Congratulations! You've landed an interview!
After all your hard work and preparation through networking and applications, the next steps during an interview are crucial to further explore an opportunity. You want to strategically think about the interview. What does the employer want with this position? How do your experiences fit with the required skills? Make a story of your resume and link it to the job description by the end. Practice talking this through, by yourself and with trusted friends and mentors. If you have gaps in your work experience that you didn't already mention in your resume or cover letter, now is the time to explain any discrepancies. (Conversely see the following links for examples of how to approach gaps in your resume and cover letter.) There is no cookie cutter approach to interviews, but always remember to provide details
and present yourself confidently
. If you wouldn't want to hire yourself, why would an employer?
You've done the search to find the job. Now don't forget to do the appropriate research for the interview.
- View the employer's website. Pay attention to current press releases, new projects/initiatives, mission and vision statement, etc.
- If it is your first time interviewing in a specific industry, you may want to read an industry guide that you can download through Vault. To access these guides, log into your J-Connect account, https://jhu-csm.symplicity.com/students, and scroll down the home page and click on Vault. You will need to set up a profile using your JHU email address with Vault if it is your first time logging in. Once inside, click on "Download Guides." You will find a variety of industries represented.
- Network with JHU Alumni and anyone else you know who is working in that organization. Ask them specific questions you have, discuss new initiatives, career growth in that position, etc.
Questions to Ask
Ideally an interview is a two-way conversation, where both parties get to ask and receive information about the other to see if there's a good fit. You want to position yourself as the best candidate for this opportunity; yet don't forget that this is also your chance to understand more about the job, the company, and its culture. Do NOT ask about the salary and benefits at this time (if the first thing you want to know is how much they are going to pay you, when is your vacation, etc; then you don't seem that interested in the position). Have about 5-10 questions prepared to ask and if there are multiple people interviewing you, you can ask them each different questions.
Sample questions to ask:
- How did you come to work for Company X? What keeps you here?
- Is there any job training for this position? If yes, what kind and who does the training?
- Can you give me an idea of what a typical day in this position looks like?
- What kind of positions do people move into in the company from this one?
- What opportunities for professional development exist?
- Is there a formal mentoring program for new employees or recent graduates here?
- What is the hiring timeline after this interview? Can you tell me when I might expect to hear from you again?
There are four different categories of questions you'll have to be prepared for in an interview:
- General (mostly for phone interviews and video conferences)
- Behavioral (conducted usually in the traditional in-person interview)
- Case files and Technical
1. General (Intro and Elevator Speech)
One of the most common interview questions you will get is, "Tell me about yourself. " Many students struggle with how to answer this question. It is important to prepare your answer to this question in advance. Include things like your degrees, relevant examples from your experience such as internships, research, volunteer activities, and extracurricular involvement. Try completing the following information, writing it out in paragraph format, and practicing out loud, to come up with a suitable answer to this question.
Sample Elevator Speech:
- Hi, my name is _______ I am a junior at Johns Hopkins University majoring in _______.
- What are the three most important things I want this employer to know about me?
- 3. Relevant examples to support the most important things I want this employer to know about me.
- Why should this employer be interested in me and what separates me from my competition?
- Why are you interested in this opportunity with this employer?
"I came to Hopkins as an English major four years ago - my passion in high school was writing, and I have pursued as many opportunities to write in college as I possibly could. I have had three outstanding internships and they were all very different from one another - one as a news reporter for a regional paper, one as a journalist for a non-profit arts group, and one with a public relations firm. I have also written for the school paper for three years, and this year I am Editor-in-Chief. If I had to sum up what I am all about, I had say two things: first, my greatest passion is writing; and second, I am a results-oriented person - you can see from my resume that when I take something on, I like to work hard and excel. I am proud of the awards I have received in college, and I am anxious to get out there and start working and contributing. What attracted me to this position was, of course, the fact that the job in public relations and promotion, and I hope I can not only use my writing talents, but also learn a lot more about the public relations field. I am also attracted by the growth of your company over the last few years, and the entrepreneurial style you project. From what I have read, your organization seems like a place for people who like to achieve in a fast paced work environment and I really like that."
2. Behavioral Based Questions
This is a special kind of interview question. Behavioral based questions focus on your past behavior, which is usually a good predictor of your future behavior. Employers ask these questions to gauge your strengths as a candidate. A good way to answer these questions is with the SAR technique.
