Interview Preparation

Hooray! Your well-crafted documents and networking have landed you an interview. So, now what? Now it's time to prove that you are the one they should hire! Remember: resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles showcase that you have the relevant skills needed for a role, but the interview is what solidifies that you are the right fit. To put it another way, the documents convince a company to have a conversation with you, and the interview seals the deal!

General Tips

  • Remember interviewing is a two-way street. While we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed in job interviews, you are also interviewing the company. If you get a feeling that it's not a good fit for you based on culture or expectations, you are probably right! 
  • Only interview for roles you are interested in. Interviewing takes time and no one wants their time to be wasted. While it is okay to interview out of curiosity, even when you aren't actively seeking, only do that for roles and/or companies that you are interested in. 
  • Company research is critical. In addition to the company research you conducted while networking and applying for you, you always want to be up-to-date on company news. Make sure you follow the company on social media, read the company websites, and read relevant industry news sources before an interview. Why? Companies frequently ask topical questions to test if your interest in them and the industry is genuine, and your opinion of the company and role may change based on what you learn. 
    • Tip: You also want to research the interviewers, assuming you have a list in advance. It's perfectly acceptable for them to see that you looked them up on LinkedIn - it shows advanced preparation and interest!
  • Be concise and focused. Unless a company gives you more specific details, plan to answer each interview question within the range of 60 seconds to 3 minutes. Within this time frame, you will hold the interviewer's attention and ensure you focus on the key points - your relevant skills and past results (see behavioral interviews for more tips). 
  • Know the format and prepare accordingly. While thinking through your CAR stories and doing your research are keys to success in any format, there are some differences between phone, virtual, and in-person interviews. For example, lighting and background are important considerations for virtual interviews while understanding your voice inflection and how you express interest is especially important for phone screens where other non-verbal cues are nonexistent. 
    • Tip: If you aren't sure how you come across in interviews, record yourself and then listen/watch the recording. We often aren't aware of our facial expressions (or lack of smiling) or use of filler words until we intentionally seek feedback. Better to know in advance and correct than get feedback in an interview. 

Typical Flow of an Interview

  • Small talk and Introductions. Remember that every part of an interview is an assessment, including small talk at the beginning of a call (or while walking to an interview room for an in-person meeting). During introductions, it's important to note the names of people you interact with, so you can write personalized thank you notes afterward.
  • Questions for You. The bulk of the interview will be spent with them asking you questions. Be prepared to talk individually and to groups of people. It's okay to give the same answer if asked the same question by different groups. This portion is designed to make sure you are the right fit for the company and the role.
  • Questions for Them. It is critical to always have questions to ask at the end of an interview. You will want to ask about the timeline and next steps in the process, but more importantly, you will want to ask questions about topics you really want to know more about. These questions can be based on something you learn during the interview or based on the research you've done prior to the interview. 
  • Wrap Up. Again, remember the assessment doesn't end until you officially log off, hang up, or leave the office. Be pleasant and confident and reiterate your interest. Always thank the interviewer for their time. 
  • Follow Up. Plan to send a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview, ideally to every participant. Focus on personalizing the note to the conversation you had or what you learned from them and reiterate your interest in the role. 

Types of Interviews

The types of interviews you have will differ based on company, location, and role. So, you will want to get as much information as possible about the interview type, the interviewers, and the timeline for the interviews. Here's a breakdown of common types of interviews, along with some tips to start your preparation. 

The Big Three Questions

Regardless of what industry or function you are interviewing for, you always want to be prepared to answer these three questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why this company?
  • Why this role? 

What's the purpose of these questions? In addition to serving as a segue between introductions and the formal portion of the interview, these questions are designed to test your understanding of the role and the employer and your ability to connect your skills to the needs of the employer. 

  • Tip: Prepare 2 - 3 reasons to include when answering why you are interested in the company and the role, and be as specific as possible (including mentioning any relevant networking). Remember, it's not only about why you are interested, it's about why you are a strong fit for them.

Why focus on these questions? Because they typically occur at the beginning of interviews and have the highest probability of being asked. Based on confirmation bias, when we ace these questions, we enter the next portions of the interview on a positive note. 

Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviews focus on questions about your past performance and actions as a way to gauge how you will behave in future situations. The questions often start with "Tell me about a time when" and seek to understand how you used a specific skill in the past to achieve a particular outcome or learning. Two critical components to success are clearly articulating the end result and keeping answers brief (3 minutes or less). 

  • Tip: Use the STAR technique to stay focused. More than half of your time in the answer should be focused on your actions and results (remember the best predictor of future performance is past performance).  
    • Situation (describe the situation or event) 
    • Task (describe your role) 
    • Action (describe your actions/how you handled the situation) 
    • Results (describe the outcomes)
  • Note: If the question is about a negative experience (as they often are), you may consider using the START technique (which adds Take away at the end to share what you learned as a result of the experience). You may also see the framework called CAR (Challenge - Action - Result), but the breakdown of how to effectively answer remains the same. 

Check out common behavioral questions and sample answers here. Be sure to prepare by thinking of 2 - 3 relevant stories for each possible question so you don't duplicate stories during an interview. 

Case Interviews

Case interviews are interviews that simulate a business problem and test how you would solve it in a short time frame. While management consulting is known for case interviews, they are used by other industries as well. Understanding the structure of the interview and being prepared for this type of interview is critical to success. Check out more information here to get started. 

Technical Interviews  

For roles requiring technical expertise, a technical interview is expected. While some components are similar to the behavioral questions mentioned above, you also want to be prepared for answering technical problem-solving questions and for timed assessments. In addition to the technology sector, finance is also known for finance technical interviews, based on the desired skills of the role. 

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