Interviewing & Networking
Congratulations on your interview! Preparing is essential for success, and we are here to help.
Resources to prepare for interviewing
Available 24/7 at the myUMassD Career Center
Mock interview: schedule an in-person appointment with the Career Center.
An interview is a conversation between you and a prospective employer about your skills and how they meet the organization’s needs. It is an invitation extended to you because you made a positive impression via your resume and cover letter. The employer’s goals during the interview are to confirm this positive impression, to develop a better understanding of your ability to contribute to the organization, and to determine “fit.” Your goals during the interview are to help the employer achieve their goals, to generate a job offer, and to collect information that allows you to make an informed decision about whether to accept or decline the job offer. It is important to remember; your resume secured the interview and your interview secures the job offer.
Generating a job offer
The amount of time you will have face-to-face with an interested employer in which to generate an offer (or an invitation to the next round of interviews) is limited. Use that time strategically - be well prepared (have multiple printed copies of your resume and cover letter to provide to the interviewer/s, practice your answers and be ready to engage). You cannot control the entire interview (e.g., the mood and/or skill of the interviewer, the qualifications and interviewing skills of the other candidate). Much of what you can control falls into the category of advance preparation. To be a more relaxed, articulate, knowledgeable, persuasive, and ultimately effective interviewee, you can:
Increase your knowledge base
Expand on the research you conducted for your resume and cover letter (e.g., become familiar with the website, check professional publications and local newspapers for articles about the organization, speak with people you know who work there), read newspapers and industry-specific publications. Always know the mission statement, vision statement and the stakeholders of the organization. Think about how you “fit in” within that organization, and why you are an excellent match for the company.
Know the interview format
Confirm with whom you’ll be meeting, their role within the organization and how long the interview is expected to take; you can then better anticipate questions and topics that you may be asked about, target your answers to different audiences (e.g., your future boss will be interested in different things than your future co-workers) and determine what questions you need to ask. It is okay to ask Human Resources, the person who reached out to you offering the interview about the interview format and how you can best prepare, or what is expected of you during the interview.
Based on what you know about the field/position and your skills and experience and who will be conducting your interview, what are you likely to be asked?
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why do you want to work here?
- How does your education/prior experience qualify you for this position?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult person or customer, how did you handle the situation?
- What are your long-range career goals?
- Tell us about a time when:
- you made a mistake on the job (focus on what you’ve learned)
- worked as part of a team (focus on both your individual and collective contributions)
- Why did you leave your previous position?
- Describe the work environment in which you are most effective.
- Why should I hire you?
- Your voicemail may be the employer’s first impression of you. Have a professional, simple greeting message.
- Example: “You have reached Jane Jones. I’m sorry I missed you. Please leave a message.”
- Your interview begins as soon as you say “hello”. Let the call go to voicemail if you are in class or cannot speak readily, then return the call PROMPTLY when you are ready to schedule that interview without any interruptions.
- Use formal, professional speech. Avoid slang or informal language.
- When arranging an interview, be prepared with your calendar and daily schedule available for quick reference. Know what questions you need answered (e.g., Where should I park? Would a suit be appropriate? Is there anything I should know about the interview site? Besides my resume and references, what else should I bring?)
- Be sure to get the interviewer’s name and telephone number, and directions to both the location of the building and the location of the office within the building
Prepare answers and practice aloud— know what points you want to make about how you can meet the employer’s needs and then get used to hearing yourself saying that; practice saying the same thing in different ways — be sure to provide concrete examples. If you are feeling challenged create a one page grid to help remind yourself of all of reasons why you are the best fit for the position. Use your resume to build the grid, the more you practice speaking from the grid, the less you will rely on the grid to craft your answers to the interview questions. A brief one-page grid is informal and used for your purposes of practice only, to help you internalize your answers. It might look something like this:
|What I know about the company
clinicals completed in:
Determine what you will ask the employer that demonstrates your interest and qualifications and helps you determine if this job is right for you.
Your questions - asking questions to demonstrates interest.