S= Situation, briefly describe the situation.
A= Action, describe the specific actions that you took to address the situation.
R=Results, discuss the outcomes or results of your actions. Many students forget about the results, yet this is often the most important piece of information to the employer.
Behavioral Based Questions often begin with phrases such as:
- Tell me about a time...
- Describe a situation in which...
- Give me an example of...
The best way to practice for this kind of question is to come up with 5 to 10 stories about your experiences. These can include examples from classes, internships, activities, and jobs. Most likely, you will be able to use one of your stories for many behavioral based questions that you are asked during an interview.
Sample Behavioral Question:
Tell me about a time that you have been working in a group, and one (or more) of the group members was not doing his/her share of the work. Answer: (S) We had to do a group project for my international politics course. One of the group members was not coming to meetings and not emailing his portion of the project. (A) I asked him about this and found out he was not doing well in his organic chemistry class. I helped him find a tutor and then he was able to work on our international politics project. (R) The presentation went very well because we were all prepared. Our professor was impressed and we earned an A.
3. Case Files
Certain industries, especially consulting firms, utilize a "case interview" to gauge your knowledge, problem solving/analytical skills, and your ability to work well under pressure. Employers using a case interview format are interested in observing the process you use to solve problems. They also want to see how well you listen, summarize and articulate your conclusions, and think on your feet. Consequently, your approach to a case is more important than the specific content of your answers. Thinking aloud as you attempt to "crack" a case is advisable because it allows the interviewer to evaluate your thought process.
In a case interview, you are introduced to a business dilemma facing a particular company (often drawn from the interviewer's professional experience). You are asked to analyze the situation, identify key business issues, and discuss how you would address the problems involved. The interviewer begins by giving you some basic facts and then asks you an open-ended or specific question. The interview proceeds as an open dialogue between you and the interviewer, with the interviewer guiding the discussion as you ask probing questions to uncover key information and move toward resolution.
Case Interview Tips
Resources to help you prepare further:
- Practice, practice, practice. Schedule a mock interview with a career counselor. Case interviewing is a learned skill.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer
- Have a notepad to take notes and try to write down numbers and key facts.
- Designate where the initial question is written in your notes.
- Ask clarifying questions and take a moment to plan your response.
- Have a logical structure for how you will answer the case question and inform your interviewer about how you will proceed.
- Work through the different elements of the case question.
- Carefully explain your process as you go along.
- Budget your time so you can focus on all elements of the case. Keep the original question in mind at all times.
- Pay attention your interviewer's body language cues as you work through different elements of your approach.
- At the conclusion, summarize your findings and state your recommendation.
- Brush up on your basic math skills - you are not allowed to use a calculator but your case will include math.
- Vault Downloadable Guide to the Case Interview-Access through J-Connect. If you are off campus, you can access Vault through the library using J-Connect. Once you log into Vault (click the Vault logo from the homepage of J-Connect, select Downloadable Guides, then select Job Search Guides and download the document)
- Case In Point: Complete Interview Preparation-Book is available in the Career Center Library. You can photocopy sections of this book to help you prepare. Online interviewing guide available at http://www.casequestions.com/cases_sample.cfm.
- Review the consulting firm's website for example cases. Many companies, such as Deloitte, McKinsey & Company, Bain, Boston Consulting Group, etc. provide sample cases you can work through online.
Technical Interviews can vary in structure and types of questions depending on the specific company and the technical skills required. Make sure you review the job description and brush up on any technical skills that you have, but have not used in awhile. Make sure you try to find alumni working in technical roles in the company and ask them for help preparing for your technical interview. It can also be helpful to team up with other students in your program who are also applying to technical positions to practice with. Be prepared to define terms or demonstrate your knowledge in front of the interviewer. For additional resources regarding applying for technical interviews check out the following links.
Last Minute Interview Preparation
You just received an impromptu call for a phone interview later this week! If you are short on time and unfortunately we couldn't accommodate your request for a phone appointment to talk in advance, here is a list of things you can still do to prepare yourself for an interview on short notice:
- Prepare your intro statement (aka "Elevator Speech")
- Practice talking out your resume
- Research the company's social and media sites (i.e. LinkedIn profile)
- Prepare your questions to ask