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.

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.

What’s Your Story? The Power of a Career Narrative

by Sharon Fleshman

You may have career goals which seem clearly aligned with your background or you may be seeking a career transition.  Either way, you will want to develop a compelling career narrative which would include the following:

— An experience that exposed you to a given career and served as a catalyst for you to pursue that career.

— An experience in which you were energized and made a positive impact, confirming for you that a particular career or job is a good fit for you.

With these kinds of defining moments and accomplishments, you can connect the dots between your work history and the next step on your career path.  Consider the following scenarios and career narrative examples:

A student completing a BSN degree and planning to apply to Registered Nurse positions.  
“I became drawn to nursing in high school when volunteering at a pediatric hospital and shadowing a nurse.  I continue to enjoy community service work which allows me to mentor and empower children. In my recent clinical rotation in pediatrics, I was able to bring comfort and clarity to the anxious parent of a patient, which was noted by the parent and my supervisor. This affirmed my desire and ability to offer patient care that has a positive impact not only on children at the hospital but on their families as well.”

An alum who has worked as a teacher, returned to school to study policy, and plans to apply to policy research positions.
“As I worked as a teacher in public school, I began to ponder the best ways to assess student achievement in the classroom. As I did this, I also saw connections to broader and more systemic issues. This discovery led me to attend a graduate program which allowed me to cultivate skills in policy analysis and data analysis to complement my teaching background. I found that in my internship, my track record as an educator paved the way for me to build rapport with teachers and administrators whose participation was vital to my research.   I hope to leverage my mix of experiences and skills to conduct policy research and analysis that promotes increased equity and access in education.”

There are a number of contexts in which you can apply your career narrative:

Cover letters:  Cover letters allow you to address a specific employer about a specific job.  Therefore, you do not want to merely repeat what is on your resume. Instead, adapt and build upon your career narrative to highlight experiences that demonstrate why you are interested in and qualified for the job, and a good fit for the employer.

Career Fairs: Career fairs allow you to engage representatives from various employers, usually in brief conversations.   The career narrative, adapted to a particular employer, can offer a great way to introduce yourself and pave the way to ask a thoughtful question or two.

Networking: Whether you converse with your networking contact at a reception or an informational interview, your career narrative is a great tool to offer a bit about your background and career interests before you ask for perspective or advice.

Interviewing:  Many interviews open with the “Tell me about yourself” question, which can be a bit daunting.  Having a career narrative that connects your key experiences and career goals to the employer and the job will help you begin the interview with enthusiasm and confidence.

Feel free to make an appointment with a career advisor to discuss how to craft your career narrative. In the meantime, take a look at the following articles for more insight:

What’s Your Story? – by Herminia Ibarra and Kent Lineback, Harvard Business Review, January 2005

Younger Workers Need a Career Narrative by Heidi Gardner and Adam Zalisk, Harvard Business Review, February 15, 2013

 

Informational Interviewing: A Summer Project

by Marianne Lipa, Career Advisor

As the mid-point of the summer has passed, it’s the perfect time to think about ways to connect with people to learn about their careers, organizations, positions, and gain useful information in your future job and internship searches.  If you are currently interning this summer, reflect on how the internship provides practice, experience, training, and skills.  Informational interviews are conversations that provide an opportunity to gather information, establish connections, and allow you to share information about yourself in order to achieve your career goals.  Some key tips to remember:

  • Reach out to potential contacts via email.  In the email, remember to explain how you found their name (both LinkedIn and Quakernet are valuable resources for finding alumni), introduce yourself, and ask if you could schedule a time to speak with them about their career path.
  • Come prepared with questions to ask during the informational interview/conversation!  Check out this list of:  sample informational interview questions
  • Informational interviews focus on various topics such as:
    • Preparing for a career in this field
    • Particular organization/company the person works for
    • The person’s current job
    • The person’s future career goals/steps
    • Prior experience and preparation
    • Lifestyle/Expectations
    • Factors taken into consideration for hiring decisions
    • Referral to other contacts
  • It’s important that you do NOT ask for a job/internship.  You are welcome to mention that you are conducting a job/internship search by asking general questions and seeking advice about how to best approach the process.
  • When setting up the informational interview, plan to allocate no more than 30 minutes.  Remember that they are busy individuals offering to share their time and expertise with you so it’s important to be respectful of their time.
  • Lastly, always send a thank you email to your contact.  This allows you to show your appreciation and they might be able to assist you in the future especially if an opportunity arises at their particular company or if they know of another opportunity within their network of contacts.

Feel free to further discuss informational interviewing with an advisor in Career Services.  We’re happy to help you, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Case interviews 101

Jingy Yen, Career Adviser

Interviewing is usually a nerve wracking, anxiety inducing experience. Case interviews bring a whole new level of stress and uncertainty. Here are some tips and tricks for tackling the case interview and making the process more manageable.

First things first –what is a case interview?

A case interview is when the employer presents you with a business problem, likely something that the company has to deal with regularly. Your job is to analyze the problem and give some solutions. There is usually no clear right or wrong answer. The interviewer is assessing your problem solving ability, how you approach different situations, and your ability to talk your way through it.

So when I be expected to do a case interview?

If you are interested in consulting or similar fields, you will most likely have to do some variation of a case interview. Sometimes it’ll be one-on-one with an interviewer, other times you will be expected to present your ideas in front of a panel.

Yikes this sounds scary. How do I prepare?

The good news is summer is a great time to prepare for case interviews. Recruiting starts the minute you get back on campus, so you won’t have a lot of time to prepare in the fall. Start by reading some case books and watching videos online to get an idea of what the case interview looks like. Then, find peers to practice with. You can also make an appointment with a career advisor to do a mock case interview. It’s hard to practice for this on your own, so the best strategy is to connect with as many people as possible to practice with each other. There isn’t a magic number for how many to practice, just try to fit as many in.

Okay fine, but what can I do on my own?

There are many things you can do on your own to prepare as well. Brush up on your mental math. I’m not talking calculus here, I’m talking long division and percentages. Keep updated on current business trends, read The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. This will help you come up with unique strategies and solutions. You can also do “case starts.” Read yourself the case prompt, and set up your initial framework to practice how you would start a case.

What are some resources for case interviewing?

Books (Available to preview in the Career Services library):
Case in Point by Marc Cosentino
Crack the Case by David Ohrvall
Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng

Websites:
https://www.caseinterview.com/ (great mental math exercises)
https://managementconsulted.com/
https://www.preplounge.com/en/

Videos:
MConsultingPrep You Tube Channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGo4-qWsTYnGKhXeghZE6hA