“Do you have any questions for me?” – Why this is not a throwaway question during interviews

by Melissa Chu, Wharton Graduate Assistant

More often than not, we walk into interviews with our answers to behavioural questions prepared, our answers to technical questions perfected, and we have done so many cases that we can answer then in our sleep. We breeze through all of the questions, building rapport with the interviewer and showing off our knowledge of the company. Then we get to the final question, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Sometimes, it is very tempting to say, “No, I think I’ve got all of the information that I need,” but more often than not, we fumble through and ask a question that we don’t have an interest in. What most people forget, however, is that this is still part of the interview – and the interviewer will form his/her last impression of you based on this interaction.

  1. The interviewer is still assessing you until you walk out of the room. Asking thoughtful questions shows that you took a genuine interest in the role and the company – and that you prepared for the question, which is 99.9% likely to come up.
  2. This is an opportunity to figure out whether the team or role is right for you. Do you have a truly burning question on life at the company? For example, do want to know if there are formal support networks in place for career progression? This is the time to show an interviewer that you have thoroughly thought about the role and your fit at the company.
  3. There is almost no way that you could possibly know everything about the role and the company. No matter how many informational interviews you go through, or how much time you spend reading a company’s website, there will still be questions that haven’t been answered. For example, does the team have any team-building activities?

As you head off on Thanksgiving break and reflect on (or start thinking about) your recruiting process, this is also a good time to think about the non-advertised aspects of the job that are important to you. This will help you form a list of genuine questions that you can ask at each interview to assess whether the role is right for you—remember, this is a two-way street, so you should also seize on this opportunity to get your questions out as well.

Halloween Sequels

by J. Michael DeAngelis

Author’s note: This has become my traditional Halloween blog.  I think that the contents are as relevant today as when I first wrote them – especially now, in the height of recruiting season and a big career fair next week!

When I was little, I had what I think was the greatest record collection a four year old could have. One of the crown jewels of my collection was a Walt Disney’s Trick or Treat, which retold one of the great Donald Duck cartoons of all time:

Oh, Donald, you irascible mallard!

“But Michael,” I can hear you say, “what does this have to do with Career Services?” Well, there’s a lot that we can learn from Donald, especially when it comes to attitude. Donald thinks pretty highly of himself. His refusal to give Huey, Dewey and Louie any candy stems not just from selfishness, but from a feeling of superiority. The unabashed glee that Donald has in outsmarting his nephews and Witch Hazel is comically evident throughout, but what’s funny in a cartoon is often destructive in real life.

Now, obviously, I don’t think that any of you are planning to stick firecrackers in your recruiter’s suitcase. Still, I have seen many people on the job hunt sabotage themselves because, consciously or un, they exude a Donald Duck like attitude. I see this not only here at Penn, but also in my second career in the theater arts.

There is a very fine but distinct line between having confidence and being smug. For example, I was recently looking to hire a small staff to work with me on a project outside of Career Services. A young woman came to interview for a position and, on paper, she seemed perfect. Her resume was good and she seemed enthusiastic about the project. Within in minutes, however, my feelings had changed. She spent the entire interview talking about how she and her friends had been “robbed” at a local awards ceremony. She began by saying that she was smarter than anyone on the awards committee and that her level of experience should have made her their top choice. I was immediately turned off. Worse, she continued by openly bad mouthing those who had won awards – including people I knew very well and who (unknown to the interviewee) would be working on this project. If she hadn’t done so already, this sunk her. A real Donald Duck.

Be proud of what you’ve done. Feel free to speak of your talents and achievements. Wow potential employers with everything you bring to the table…but be mindful of ego and hubris. In the interview room, don’t be a Donald Duck or, as the song says, “your nightmares will come true.”


If you haven’t done so already, I also urge you to tune into this week’s CS Radio – our new podcast!  In this special Halloween episode, we take a look at interview horror stories like the one above and how you can avoid them!

episode 6

CS Radio Episode 6: “American (Interview) Horror Story”

episode 6

Happy Halloween from CS Radio!!

In this the spirit of the season, J. Michael and A. Mylène share their personal interview horror stories this week.  Thrill to Michael explaining in an interview why he might quit right away!  Chill to Mylene’s webcam of horrors! It’s all too terrifying!  Luckily, your ghost hosts also have solid advice on how to avoid these terrors in your own interviewing.   Plus, as always, we have a rundown on what’s coming up this week in the crypts of Career Services.

ccThis week’s special Halloween theme song is “Moments Like Last Night Make Me Wanna Believe in Ghosts” by Electric Bird Noise, used under a Creative Commons License.



