Rock Your Interview
Congratulations, you've been invited to interview for a position! Now is your time to shine and the Career Center is here to help you. We’ve compiled guidelines on everything from how to prepare, what to wear, and how to write a thank you note.
Types of Interviews
Behavioral interviews are the most common type of interview you will encounter. They require you to discuss your past experiences by asking you to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated certain behaviors, skills, and abilities.
Case interviews are used by consulting companies and other firms to assess your problem-solving abilities. Interviewers in these situations will observe your thought process and assess your confidence and communication skills under pressure.
Technical interviews require candidates to demonstrate a particular skill set or knowledge that relates to the job, such as writing code for a computer programming position. They are commonly used for roles in science, technology, and engineering.
The best way to prepare for an interview is by practicing your responses to anticipated questions. View the resources below to find example questions. The job description will give you clues about what skills they are seeking and about which they are likely to ask questions.
Career Center resources to prepare:
Practice via Big Interview. Build confidence in your interview skills through free access to this online platform. You can record yourself answering questions that are tailored to specific industries, roles, or skills. You can also access their library of resources, including videos on interview strategies.
To access, go to bc.biginterview.com and click on 'Register' in the top right corner. Use your BC email address to create your account.
Schedule a practice interview. Our Career Cluster Coaches are available to conduct a practice interview based on your industry of interest. Schedule an appointment via Handshake.
When asked a behavioral question in an interview, your answers should describe the situation, your specific actions, and the results of your actions:
- Situation: First, give a complete account of the event. Describe the situation and the task at hand. What were the key points?
- Actions: Be specific about what you did, said, or thought. Separate your actions from the actions of others.
- Result: What was the outcome? Describe what happened as a result of your actions.
Sometimes interviewers ask questions such as "Tell me about a time when you made a bad decision." Answer these questions in a way that shows that you learned from your mistake, and that the experience helped you grow personally and professionally.
- Take notes as you listen to the question
- Summarize the question and verify the objectives
- Ask clarifying questions
- Organize your answer, using a framework
- Think out loud... but think before you speak!
- Work numbers into the problem, if possible
- Be creative and brainstorm
- Exude enthusiasm and a positive attitude
How to prepare:
Review the resources below to learn more about the case interview process and how to prepare. It is also crucial that you spend time practicing your case interview skills.
Undergraduate students in the Carroll School of Management should schedule a practice case interview with the Carroll School Case Coach. Also, through the Consulting Club, students will have additional opportunities to practice their case interview skills with their peers.
Websites & Videos
- CQI Interactive To sign up for an account, use your student email address.
- Cracking the Consulting Case Interview Webinar Recording by Marc Cosentino
- Video Vault: Use the password: casequestions
- Ace the Case
Books & Guides
- Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview and Vault Case Interview Practice Guide 2: More Case Interviews
- Case Interview Prep Worksheet
- Consulting Interview Guide
- Slides from Case Interview Presentation
- Accenture: Secrets to a Successful Case-Study Interview
- Bain & Company: Prepare for Your Interview
- BCG (Boston Consulting Group): Interview Process & Tips and Practice Case Interviews
- Deloitte: Preparing for the Case Interview
- FTI Consulting: Interview Preparation
- L.E.K. Consulting: Interview Preparation
- McKinsey & Company: Interviewing Tips
- Oliver Wyman: Interview Preparation
- Guide to Technical Interviewing
- How to Set Up Your Own Mock Technical Interview
- Cracking the Coding Interview (Book)
- What You Need to Know to Ace Your Technical Interview (Glassdoor)
- How to Prep for Your Technical Interview: Advice From a Hiring Manager (The Muse)
- How to Prepare for a Google Engineering Interview
- How to Ace a Technical Interview at Microsoft
- Preparing for your Software Engineering Interview at Facebook
Practice Using Big Interview
Build confidence in your interview skills through free access to this online platform. You can record yourself answering questions that are tailored to specific industries, roles, or skills.
Reserve a Room
The Career Center has private rooms available for you to reserve to conduct a virtual interview. Space is limited. Hours: Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
How to Answer Common Behavioral Interview Questions
In our new virtual world, you will find that most, if not all, organizations will be conducting virtual interviews. There are two types of virtual interviewing used in today's industries—live video and pre-recorded video. While there is some overlap, each one is unique and therefore will require different forms of preparation. We have compiled some tips for each for you to review.
