When employers or graduate schools hold interviews, they aim to understand your level of interest, confirm your qualifications, and determine if you would be a good fit for the position and the organization. Use these tips below to prepare for a successful interview.
Research the position and organization
- review the job description and match your experiences and qualifications with it
- brainstorm stories from your life that showcase skills and background relevant to the position
- take time to research the organization— mission, values, and the broader industry
- connect with St. Olaf alumni who work in the organization to gain insight and perspective on the organization’s culture, current priorities, opportunities and challenges, and trends in the field
Know what to wear
- is the organization business casual or business professional on a daily basis?
- finding this information may require a search for photos on the company website if the recruiter does not specify recommended dress
- review more detailed information on clothing here
- get an outfit early so you can be sure you’re comfortable in it
- dress more formally for the interview than you would for the job itself
Practice answering common interview questions out loud. Frequently asked types of questions may include:
- “tell me about yourself”
- prepare a benefit statement where you discuss your academics, relevant work or internship experience, and a brief summary of how your skills and experiences will benefit the organization
- behavioral questions— the most common style of interview questions— where the interviewer asks you how you responded in a past situation to assess qualities such as leadership aptitude, communication, conflict management, failure, or teamwork
- answer using the STAR technique: situation, task, action, result
- questions about your weaknesses or negative experiences
- think about experiences where you got something positive out of the situation or learned something in particular
- review more commonly asked interview questions here
Prepare insightful, tailored questions to ask the interviewer. Consider asking about the organization, the position, hiring timeline, training, etc.
- read through these sample questions for inspiration
Schedule a practice interview with a Piper Center coach in your industry. They can provide tailored advice, insight, and recommendations for maximizing your chances of success.
- no matter how good you are with communication, interviewing is an entirely separate skill
- students who complete mock interviews are much more prepared, confident, and successful when pursuing internship or job opportunities than those who don’t
After your interview, send a thank you note within 24 hours.
If the organization did not provide you with a hiring timeline, be sure to ask about it during your interview.
- if more than a week has passed since the date that you were told you would be contacted, call or email the organization to ask about the status of your application
Review these templates for following up on an interview or application.
In a professional setting, candidates are expected to navigate certain social and behavioral norms during the interview process. At the Piper Center, we believe it is important to acknowledge the cultural specificity of these professional expectations, while also emphasizing the many positive assets that culturally diverse candidates bring to the employment sector. If you have questions or concerns about managing these social norms in a professional setting, set up an appointment to talk to a Piper Center coach.