“Remote” Interviewing

Jamie Grant, Associate Director

If you’re considering an internship or applying for full-time positions, chances are you’ll have a phone or video interview at some point in the process.  Don’t worry – preparation is really not all that much different than for a face-to-face, in-person interview.  Here are a few ideas to help you through, and a great on-campus resource for a quiet interview spot!:

Before the interview:

  • Practice – in advance of your interview, try to replicate the scenario as authentically as you can.  Have a friend call you and ask you a few questions, or turn on your webcam and (if possible) record yourself answering a question or two (try InterviewStream for this- http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/interviewingadvice/practiceresources.php#InterviewStream!).  This will give you ideas as to: how loud you may wish to speak; if your speech sounds clear and concise; where you should look if using a webcam to seem most natural; are you smiling appropriately and showing good posture; and other such factors.
  • “Dress” the part – while you can certainly conduct a phone interview in your pajamas, it may make you feel more prepared and focused to dress professionally – especially if the interviewer can see you.  Do your best to understand in advance the dress code for the industry and the type of employer with whom you’ll be interviewing and choose appropriate attire (at least from the waist up!).
  • Check your settings – Make sure your environment is conducive to a successful interview.  Do your best to ensure you’ll have relative quiet and a good connection or signal for phone conversations – if you will be home, notify housemates of your interview so they can be quiet, and try to close pets out of the room to avoid distraction.  If the interviewer will be able to see you, make sure your backdrop and anything else that can be seen from your webcam is appropriate (your roommate’s unmade bed, a messy desk, or even if your back is to a window on a sunny day and your face is in shadow, may not be helpful).

During the interview:

  • Don’t forget to smile – even on a phone call, a smile can be heard.
  • Stay present during the call – remember that your interviewer over the phone can’t see a nod or know intuitively that you’re following along – try to interject some listening sounds, such as “hm” or “yes” as your interviewer speaks – this also helps to ensure both participants that your connection is working well.  Avoid any distractions that could take you away from the call – instant or text messaging, or doing anything at your computer other than engaging with your interviewer (they can hear you typing!).
  • Don’t be afraid to help yourself – put up post-it notes, have your resume, cover letter and the job description in front of you, have your list of questions all written out or typed out on your screen.
  • Address any technical issues immediately – If you’re having difficulty hearing, think the connection is poor or otherwise need to make an adjustment, address it as early as possible with your interviewer – it’s simple to hang up and click off and reconnect and may reflect well on your problem solving initiative!

room 70Need Interview Space for your Phone or Video Conference?:

  • Please feel free to inquire with the receptionist in our office about reserving our dedicated video/phone conference room, “Room 70,” for your interview!

For a few more tips, be sure to visit our site: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/interviewing.html#phone

Getting to Know You: The Purpose of Medical School Interviews

by Caroline Wilky, Associate Director

Congratulations on your medical school interview! To secure an interview, you have likely devoted countless hours to study and preparation. With the goal you have been working towards for so long so close, you might be tempted to over-prepare.

Over-preparing, however, is more often than not counterproductive because medical school interviewers truly want to get to know you as a person. If you have been invited to interview, the admissions committee is confident in your academic ability. Consequently, the majority of interviewers are not interested in poking holes in your research or grilling you about the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act. They want to know whether you have the personal qualities, such as maturity, sensitivity, empathy, and self-knowledge, as well as the communication skills needed to be a successful (and happy) medical student and future physician.

If you over-rehearse or prepare a script or sales pitch for your interview, you risk turning what should be a conversation into an awkward, and ultimately self-defeating, performance. In an effort to stick to your prepared script, you may fail to listen to your interviewer’s questions or read his or her body language. Your interviewer might be left wondering how you will be able to communicate with patients if you cannot communicate effectively in an interview setting. This is not the impression you want to make.

That said, you do not what your interview to be the first time you talk about yourself and what has led you to pursue a career in medicine. There are things you can and should do to prepare.

First and foremost, practice discussing out loud personal anecdotes and experiences that influenced your thinking about science, medicine, patient care, or life in general. Talk about your academics, research, clinical experience, and extracurricular activities (medically related and not), but in a way that emphasizes their impact on you as a person. Do not just describe your research. Talk about what you liked about it (such as working as team, for example, or adapting to surprising results). Interviewers are less interested in hearing you describe what you did (that information is on your application), than how what you did shaped you as person.

Finally, schedule a mock with a member of our staff. We will help you prepare enough to feel confident and come across as the well-rounded and personable person you are.