like to attend. Do your due diligence on the speakers/firms that you are interested in so that you can better understand the topics discussed and ask meaningful questions during the conference.

During the conference, network, network and network! Some students might believe attending conferences is just about listening to different talks. That might be true for freshmen and sophomores, it definitely should not be the case for juniors and seniors. Companies come to student organization conferences mostly for networking and recruiting purposes. It’s important to spend time networking after each talk and get contact information from the speakers, particularly for firms of great interest. Another way to get involved is participating in the conference planning team. For industries/geographic locations that you are interested in recruiting, getting involved in the conference planning team is a great opportunity for outreach and networking with different companies.

In conclusion, conferences are fun and great ways to network and learn about industries. Enjoy these experiences and make new friends while you are there!