Examples of Platforms: HireVue, Spark Hire, InterviewStream, Jobvite, Montage
Test your technology: Here’s your opportunity to showcase strong digital technology skills. Make sure your computer battery is fully charged or plugged into a power source, you have a strong and secure internet connection or connected through an ethernet cable(wired), and your sound, microphone, and camera are working. Ensure any software or program updates are completed before recording your interview and pause any streaming that could interrupt your connection. Be sure to log in 10–15 minutes early to make sure there are no technical difficulties.
Pick the right location: Find a location that has good lighting, is quiet to help you focus and minimize distractions or be disturbed, and is clean all around you. You never know what slight adjustment. Additionally, be conscientious of your visible interview attire, background wall color, and any items displayed. Strive for a neutral and professional foreground and background.
Tip: The Career Center allows students to reserve quiet space for their virtual interviews. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the date and time you will need space. We will do our best to accomodate your needs based on space availability.
Dress for success, you’re on camera: Dress the same way for a virtual interview as you would in person.
Pay attention to body language: What you say during virtual interviews always matters but recruiters take greater notice of your non-verbal body language. Be sure to have good posture and limit movements that can be distracting.
Look at the camera, not the screen: Fight the urge and stare your interviewer(s) square in the lens. By looking at the camera instead of the screen you will be stimulating eye contact. Yes, it will seem odd in your first few takes. Practice video chatting with those in your network to help condition your eyes to look directly into your camera lens.
Take it slow: Speak slowly so your interviewer can follow and understand what you are saying. Especially when you are pre-recording and there is no opportunity for an employer to ask questions, you want to make sure interviewers can hear everything that you are saying. To help create a clearer recording, use earphones to minimize static, background noise and maximize diction.
Practice makes perfect: Try recording yourself on your phone or computer before doing the final recording. You can get more comfortable with virtual interviewing by practicing before your interview.
Know your software and employer guidelines: Some virtual interviewing software will limit the amount of responses you can record while others are unlimited. Follow the employer guidelines shared with you and know the basics of the interviewing software you are using.
- How to Ace Your One-Way Video Interview by Jillian Knowles, AlphaSights’ Campus Recruitment Lead
- 4 Strategies for Nailing the Video Interview (Vault)
Examples of Platforms: Skype, Google Hangouts, Apple FaceTime, Zoom
Practice: Practice is always necessary for an interview and it’s especially important for a virtual interview. You need to get yourself used to speaking on camera. You also need to make sure your lighting, computer A/V quality, visual appearance, and background are all interview ready. In other words, don’t wait until you’re sitting across your actual virtual interviewer to realize that you should have invested in those quality earbuds or removed that rock band poster from high school on your back wall after all. To practice, we recommend using Big Interview as a resource.
Take it just as seriously as you would an in-person interview: By taking action on step #1, you’re already off to a solid start. Make sure you follow the same pre-interview routines you would have for an on-site interview, such as performing detailed research beforehand, getting a good night’s sleep, taking care of hygiene and grooming needs, and dressing the part.
Control your environment: Make sure you have a quiet, distraction-free space for your interview. In a crowded house, this can be difficult. Alert your family/roommates ahead of time that you have an interview and will need quiet. And be prepared for distractions that are out of your control, like a delivery truck outside.
Optimize your space: Take the time to organize your environment so you can access necessary physical or digital documents easily. Remove objects from your immediate environment that are distracting. If it is a phone interview, make sure your phone is charged and you have a clear service connection. If it is a video interview, make sure your computer is fully charged and you have a solid Wi-Fi connection. Make sure you’ve tidied up or removed all surrounding objects from your background. Test the camera in advance to see what it catches and adjust accordingly.
Dress to impress: A simple rule of thumb is to dress in solid colors and employ the “less is more” approach when it comes to jewelry and accessories. Patterns and sparkly jewelry can be very distracting on camera. Make sure to adjust your makeup and skin care appropriately to prevent overly oily or dry-looking skin when on camera. Keep in mind that first impressions count and are hard to recover from if not executed intentionally.
Maintain appropriate eye contact: Eye contact is just as important in video interviews as it is in person. It demonstrates respect, confidence, and curiosity. Make it a point to keep your focus on the webcam, not the view from your screen. When you look directly into the camera, it’ll appear on the other side that you’re looking right at the person, instead of above or below them. This can feel awkward at first, which is why practice beforehand is essential.
Don’t forget you’re speaking with a human being: Don’t let technology get in the way of you portraying your best self. Just as you would seek to communicate your personality in an in-person interview, take the opportunity to break the ice and share meaningful, genuine pieces of your story where appropriate. Be sure to ask meaningful questions of the interviewer as well. Remember, people don’t just make offers to people who “can do the job”, but also who they would like to “do the job with”. Be yourself!