Refrain from asking questions that:
- Focus on what the organization can do for you (e.g., questions about salary and other benefits)
- To which you could have easily found the answer if you had made a reasonable effort.
Rather, ask questions that demonstrate your interest in and understanding of the position and/or those that will help you decide if the position is right for you. Examples:
- How might the results of the upcoming election impact funding for this project?
- How does this position/division fit in the organization’s strategic plan?
- I understand that the person previously in this position was promoted; what role did you play in facilitating their promotion?
- What is your expectation of the new hire in the next 3-6 months?
- What training do you provide for new hires?
- How often is an employee’s performance evaluated and what criteria are used?
60 Second “Commercial"
Practice creating a brief summary about what your professional background is, your education and experience and what your future professional goals are. You may wish to end this brief introduction by tying it back to the organization/job you are applying. Example:
Hi I am Cynthia and I am a recent University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Marketing graduate of the Charlton College of Business. I am interested in working in social media and communication and I have worked on the E Board at one of our University’s collegiate clubs called, Fishbowl. I really enjoyed my work on the E Board and increased our social media followings on Twitter and Instagram by 300% in 14 weeks. When this happened, I was very pleased, because it reaffirmed that my coursework in marketing and social media have improved my work abilities and professional skills. So naturally, when I saw the position here at XYZ Company I was excited to apply because the position focuses on my area of expertise.
Select your “uniform”
Be aware of the appropriate professional attire for the field; be sure your attire is clean and pressed the day before. Opt for no scents/cologne or perfume so as not to offend anyone, unknowingly. In general, it is always better to dress up than dress down, for example you may take off a suit jacket to “mirror” the other interviewers in the room once you begin the interview.
Be geographically savvy
Make a trial run to determine how long it takes you to get there, where you can park and how much parking costs — add extra time to account for surprises. It’s NOT okay to be late. In the event that you are late, having the hiring manager/front desk’s phone number programmed into your phone may aide you in communicating your arrival time and the traffic situation. This exercise is very important, because knowing what to expect may help you to feel more prepared on the day of the interview.
Beginning the interview
Arrive 10 minutes early into the front office or reception space. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and let them know your name and whom you are interviewing with and what time. Seat yourself if asked and wait to be received by your hiring manager.
When your hiring manager arrives, stand up and shake their hand. Always remember your smile throughout the interview process - it speaks volumes about your interest and appreciation of the opportunity. Once you are in the space where you are being interviewed you should wait to sit until the interviewer sits, or the committee sits (this is a formality that shows respect).
Use your 60 second “commercial” as an introduction to you and your interest in the job/career field — the commercial can then be used as your response when the interviewer invites you to tell them about yourself.
Interviewing is an oral skill — anticipate questions and practice your answers aloud. Practice different levels of formality depending upon with whom you will interview.
Great interviewers transform an employer’s image of them from an outsider to an inside contributor by:
- Owning it - clearly state your critical skill or competency
- Proving it - provide a concrete example of when/where you’ve used it effectively
- Connecting it - discuss how it directly benefits the employer by meeting their needs
Your non-verbal cues speak more loudly than your verbal cues— be sure they are consistent. Remember, you cannot
accept or decline a job offer you do not get! Use good eye contact with the interviewer/s, smile and use appropriate body
language. Avoid fidgeting, pen clicking, tapping your fingers or a busy knee/foot moving (these things are distracting to an
Closing the interview experience
Remember, an interview is a two way street. You will almost certainly have a chance to ask questions at the end, or even throughout your interview. Be ready with a few from this list:
- What is the top priority for the person in this position over the next three months?
- What is the biggest challenge in your department?
- What have you enjoyed most about working here?
- How would you describe a typical week/day in this position?
- Can you explain the organizational structure? Who would I report to? Who would be on my team?
- If I am extended a job offer, how soon would you like me to start?
- What training is involved for this position?
- How will my performance be measured? By whom?
- Who is your biggest competitor for your products/services? How is what you offer different from your competitor?
- Can you describe your ideal employee?
- Are there any other questions I can answer for you?
