Do You Have this Essential Interview Skill?

Tiffany J. Franklin, Associate Director


Congratulations! You landed an interview for your dream job or internship and you think you’ve done all the necessary prep work. Are you really ready to knock it out of the park and show this company why they should hire you? Before closing the book on your interview prep, you must be sure you possess this skill

The ability to articulate your experience in a way that is meaningful to this particular employer.

The employer already has a vague notion that you can do the job or else they would not bring you in for an interview. Now, they need you to inspire confidence in them that will confirm their initial instincts about you were on point. Specifically, the interview process needs to assure the employer that

  • You have the specific Knowledge, Skills (soft and hard), and Abilities to perform the job duties
  • You have the motivation/initiative to do the job
  • You will work well with the team/clients and demonstrate emotional intelligence
  • You have problem solving skills and can offer solutions to company pain points

Now that we know what you need to accomplish, there are 3 concrete steps you can take to prepare for your interview.

  1. Know the job description inside/out and do in depth research about the company.

    This is huge! To tailor your message to this employer you have to understand who they are (Corporate website, About Us page, Mission statement, Press Releases, Social Media Accounts) and have a firm grasp on the key qualities they are seeking in a candidate. Most job descriptions will ask for 50 different things, but you can usually group these into 3 to 5 major skill areas (hard and soft skills).

  2. Understand Yourself and Be Able to Tell Your Story.

    This is an exercise I call Your Greatest Hits.” This will give you a quick visual depiction of approximately 30 success stories across skills areas and is a great prompt for those behavioral, “Tell me about a time when” questions.  They are based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

    On one sheet of paper write 10-15 skill areas (for example, Leadership, Teamwork, Cultivating Client Relationships, Demonstrating Initiative, Customer Service, Project Management, Problem Solving, Data Analysis, Persuasive Communication, Delivering Presentations, Mentoring, Product Management, Budgeting, Coding, and other technical/non-technical skills. Select those 5 skill areas represented in the job description (from step 1) plus soft skills and other skills applicable to your field/industry.

    For each of these skill areas, write 2 – 3 CAR stories meaning Challenge (what was the challenge you encountered), Action (what were the specific actions you took to address the challenge), and Results (what were the positive results). The answers to these should be 90 seconds to 2 minutes long and demonstrate you using that skill.

    When doing this exercise, don’t write out long answers. You know your experience and should not memorize the answers – rather use the keywords and phrases to trigger your memory. For example:

    C: Wedding Planner for outdoor ceremony/reception in FL in July; forecast called for showers

    A: Encouraged couple to consider party tent; called frequently used vendor and secured tent days before ceremony; worked with other vendors to adjust to new configuration for reception. Ordered umbrellas.

    R: Sunny for ceremony, but rained most of reception. Tent in place, dry guests, good time had by all. The couple was happy and guests commented on beautiful event in spite of weather.


  3. Practice saying these success stories aloud. It will help you smooth out the flow (get rid of ums, pauses, likes), identify areas where you need to come up with a better example, and in the process increase your confidence.

By engaging in these exercises, you have made a significant step in preparing for a successful interview. You are now able to articulate how everything you have done in your career to this point has been building transferrable skills and leading you to this interview!

Career Services is here to help you with this process. Review numerous resources online at and you are welcome to schedule a mock interview with one of our career advisors.

Are You Being Strategic in Your Job Search?

by Tiffany Franklin, Associate Director


Everywhere you turn, you hear people talking about the need to think strategically and the value of this skill in the business world, but have you stopped to apply this principle to your job search? Taking the time to devise a flexible plan and map out mini goals for yourself can lead to a more efficient job or internship search. With all the competing priorities in your life between academics, activities, friends, family, work, etc. it can be challenging to find time for everything, so you want your efforts on the job search front to be as productive as possible.

You have a syllabus for each of your classes, so why not develop one for your job search customized to your needs? Start by creating a job search To Do list and then breaking this down into mini goals to achieve each week. That way, you are giving yourself direction and making progress in your search. If you feel overwhelmed keep in mind, you don’t have to secure your job tomorrow, but you can work on mini goals that will help you get one step closer to your big goal of finding a job. This will also prevent you from trying to cram all your job search tasks into a brief period of time, which is not productive in a search. You are giving yourself time to devote your best efforts to your resume and to your networking endeavors.

