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Interviewing Essentials

Practice and preparation are critical to your success in an interview setting.

Before

Research the Company

When interviewing for a job, it is imperative to be knowledgeable about the company, as well as about the industry in which the company operates.

This could mean:

  • Fully exploring the company's website, a few clicks won't cut it. Be sure to ask yourself the important questions:
    • What is their mission statement?
    • What is their strategic plan?
    • What do they produce?
    • What projects are they working on?
    • Who are their partners?
    • Who are their competitors?
  • Doing a Google search to find recent articles or press releases about the employer
  • If possible, researching your interviewer (through LinkedIn) and the role the interviewer plays in the company
    • It is appropriate to request the names and titles of your interviewers during the interview scheduling process, especially if your interview is scheduled by a centralized Human Resources department or administrative support personnel.
Many employers will ask you specific questions about their company or generally ask you to share what you know about the organization. To really impress, review some of the current industry resources available and be familiar enough with the material to be able to discuss the latest industry issues or trends with your interviewer.

Several useful tools for company and industry research are below. These should be used in conjunction with major-specific resources available through the Hagerty Career Library.

  • Mergent Intellect
    Mergent Intellect is a great starting place for researching companies. Its comprehensive and timely company profiles contain company overviews and histories, including limited coverage of private companies and subsidiaries. Use this database to compile lists of company competitors, brand/product names, some industry information, and officer names and salaries.
  • PrivCo
    Researching a private company? PrivCo is your best tool. The database includes in-depth reports on non-publicly head companies, including financial data and revenue. You'll also find private M&A deals and deal multiples, private firm valuations, VC funding, private equity deal history, and private and family ownership data. To use this database, you must create a PrivCo login using your Drexel email address. Each user may download 250 records per month.

Step up your research and show your interest — Follow/like the company on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. This gives you a current view of what's happening for the employer, and also shows you're interested. (Yes, many employers check!)

Prepare Your Responses

Prepare responses to frequently asked interview questions and practice those responses. Steinbright offers interview workshops on a regular basis, and you can also schedule a mock interview with a Steinbright staff member. In addition, it is highly recommended that you practice with a friend, family member, or mirror! The more you practice, the more articulate and convincing your responses will be during the interview. Being well-prepared will also alleviate some of the uneasiness you may feel going into an interview.

Familiarize yourself with the job description; know what specific skills the employer is looking for. Prepare responses which illustrate that you possess these required skills. In other words, match your skills to the employer's needs, thus convincing them that you are the perfect fit for the job. When practicing, remember to smile and allow your personality into the interview. Don't forget to prepare some questions for the employer at the end of the interview.

Practice the pre-recorded video interview with Big Interview. This software offers video tutorials and practice software. Record your mock interview responses and send to trusted individuals (i.e., family members, friends, advisors) to request feedback. Please allow individuals sufficient time to review and provide feedback.

Dress for Success

If you want to convince the employer that you are a mature and responsible professional, then you must look the part. Your clothing should be neat, clean, and conservative. In most cases, a dark-colored suit is standard. If you do not own a suit, there are other acceptable alternatives. Sports jackets, ties, blazers, sweaters, blouses, and neatly pressed slacks and skirts are all professional wardrobe choices.

For work environments that are less corporate, it is important to reflect in your attire that you have some understanding of the workplace culture of the employer. Look for workplace photos on the company's website. What are people wearing? Find ways to incorporate that aesthetic into your interview clothing, but always keep it neat and professional. It is also effective and acceptable to ask a non-corporate employer when setting up your interview, "What is appropriate attire in your office/for this meeting?"

Stay away from excessive jewelry, cologne/perfume, or make-up. If you are unsure about interview attire for your specific major/industry, talk to a Steinbright staff member.

What to Bring

Bring along:

  • Enough copies of your résumé for all attendees. If you are not sure how many people you will be meeting, have 5-7 clean copies printed and ready to be distributed.
  • Your reference page.
  • A notepad and pen to take notes.
  • A portfolio of your work (if necessary in your industry).