Do not ask questions that have obvious or readily available answers (e.g., on the company’s website), or that were answered for you already in the interview. The questions above are designed to help you gather more information, and possibly find a way to provide additional valuable information to the employer that did not come out while you were answering their questions.
After the interview
Send a thank you letter. This is your last opportunity to sell yourself as the ideal employee. See the sample below, and follow these guidelines:
- The thank-you letter should be brief. The main point of the follow-up letter is to thank the interviewer and to reiterate why you are a wonderful candidate for the position.
- Send a letter within 24 hours ideally. If you met with a group at once, you can send them all the same thank you letter, addressed to each individual person. If you meet with people separately, they should each get a unique thank you letter.
- Personalize your correspondence by using information or a point that was discussed in your interview. Draw correlations
to reiterate why you are a good fit for the position and organization.
- Offer to provide any additional information and provide all of your contact information. Make it easy for the organization to offer you the position.
Example thank you letter (PDF)
Call the person with whom you met. Check on your status with that company. Be tactful and follow the guidance they gave you in the interview about their decision timeline (in other words, if they said they would need at least two weeks, don’t call them a week after your interview).
Our Interviewing Checklist will help you prepare for your interview.
Networking is critical to cultivating meaningful job opportunities and establishing a professional network. When you network, you are developing personal contacts who can connect you to internships/jobs now or in the future. Networking can be spontaneous, through friends or family or by interacting with someone at an event. Networking can also be planned or structured through arranging informational interviews. Both modalities are effective and can help grow your network.
Spontaneous networking is informal in nature. You could meet someone at a coffee shop, a wedding or a barbeque. You could introduce yourself and tell the person about your career goals, and ask them what they do for work. Let the conversation naturally flow and see if the person has a business card that they can give you so you can stay in touch.
Informational interviews are structured and formal. They are a great mechanism for information gathering and creating a professional connection with someone in the industry of interest. These interactions are planned and strategic. You may speak with the individual in person or over the phone. Ideally, these interviews are not conducted via email. Select your set of questions in advance of the meeting and then proceed to conduct the meeting with your interviewee.
Take advantage of both methods of interviewing because there are advantages to both. Although you may gravitate toward one or the other. It is important to grow your network, so that you have established a “hidden job network” for a time when the “open job network” generates less job opportunities.
Importance of networking
Most people learn about an internship or job opportunity through their “hidden job network.” Networking is important because it supports whichever career stage you are involved. You may wish to:
- Begin to foster relationships that assist in your career/job/internship search
- Learn about career opportunities
- Practice interview skills and practice discussion that pertains to your career goals
- Gather information about a career or industry that you need to research for decision making purposes
Which people do I "network" with?
Connecting with others is the main way to grow your hidden job network, and it may help you progress toward your professional goals. Consider all of the people you know, that your parents know, your friends, their parents, your neighbors, your high school friends, their friends, your college friends, your teachers, professors etc. This list could become extensive and it is okay if these individuals do not work in your field of interest, they may have connections with someone formerly or currently working in your field/s.
- Jamal is at the checkout counter and begins a conversation with the clerk who is wearing a shirt with his favorite band. The begin a brief discussion about music and Jamal learns that the clerk also owns a music studio. Jamal mentions that he is a music major who plays percussion instruments. The clerk knows someone who is looking for a percussionist to serve as an intern in the local area. Jamal leaves the discussion with a new professional added to his network (clerk with studio connections) and the email address of the person looking for an intern (possible internship).
- Erin is attending her best friend's summer cookout. While she is grilling, a neighbor in Erin’s housing development asks her about college and what major she declared? Erin mentioned she was considering business management or marketing and that she was looking for an internship for the summer. The neighbor’s company has an internship program and so the neighbor encouraged her to apply to the company’s program at the end of the semester when grades were posted. Erin received the business card of the neighbor (grew her professional network) and also a lead on a potential internship (establishing an internship pipeline).
- Ben is interested in learning more about law enforcement. He has tried using the connections in his hidden job network yet has come up short on locating any contacts in law enforcement. Ben decides to research law enforcement agencies within 30 miles where he can potentially speak with someone in a commutable distance. After Ben’s phone outreach he acquires four interested professionals and has arranged to speak with each over the course of next week, (two are in person and two via phone). (Growing his professional network, learning about his career field of interest and potentially gaining a lead on an internship).