To get started, think about the types of jobs/internships you are seeking. Are they all similar and related to your major or are you conducting a concurrent search and seeking positions in two separate fields? If you answered yes to separate fields, then you will create a resume tailored to each field. Career Services is here to help you learn how to develop these resumes which emphasize different aspects of your experience. You want your marketing documents to reflect your job search goals. The same holds true for your cover letters and then you will further tailor them to each position to which you apply. By organizing your search efforts, you can also evaluate your progress along the way and make adjustments as needed. For example, if you’ve sent out many resumes and have not heard back from any employers, then it’s an indication you need to work on your resume and cover letter some more. If you’re securing first round interviews and not proceeding to subsequent rounds, then a mock interview would be valuable for you.

Other items to include on your To Do list include identify opportunities through a number of sources (PennLink, LinkedIn Jobs Tab, Indeed, and sites tailored to each industry), research industries, prepare for interviewing, create a list of networking contacts, find new contacts in QuakerNet and LinkedIn, attend career fairs and information sessions, and of course, apply to open positions.

When devising your job search calendar, first look at the Career Services calendar to identify when the major events are coming up (Career Fairs) and times of career workshops and employer information sessions. There are too many to attend them all, so think about which ones interest you the most and include those on your calendar. Then break down the other steps and give yourself a goal of identifying and applying to a certain number of jobs a week. Be flexible with this plan since an interview invitation may mean you will focus your efforts on that during a given week. Keep in mind the first few applications take the longest to complete as you get used to the process.

At first glance, searching for a job or internship can be overwhelming with the sheer volume of resources available, but Career Services is here to help you break the process into manageable steps and support you through each one.


Cultivating References

Tiffany Franklin, Associate Director

refWhen it comes to the job search, references are an often overlooked or last minute aspect, although they play a key role in the background check employers conduct. You’ll notice that applications ask you to list references when you first apply and then as you move through interview rounds, your prospective employer will ask for them prior to extending an offer.

They ask for these to verify that what you say is accurate in your application materials and during your interviews. If employers are choosing between top candidates, the strength of a reference can make all the difference.

So, how do you select the people to ask and what are the etiquette rules around asking for references?

  1. Make a list of supervisors you’ve had in your past internships, professional jobs, research positions, summer jobs, volunteer work, and your professors/academic advisors. Select the ones that can speak to your work ethic, problem solving, communication skills, leadership ability, specific technical skills, and/or teamwork.
  2. Contact your references, let them know about your job search, and ask if they would be available as a reference and if they could give you a good recommendation.
  3. Compile contact information for these confirmed references including current job title, company name, address, email, and phone number. Add a line about the context in which they supervised you or if you took their class and the dates. Have a sheet of references that accompanies your resume, but is a separate document. There is no need to write “References available upon request” on your resume since it’s a given.
  4. Provide your references updates about your search, including info about the kinds of organizations you are targeting, when they might be hearing from the employer and/or when the written letters of reference are due for your application. Respect their time and be sure to give plenty of notice for written letters.
  5. Keep your references posted regarding your progress in your job search. Be sure to thank them for their help with a formal written thank you note or card.

Keep in mind that it’s much easier to ask for references when you take the time to keep in touch with former supervisors and colleagues every few months. Demonstrate genuine interest in maintaining contact with them and not just when you need something. Get to know you professors by attending office hours and contributing in class. This will help your reference learn more about you and have more insights to provide your prospective employer.

For more questions concerning references, you can make an appointment with a career advisor by calling 215-898-7531 or you can come by during regular walk-in hours.

Making a New City Feel Like Home

Tiffany Franklin, Associate Director

How to prepareThis time of year new graduates and students are moving all across the country and world to start new jobs, internships, graduate school, fellowships, and research positions. While this is an exciting time, it can be stressful and taking a little time to strategize can make a big difference in your experience. This topic is close to my heart since I’ve lived in a number of cities (Nashville, New Orleans, Atlanta, Jacksonville, FL, and Philadelphia) and have made big moves for both school and work. Here are a few things I learned that helped me make my new cities feel like home.

Preparing for the Move

There are a host of resources for you to read in the weeks leading up to your move to learn about your new city and all that it has to offer.

  • Going Global – Includes a listing of cities in the US along with the country guides. Be sure to log-in via using your PennKey to access the site. Resources include a city overview, cost of living guide, networking resources, and a list of top companies.

