Interview FAQ

I have an interview. What should I do to prepare?

  • Congratulations! Receiving an interview means that your application is still under consideration and the hiring committee is serious enough about your application that they would like to meet you.
  • The shape of the interview itself can vary—some interviews are dictated by pre-formed questions and others are more free-wheeling conversations. You may be interviewed by one person or you may be interviewed by two, three, or even a panel of individuals. This is why interviews can often be so nerve-wracking: it’s hard to know what to expect. But with some practice and preparation you can go into your interview with confidence. See our sample Interview Questions to help guide your practice.

What should I wear? If I have a graduate degree, does it matter what I wear?

  • As a graduate student or graduate degree holder, it may seem odd to focus on your appearance at a job interview given the breadth and intellect of the work you’ve done in the past. Shouldn’t that be enough? It is, but your clothing communicates more than just your style. By dressing appropriately for a job interview you not only show your professionalism but you also show how seriously you are taking this opportunity and that you respect the hiring manager’s time (and the time of everyone else who may be in the room).
  • That said, the answer to what exactly to wear can vary. It is best to err on the side of overdressing than underdressing. Even if the company’s attire is casual, you’ll want to make sure you dress one step above this for your interview. Make sure to focus on details—iron your clothing, comb your hair, etc. Focus on neutral tones. Try to avoid wearing cologne or perfume; you never know if your potential new colleague or boss has an allergy or is particularly sensitive to smells. 

I’m nervous to talk about how I have a graduate degree or am pursuing one. What if they think I’m too overqualified? What if they ask me why I’ve changed career paths?

  • Your feelings are understandable and fair. Remember that your potential employer already knows this information—they already have your resume and cover letter and know that you're in an advanced degree program or have an advanced degree. If they weren’t interested in you and your background, they wouldn’t ask you to come in for an interview.
  • More importantly, remember that your graduate degree has prepared you for a wide variety of careers and it’s simply a matter of translating your experience and communicating this to your potential employer. Remember not to apologize for your graduate degree (“I know I’m overqualified for this” or “I messed up and I should’ve just done a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and not a PhD”) or downplay it. Lots of people with Master’s degrees and PhDs have transitioned and thrived into the workforce—don't underestimate your potential. It is important, if asked, to explain why you’re interested in pursuing this particular career path and to explain how your experiences in academia make you a great candidate for this position. Additionally, it’s important to emphasize that you want to transition into this job or to have a particular experience rather than making it seem as though academia is too hard/competitive/stressful. Focus on the positives: the positives being this new opportunity and what you bring to it.

What else can I do to prepare?

  • Make sure to research the company if you haven’t already. If you’ve written an engaging cover letter that identifies why you want to work for this company, then you’ve already done some of the necessary research. If you haven’t yet, try to look up their history, mission, and values. Showing your enthusiasm and knowledge of the company will make a huge impression and your interviewer may ask you about why you want to work for their company (see below).
  • Likewise, go back to the job description and remind yourself what the organization or company needs. What can you do for them? What do you bring to help the company? While an interview may seem to be about screening the job candidate, if you have a clear idea of what you could bring to help the company this will inform your responses and help you stand out.

I’m in engineering and technology. Is there anything specific I should focus on in my interview or be prepared for?

  • When interviewing for a position in engineering and technology, it’s important that you fully understand the possibly complex case study and technical questions you may be asked. It’s okay to repeat the question and take a moment to think to be sure you fully understand what’s being asked of you. You may also be asked to solve a problem on a whiteboard and explain your answers. Whether you are solving a problem or verbally answering a question, it is important to try to come up with the simplest explanation and to detail the ways in which you could refine your answer.

I’m in nonprofit and government. Is there anything specific I should focus on in my interview or be prepared for?

  • When interviewing in nonprofit and government, it is important to show that you are truly committed to the non-profit or government’s mission or goals and to show that you are individually committed to the cause. Hiring managers will look for this. It is important to show specific examples of how you’ve been committed to organizations in the past. Providing concrete examples such as volunteer work or student group organizations in which you were committed to a larger mission in your interview will communicate that you can both believe in and execute a group’s mission.

I’m in consulting and business. Is there anything specific I should focus on in my interview or be prepared for?

  • When interviewing for a position in consulting and business it is important to explain your thought process in response to case studies or technical questions so that the interviewer can understand how you think and process challenges or questions. It is also important to show that you are aware of current industry conversations. Reading journals such as the Wall Street Journal can help you stay up-to-date with trends and current conversations. Remember that the correct answer isn’t necessarily what your interviewer is looking for—it’s more important to demonstrate your problem solving skills and interest in the industry.

*Some answers have been adapted from UCLA's Career Preparation Toolkit, 2016-2018

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