- Sasha plans to attend her college sorority’s networking social. She chooses her professional outfit (dress pants, flat dress shoes and a blouse) and has practiced her self-introduction and set of open-ended questions to ask others while socializing. Sasha arrives at the networking event and gives her business cards to the people she meets. Sasha hands out 16 business cards to each person she meets within an hour and a half and collects 13 business cards from others. Sasha plans to thank each person she met at the event via email. (Sasha grew her network by 16 people as a result of the one event).
- Wesley is attending a career fair. He is prepared and brings his resume and business cards with him to the fair to give to recruiters and hiring managers. He collects business cards, follows up with emails, and LinkedIn connections. Wesley thanks the person for their time and identifies part of their conversation in the note, to help differentiate himself from others who attended the career fair.
Informational interviews are information gathering exercises and networking opportunities. Informational interviews can help you make decisions about a career path, learn about an industry and help you create a professional network of peers with industry advice and potential job or internship connections. It is important to note that when you are conducting an informational interview you are NOT asking for a job or internship. You are asking professional questions about a company, a career path and learning about the person whom you are interviewing. Your first step when planning for an informational interview is to consider the career field/s or industries you want to learn about and identify potential job titles that are interesting to you or that may fit your major or educational discipline. Locate these professionals online by researching companies, using LinkedIn, professional organizations, using your hidden job network (people you know) or using Google maps to locate possible places nearby that offer the kind of careers you are interested in learning about.
Next create the pitch, make a plan to email, call or stop in to the person/ place that you want to interview with. Whether or not you email, speak or meet with a professional to inquire about a meeting, your pitch will look something like this: “I am a junior Biology major at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and I am interested in learning about careers in veterinary care. I would like to learn about the animal healthcare industry and the medical field. One of the suggestions that my career counselor made was to conduct an informational interview. Would you or someone else here be able or interested in speaking with me briefly about the field. I have 10-12 questions I would like to ask, so I can learn more about the industry, trends and education required to be successful in this kind of work.”
The result of asking this question could play in your favor, in which case you would proceed with the next steps below. In the event that your outreach results in a “no” answer- simply thank the professional for their time and wish them well. Preserving your professional presence is important because you never know who will cross your path in the future and you want to ensure that you have left every situation emulating the professional you are proud to be. If the person says yes, then schedule a time to meet with them at a mutually agreeable time and make sure to be as flexible with your schedule as possible.
Get ready for your interview by preparing questions that you wish to ask the professional. Questions may look something like this:
- What is your work like day to day?
- What do you like most/least about your job?
- What kind of preparation does someone need to have to be eligible to work in this field?
- How did you know that you wanted to pursue this career?
- Is there room for promotion or growth in the industry, what should one look for in a company or job of this nature?
- What kind of advice would you offer someone aspiring to be a professional in this field?
- In what locations/countries do opportunities in this field flourish? Where are opportunities most plentiful?
- Are there other professions that you would consider, that are closely related to this field and why?
- What professional organizations do you belong to, or would you consider membership?
- How do you stay current in your field and what trends do you see emerging in the industry?
Read your notes and think about what your impression is of the profession, the working environment and consider the credentialing required to be successful in the field. If you are using the informational interview as a tool for making a decision about a major or a career field, take your time, be honest with yourself about your true interest in the field, and your motivation to meet the requirements to be eligible for a professional position. Within 24 hours you should send a thank you email to the person you interviewed. If you have time and are able, a handwritten note will be equally effective. Make sure to thank the interviewer for their time and expertise, and let them know that you valued their feedback.
No matter your decision about the career field, you have now gained a professional connection to add to your network. Keep this connection by staying connected in LinkedIn, sending emails periodically, or sharing a meal or quick cup of coffee together. Keep that connection "warm" by paying attention to it and not just using it when you need something (like a job, internship, or a connection to someone else). Professional relationships matter, but always people first.
Follow our Networking Checklist to build your career network.