Be mindful of your body language: Your mannerisms, facial expressions, hand gestures, and even head movements (or lack thereof) can be exacerbated on camera. Your body language can serve as a positive by emphasizing enthusiasm or warmth, but it can also be a negative by showing your nerves. Practice will help you identify any potential nervous ticks you may have, like hair twirling, touching your face, or moving your hands incessantly. Try to limit, if not remove, these behaviors completely, as they can negate the message you’re working hard to verbally deliver
Prepare to Interview
Learn about the industry you’re targeting: What are the trends, and what skills are required? Prepare informed questions and provide thoughtful answers by learning about the company that’s interviewing you. What are its products or services? What are its challenges and opportunities? Here are some resources to help you research companies and industries:
Follow employers on Handshake
All of the top employers, including 100% of the Fortune 500, tech start-ups, nonprofits, and more are on Handshake. Follow employers to learn about their organization and industry. You can also read reviews from students who worked there. Use this information to inform yourself on the organization and industry prior to the interview.
Connect with students on Handshake
Through your Handshake account, you can connect with students on the platform. There are over six million college students and recent alumni from a wide variety of schools. You can connect with students to learn more about their experience interning at an organization. They can also help provide insight into the interview processes of organizations and industries.
To directly connect with students, log in to your Handshake account and click “students” in the top menu. You can search for students by school year, major, previous employers, and student organizations. If you prefer, you can narrow your search to just Boston College students. Another way to find students to connect with is to look under the employers section. When you click on an employer, you can see students who currently or previously worked there. You can then directly connect with them to ask questions about their experience.
Connect with alumni on Eagle Exchage
Through your Eagle Exchange account, you can connect with Boston College alumni to learn about industry trends and interview practices at organizations.
To connect with alumni, go to the “Explore the Community” tab to view a list of alumni on the platform. Use the filters to narrow down your search. You can filter by industry, major, class year, and more. Based on what you are looking for help with, you can also filter by help topics. Once you find an interesting alum, click on the message button within their profile. You can craft your own message or choose a pre-written template and make it your own.
Browse career cluster pages
Our career cluster pages contain industry-specific information and resources. Browse these pages to research industries prior to interviewing.
Recruiters often ask candidates to talk about a past experience based on specific criteria. (For example,”Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.”) Prepare for interviews by creating a list of your accomplishments—whether on the job, in an internship, or during extracurricular activities. Note how each situation reinforces the skills and qualities you want to convey to an employer.
Make the most of your job or internship interview by preparing good answers for the questions you’re likely to hear. Below are some sample questions, along with tips from the Boston College Career Center on the best way to answer them.
Sample questions (traditional)
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you decide to interview with our organization?
- What courses did you like best and least? Why?
- What supervisory or leadership roles have you held?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should we hire you?
- Describe one or two achievements that have given you the most satisfaction.
- In what ways would you contribute to our organization?
Sample questions (behavioral)
Tell me about a time when you . . .
- Worked effectively under pressure.
- Were creative in solving a problem.
- Had to make an important decision with limited facts.
- Had to adapt to a difficult situation.
- Were disappointed in your behavior.
- Delegated a project effectively.
- Surmounted a major obstacle.
- Experienced failure in the past few years.
How to answer tough questions
“Tell me about yourself.” A common opener, this broad question is an opportunity to sell your skills. Describe your background in concise terms, then talk about your interest in the job and your qualifications for the position.
“Why should we hire you?” This is your opportunity to correlate the key requirements of the job with your skills. Use experiences from previous jobs, internships, and activities as examples to support your answer. This is also an opportunity to set yourself apart from the pack. If there’s something that makes you unique, such as a relevant skill or experience, mention that here.
“What are your long-range goals?” This question helps employers assess your maturity, foresight, and commitment to your profession. Express your desire to grow within the organization. While you may be unsure of your future plans, demonstrate your knowledge of potential career paths. Also, use this opportunity to communicate how this job fits in with those long-range goals.
“What is your greatest weakness?” Turn your weakness into a positive (for example) "Because I tend to procrastinate, I have learned to work well under pressure in order to always get work done on time."
“Tell me about your education.” Speak well of your alma mater, and be prepared to address questions about any issues, such as low grades or changes in your major.