  • Chamber of Commerce sites – Check out the chamber of commerce for your new city for resources and a list of local attractions.
  • Local Newspapers online
  • City Search website
  • City Scene or other magazine with listing of concerts, art exhibits, restaurants, etc.
  • Local magazine – Philadelphia magazine for example
  • Facebook/Twitter
  • Alumni/Current Penn students from that city – Search QuakerNet, LinkedIn (Connections – Find Alumni sub tab) and the Penn Internship Network to find students and alumni in your new city.
  • Penn Alumni Chapters



  • Local Universities – Many med, law and business schools compile comprehensive guides for their incoming students that include a list of apartments, real estate agents, things to do, and info about the neighborhoods near the university. These can often be found with some creative Googling and are very helpful when deciding where to live.
  • Referrals – Utilize your Penn network and connect with other Quakers who are living or have lived in your new city. Get their perspective on safe places to live, commute times, cultural amenities, and other factors that can shape your living experience.
  • Research – Check out websites that offer rating for apartments (such as and you can search by area crime rates as well.

First Weekend – Now what?

new beginningsIt may seem daunting that first weekend in a new city when you don’t know many people, but look at it like you did freshman year and stay open to meeting people. Strike up a conversation with someone at the coffee shop or next to you in yoga class. Try a new interest through classes or meetup groups (cooking, art, exercise, professional groups). Visit local parks and look into activities like sports leagues or volunteer opportunities with a cause that is close to your heart. Before long, you will have a whole new social circle and many things to fill your free time.

Colleagues or Friends?

Always remember to be professional in your internship or new job. You may start with a group of people, so you will have some built in work contacts. If not, offer to take a colleague to lunch or coffee. If you have finished your assignments, offer to help someone. Listen and be genuinely interested in people.

Give it some Time

Acclimating to a new city is both an exciting and sometimes scary process. It may take you a few weeks or months to get into a new routine, but it will happen. Keep in mind that your social calendar requires more planning in the beginning. It’s okay to do some things on your own and be sure to diversify your group of friends, so you are not counting on one person to be your social life. If you feel a little lonely in the beginning, remember your friends and family are just a text, call, Skype, or email away.

Enjoy the Adventure

Moving can be an amazing adventure and can provide you with a number of stories. If you are not loving your new city, keep in mind it doesn’t have to be permanent and you can move again. But first, give it a year and your new city may turn into your new home. Have fun making friends and embracing the new experiences.


Making the Most of LinkedIN

by Tiffany Franklin, Associate Director

linkedincomputerAre you utilizing every aspect of LinkedIn in your Job or internship search? It’s a powerful tool that goes beyond sending and receiving requests to connect. As a recruiter, I used to post jobs on LinkedIn all the time and search for quality candidates. Here are a few ways to make LinkedIn one part of your comprehensive search.

  1. Jobs Tab – Under the jobs tab, look for the “Advanced Search” feature on the top right near the blue search button. That will allow you to specify the industry and location. Once you take that step, you can look at the categories on the left and type “intern” under job title or “Entry level” under Experience level. In many cases, you will see the name of the recruiter posting a position, so you can address your cover letter to that person. In addition, there are links to the company LinkedIn page.
  2. Researching a Company via LinkedIn pages – Go to the search box at the top of your profile and select “Company” in the drop down option at the left hand side of the box. Then, type the company name and you will be taken to the company’s official LinkedIn page. This will show you a brief profile of the company, current job postings through LinkedIn and if you have any first or second degree connections. If you have second degree connections, you could see if any are someone you know well and if they would be willing to make an introduction for an informational interview. Remember, company LinkedIn pages are helpful, but be sure to go to the company’s website, Glassdoor, and the Vault, for more comprehensive research. See for tips about how informational interviews fit into your job search strategy.
  3. Networking – Speaking of informational interviews, LinkedIn is a wonderful tool to cross-reference with QuakerNet to find Penn alumni for possible informational interviews. Go to the Connections tab and “Find Alumni.” As of this spring, you will see almost 117,000 Penn alumni on LinkedIn and you can search by city, company, industry, majors, and skills.
  4. Your own Profile – Given all the activity on LinkedIn, you want to keep your profile in top shape. Be sure to update it frequently and include your academic projects, research, internships, activities, volunteer experience, professional development, and skills.

Career Services is here to help, so be sure to come in for a walk-in or make an appointment and one of the counselors will be happy to critique your profile and demonstrate the strategies outlined in this post.