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Interviewing is one of the most critical parts of your job-search process. After all, you don’t get a job through your cover letter or resume. Those documents create enough interest on the part of the employer to invite you to an interview. The interview is where you close the deal.

What interviewing really is

Interviewing is essentially a sales process, similar to the rest of job search. What sets it apart is you directly interface with your “customer” — the employer. Similar to a sales conversation, you need to:

  • Quickly build rapport.
  • Understand and address the employer’s needs.
  • Present a successful case for your candidacy.
  • Respond gracefully and effectively to objections.
  • Understand next steps.

If you are not comfortable with selling, don’t let this analogy concern you. Interviewing is just two or more people deciding if they want to work together. The employer describes the job opportunity and company, and you share the skills, experience, knowledge and motivations you bring to the table. Then both parties decide if there is a good match.

Interviewing strategies

For a discussion on responding to key interview questions, check out the Behavioral Interviewing 2.0 video on the Career Connections Events tab. Enter the key words “behavioral interviewing” in the search box and use the “Start Date” drop down to select “All Past.”

  • Be positive. Use promotional language in describing yourself and your background. Avoid using minimizing words like “some, fairly, somewhat, few.”
  • Manage anxiety. Almost everyone experiences anxiety at interviews. Even interviewers do. You don’t need to eliminate your anxiety, but you don’t want your nervousness to undermine your performance.
  • Watch your non-verbal communication: 93% of the message is not what we say, but how we say it. Be sure your posture, eye contact, handshake, facial expressions and tone convey enthusiasm and confidence.
  • Dress for the occasion. Know your audience. For most professional situations a suit is still ideal. Even if the company has a business-casual culture, you are trying to make a good first impression, so you will likely want to be in more formal business attire. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed and to err on the traditional side. If you know that the dress code is substantially different, for example at a tech start-up or a fashion-forward retailer, adjust your dress accordingly. But most people will not fault you for being more formally or more conservatively dressed than their day-to-day environment.
  • Send a thank you note. Express appreciation for their time and attention, and  reiterate both your interest in and suitability for the job. Though hard copy is traditional, an email is fine, too.

Case interviews

Think of case interviews as word problems based on real-life business situations. It is no longer just a recruiting tool within the consulting industry. Financial, marketing and operations environments are increasingly using the case interview to screen applicants on their ability to think quickly and logically about business problems, demonstrate analytical skills and showcase interpersonal skills.

Cases come in a variety of shapes and sizes:

  • The most common cases (especially in consulting) are comprehensive cases (20-60 minutes) which ask you to analyze a business challenge. You may have multiple cases in one interview. The content of the case will depend on the functional area in which you are interviewing. A single consulting case interview question may cover marketing, operations, strategic and financial issues. A consulting case question might be: “Should our client acquire a stock brokerage firm in Europe?”
  • Market-sizing questions are intended to gauge how comfortable you are with numbers and whether you can identify drivers, make assumptions, and work through to a reasonable answer. “How would you size the market for a new social media app in the U.S.?” is one example.


Understand that the method and thinking process you use to approach the case is just as important as the answer. Consider the following methodology a helpful starting point; you might customize your approach to your style over time. Different firms and different individuals use different case styles. Be sure to respond to hints, data or suggestions of the interviewer. More often than not, the interviewer will guide you in the direction they want you to go – it is up to you to read his/her subtle clues such as, “We already looked into that” or “That isn’t relevant to this industry.” Don’t be dismayed by this seemingly negative feedback.  They are actually providing useful information that can help refocus your answer in a more positive direction.

Interview questions

Prepare for an interview by identifying the questions you are most likely to be asked and thinking through how to respond. Below are general questions that might be asked for any type of position. Of course, you also will want to anticipate questions that relate directly to the role/function and industry.

Behavioral interviewing is a very common technique is. In this method, the interviewer ask questions about specific situations you have encountered and how you have dealt with them. Questions often start with such phrasing as “Tell me about a time when you…” or “Describe a situation in which you…”  But even if the interviewer does not employ this technique, providing examples for most of what you say in the interview is the very best way to respond to their questions.

For a discussion on responding to key interview questions, check out the Behavioral Interviewing 2.0 video on the Career Connections Events tab. Enter the key words “behavioral interviewing” in the search box and use the “Start Date” drop down to select “All Past.”