First, determine the type of interview this will be to help you predict the kind of questions you’ll get asked. Next, identify a list of questions the recruiter will likely ask. Then, use your list of successes to prepare strong answers to those questions. Practicing your answers out loud is a great way to shape your responses.
Career Center resources to practice
- Practice via Big Interview. Build confidence in your interview skills through free access to this online platform. You can record yourself answering questions that are tailored to specific industries, roles, or skills. You can also access their library of resources, including videos on interview strategies. To access, go to bc.biginterview.com and click on 'Register' in the top right corner. Use your BC email address to create your account.
- Attend an upcoming interview workshop. We have general as well as industry-specific workshops to help you prepare for interviews. Check Handshake for upcoming workshops.
- Schedule an in-person practice interview. Our Career Cluster Coaches are available to conduct a practice interview based on your industry of interest. Schedule an appointment via Handshake.
When you’re interviewing for jobs, you’ll need a list of references—people who can vouch for your skills and experience. In most cases you won’t provide the list to an employer until you are asked, but it’s a good idea to have it ready. Here are a few tips on gathering your list.
Who are your references?
List three to five people as references. The best choices are employers, close business associates, internship or volunteer supervisors, and professors with whom you have worked closely. Do not list family members as references, and don’t be afraid to ask whether the potential reference knows you well enough to say positive things about you.
Ask your references for permission before listing them. Be sure to give them your current resume and/or the job descriptions of the job you’re applying for. Also, contact them each time you give out their name. Include their exact job title, the name of the organization where they work, and their work address and phone number on your reference list.
Where to list
Do not list your references on your resume. Instead, create a separate page that includes your references’ names, titles, companies, contact information, and relationship to you.
Stay in touch
Stay in touch with your references. Send each one a thank-you note when your job search is over. Proper etiquette aside, it will help keep your contacts current. You never know when you might need their help again.
Sample list of references:
Boston College, Box 9999, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167 617-655-0000 email@example.com
Mr. Alexander J. Holmes, CPA
Vice President of Mutual Fund Accounting
The Keystone Group
Boston, MA 02199
As fund tax manager, Alex hired me and helped train me as a staff audit representative. He also became an accounting mentor and role model.
Ms. Kathy Hawthorne
Vice President of Corporate Accounting
82 Devonshire Street
Boston, MA 02109
I met Kathy while attending Dartmouth College. She has been a longtime accountant and finance mentor and friend. While working at Keystone, I was a member of the Boston Society of Corporate Controllers, of which Kathy served as the vice president.
Mr. Francis J. Melville
Sales & Operations Manager
The Keystone Group
Boston, MA 02199
When I was chosen to participate in the new Cross Training Mutual Fund Division, Frank was my boss and assisted in developing my sales and customer skills.
Professor Peter W. Frink
Wallace E. Carroll Graduate School of Management
Boston College, Fulton Hall
Chestnut Hill, MA 02167-3808
I was a student in two of Professor Rockwell's classes. I developed an independent course with Professor Rockwell that examined the financial and tax considerations of international mutual fund management.
During the Interview
Be on time
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview to make sure you get there on time and reduce your stress level.
Take a professional approach
Greet your interviewer by name, with a firm handshake and a smile. Unless your interviewer tells you otherwise, use your interviewer’s last name (“Mr. Smith” or “Ms. Johnson”). Also:
- Wait for the interviewer to sit down or invite you to sit down before seating yourself.
- Don’t chew gum.
- Maintain good eye contact.
Demonstrate your interest in the job and in the company. Enthusiasm works best when it is sincere and based on your deep interests.
A failure to listen well during an interview signals that you might not listen well to your coworkers and managers. And don't be afraid of a little silence; it's better to take a moment to think about a question than to jump in with an answer that's off target.
Set yourself apart
A lot of candidates speak in the same general terms about their qualifications: “I’m a diligent worker, I’m a team player, I’m a quick learner.” Set yourself apart by describing, in detail, situations in which you demonstrated those qualities.
Engage your interviewer
Vary the tone and tempo of your voice, translate your nervous energy into enthusiasm, and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Where appropriate, ask questions about the job and the interviewer. And try to match the interviewer's energy level.
Don't badmouth former employers
Find something positive to say about former supervisors. If you can’t find anything good to say, focus as much as possible on your successes in that job and not on the conflicts.
Close the interview on a positive note
Emphasize your continued interest in the position, ask when you can expect to hear from the company again, and thank the interviewer. Be sure you have the interviewer's business card.
First impressions count, so dress appropriately any time you meet with a prospective employer.