Remember that everything you bring makes an impression. Carrying these items in a briefcase, portfolio, or spacious purse is much more professional than a backpack. If you choose to bring a cell phone or any other electronic devices with you, be sure that they are turned off and stored in your briefcase or purse for the duration of the interview.

Arrive Early

If you have any questions about where the interview site is located, request a map or written set of directions from the company. Always bring printed directions, in case your phone/GPS fails you. Leave for your interview earlier than you think you need to, and be sure to have the company's telephone number on hand in case you need to reach them. Arrive 10-15 minutes before your interview; if you arrive too early the employer may feel pressured to begin the interview before he or she is ready. On the other hand, arriving late (even by a few minutes) will make you appear unreliable and irresponsible.

During

Meeting Interviewer(s)

Relax and remain confident and professional. Remember to smile and be friendly, even if you are nervous. You may be interviewed by several company employees, so be prepared.
  • Shake hands and thank the interviewer(s) for the opportunity that they are providing.
  • Get the names of all of your interviewers and refer to them during the interview by name.
  • Express 100% interest in the position for which you are applying. Employers want to hire candidates who are enthusiastic about the position and company, so be sure to convey that you are eager to be a member of their team.

Maintain Appropriate Body Language

The way you present yourself physically in an interview can convey a lot about you. One goal of interviewing is to convey confidence, and maintaining appropriate body language can help you accomplish that goal.

  • Maintain eye contact with members of the interviewing team. Eye contact conveys honesty and confidence so be careful not to stare into your lap or around the room. This gets easier with practice and experience!
  • Sit straight in the chair with your hands on your lap or in another comfortable position.
  • Relax and avoid nervous behaviors (finger tapping, leg shaking, fidgeting, excessive hand gestures, etc.).

Understand the Question and Organize Your Thoughts

  • If you are not sure you heard the question properly or you are not sure of the question's intent, ask for further explanation and clarification.
  • Before answering a question, organize your thoughts and formulate your response in sequential order. A few seconds of deliberate thought is much better than 10 minutes of rambling.
  • Choose your words carefully and use proper grammar. Avoid "um," "ya know," "well," "like," and other words that indicate nervousness, uncertainty, and a lack of professionalism.
  • Always support your claims with concrete examples from your experience. For instance, to convey that you are a team player, prove it by sharing an anecdote about a specific time when you demonstrated your ability to work well with others.
  • Practicing speaking your answers to frequently asked interview questions prior to your interview will help you to successfully answer questions and make a great impression.
  • When speaking about past experiences, be sure to discuss in a constructive manner. For instance, stating that a group project was "challenging" is better than saying it was "horrible." Complaining about prior jobs, employers, classmates, professors, etc. can convey a poor attitude. If you talk excessively about negative experiences, the employer may question your role in these problems and whether you will create similar issues in their workplace. 
  • Employers sometimes ask questions deliberately designed to elicit a negative response ("Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone," "Describe your worst job," "What is your greatest weakness?"). In these situations, you must be honest and answer the question, but do not emphasize the negative. Instead, briefly describe the problem, then focus on how you resolved the situation. This will showcase your problem solving skills and your ability to resolve conflict.
  • While you are interviewing and, eventually, working on co-op, you will encounter new people and situations, which may cause questions to arise. Always remember that your Steinbright partner is available to assist you. In addition, the content and resources available on our On the Job page have been developed for you.

Prepare to Ask Your Own Questions

Our Sample Interview Questions page also provides guidance for interviewees on appropriate and inappropriate topics to ask during the interview.

Informing Employers of Special Circumstances

Some Drexel co-op students have special circumstances that they will need to inform employers of during their job interviews. For instance, athletes, ROTC members, and Residential Advisors may have already standing commitments that will infringe upon their time at work. Students in this situation should bring their schedules with them to their interviews to inform potential employers of these conflicts. Consult with a Steinbright staff member if you are unsure how to proceed in this situation.

Similarly, graduating students and alumni may have personal commitments or professional obligations with a current employer that may impact their start date availability or work schedule early in their employment with a prospective employer. Being upfront about potential conflicts and how they could be managed in the transition from college to employment or between companies demonstrates a high level of integrity.