A suit is the proper attire for any business-formal event, including interviews. Business casual is appropriate for career fairs, information sessions, and other networking events on campus. However, some industries, such as technology, may be less formal. We recommend you do your research to find out what’s appropriate in your specific field. If you are unsure about what to wear, ask the recruiter what office norms are. It is always safer to be overdressed than underdressed.
The goal is not to make an impression or express your individuality through your attire, but to stand out through your professionalism and the content of your answers. Dress in an understated way so as not to distract the interviewer from the content.
What does business casual mean?
Business casual includes pants/slacks/skirts with a shirt/blouse or a dress. Do not wear jeans, shorts, sundress, or athletic wear. Ties are optional. Blazers and cardigans are appropriate to wear over shirts and blouses. Closed-toe shoes, boots, and flats are all appropriate.
- A jacket with pants/skirt or a dress is appropriate for a formal interview.
- Wear shirts and blouses with a modest cut.
- Skirts and dresses should fall below or just above the knee and tights are always a safe bet.
- Clothes should be dark or neutral colors. Blue, black, gray, and brown are the safest colors to wear. Light colors can be worn underneath, but refrain from wearing stripes or bright prints/colors.
- Choose conservative patterns and darker colors for your tie.
- Suit jackets and pants/skirts/dresses should be matching colors and materials.
- Wear closed-toe, fairly low-heel or dress shoes.
- Shoes should match the color of your belt.
- Shoes should be polished and comfortable.
- Wear sneakers and change into dress shoes upon arrival to avoid pain.
Hair and makeup
- Hair should be neatly trimmed and well groomed, including facial hair.
- Makeup and nails should be neat, neutral, and understated.
Accessories and more
- Jewelry and hair accessories should be kept to a minimum.
- Tights and pantyhose should match your skin tone.
- Cologne, perfume, and aftershave can be worn but should be used sparingly.
- Tattoos and piercings should be aligned to company or culture standards.
A job or internship interview is a great opportunity to learn more about a potential employer—and to impress an interviewer with the depth of your research and your interest in the position. You should always be prepared with questions to ask when prompted. Below are tips on formulating good questions, along with examples.
- Don’t ask questions that are easily answered on the company’s website or in the job description.
- Don't ask questions about salary, vacation, or other benefits until you are offered the job.
- Do ask about the rest of their hiring process and timeline before leaving the interview.
- How and when will my performance be evaluated in this job?
- How is success measured in this department or organization?
- I read in BusinessWeek that a major competitor of yours is increasing its market share in your main market. What plans does your firm have to regain its lost market share?
- How has your career developed at this organization? Would someone entering the firm today have similar opportunities?
- What are the organization's strengths, and what challenges does it face?
- What are your expectations for new hires within their first three to six months on the job?
- Describe the work environment.
- What characteristics does a successful person have in your organization?
Nursing candidates may wish to ask about orientation, promotions, shift differentials, chain of command, and malpractice policies.
Education candidates may wish to ask about in-service training and opportunities for professional development, textbook selection procedures, approaches to curricula, parental involvement in school-related issues or PTA, median age/turnover of faculty, and master's degree requirements.
After the Interview
The work of getting a job or internship doesn’t end when the interview is over. Here are a few steps to take after you’ve completed an interview.
- Evaluate the interview: Think about which questions you answered well and which gave you difficulty. Practice the areas that need improvement.
- Follow up: Within 24 hours of your interview, send a thank you note or email that emphasizes your interest in the position and mentions any facts you may have omitted in the interview. If you don’t hear from the company within the time frame indicated, follow up with a phone call.
Be sure to express your appreciation to potential employers and contacts who have interviewed you or helped you in the job search. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your thank-you letter.
Send it right away
Send a thank you note or email within 24 hours of an interview. In general, email is an acceptable way to communicate with employers, but in some fields a hand-written note is still appreciated.
Personalize each letter
When interviewing with several people at one organization, take a few seconds between interviews to jot down some notes about each conversation. Use these notes to write individualized thank you letters to each interviewer. Interviewers are likely to share their letters, so make sure they are not all identical.
Strategize your content
First, thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you, and reiterate your interest in the job. Then, if possible, follow up on topics that arose during your interview to help your interviewer remember you and reinforce your strengths.
For more tips on writing thank you letters, see Five Tips for Writing a Tailored Thank You and Why Thank You Letters Aren’t Enough Anymore from Career Journal.
Interviewing in the U.S. for International Students Workshop
This workshop discusses best practices for interviews in the United States with a focus on virtual interviewing.