Students who have disabilities or other circumstances which may make it difficult to interview should contact Drexel's Disability Resources and their co-op advisor for assistance and advice.

Ending the Interview

At the end of the interview, you may be given the opportunity to make some final remarks.  Use this time to summarize your qualifications and reiterate your strong interest in the position. Be sure to include any final relevant information about yourself that you may have forgot to mention earlier in the interview.

When the interview is complete:

  • Let them know that you will be looking forward to hearing from them. It is appropriate to inquire about their recruitment timeline and when they plan to notify candidates of their final selections.
  • Thank your interviewers and express your appreciation for their time. Remember that a firm handshake is a positive final impression.
  • Ask for a business card from each interviewer so that you have the correct contact information.
  • Within the next 24 hours, follow up with thank you notes to each of your interviewers.

After

Thank You Notes

After your interview, always remember to send a thank you letter to each person who interviewed you. Collect the business cards of each person with whom you met so that you can be sure to follow up with them as well as ensuring that you spell their name correctly and include their title.

A thank-you note should convey your appreciation for the interviewer's time, reiterate your interest in the position, and highlight some of your qualifications again for the employer. You can either mail or email your thank-you letters. While many candidates prefer to email, you might consider standard mail for a personal touch. Most importantly, regardless of the format, just be sure that they are professionally written and sent within 24 hours of the interview.

Your letter should be short, polite, and highlight some of your qualifications again for the employer. Try to mention something that you spoke about during the interview. This will help the interviewer remember you and it will make the note more personal. In this way, you are creating a very polished and professional image of yourself as a potential candidate.

You can think of thank you letter as the cover letter written backwards. The thank you letter is usually made up of four paragraphs:

  • Paragraph 1 – Thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in the position.
  • Paragraph 2 – A chance to address any unresolved issues:
    • Is there a question that you wish you had answered better?
    • Is there more information on a point that you forgot to bring up?
    • Did the employer request more information on anything?
  • Paragraph 3 – Reiterate your skills as they match the employer needs. Clarify this based on additional information you learned at the interview.
  • Paragraph 4 – Thank the employer again and let them know how and when you plan to follow up.

Inquiring About the Hiring Decision

It's been three weeks since you went on a job interview and you still haven't heard from the employer. Before you jump to conclusions and assume you didn't get the job, consider that there could be many other reasons why the employer hasn't contacted you yet. Some common explanations for delayed contact include:

  • Approval to hire the candidate got held up in Human Resources. Most companies have to take this step before notifying candidates of the decision.
  • The employer had additional candidates to interview before making a final decision.
  • The hiring manager who has the final say on the candidate selection is out of town and hiring is halted until they return.

Regardless, waiting around to find out if you got the job can be stressful. What can you do about it? When handled properly, it's considered professional to send a follow up email to an employer to inquire on the status of the recruitment process. Think this is a waste of your time? Think again. A survey from global staffing agency Robert Half International found that after sending a job application, 81% of 1,000 hiring managers want to receive a follow-up message within two weeks. Following up after the interview with an inquiry on a hiring decision may be an equally crucial step for the job seeker.

The email should be short and to the point, polite, and not demanding. If you sent a thank you email right after your interview, this was your chance to restate your qualifications and your interest in the position. You do not need to repeat this again. Concise and simple is your best chance at getting a response from the employer. Below is an example email of a candidate who inquired about the recruitment timeline before ending the interview (See "Ending the Interview" section above). This is advisable and will help you gauge your timeline and know when you should expect to be contacted.

"Mr. Jacobs, thank you again for your time during our interview on May 4th. During the interview you mentioned that you would be contacting candidates within a week to notify of your final decision. As it has now been a few weeks since our interview, I wanted to follow up and kindly request any update you are able to provide. I would greatly appreciate any information you can share on your next steps for the position."

If you did not get details about their recruitment timeline during the interview, a general rule of thumb is if you haven't been contacted within two weeks after your interview, you can send a follow up inquiry. The sample email above can be easily adapted to fit your circumstance.