With practice and dedication, interviewing can change from being an uncomfortable experience to feeling more natural and authentic. We recommend following this guide to prepare for interviews and scheduling a practice session with your career navigator to fine tune your skill set. 

Most important, have fun! The whole point of an interview is to help your interviewer easily imagine you as a teammate. This means showcasing your strongest skills and allowing them to picture how enjoyable it would be to work with you. 

Interview preparation

Identify a referral (weeks before you apply for a job)

  • Identify a LinkedIn connection that works at the company
    • With a first level connection, ask for an informational interview to learn more about the company. With a second or third level connection, you’ll need to request to connect and add a message asking for an information interview (message templates are featured in the LinkedIn resources on the job readiness website).  
    • It’s much easier to ask an existing connection about a job opportunity, so connect with companies of interest early in your job search! Then when the right opportunity comes up, it won’t feel like you’re asking for a favor. 
  • Schedule a call to learn more about the company and the role
    • Ask about the personality type and skills are they seeking, the culture of the team and organization, and showcase your interest in the role. Reaffirm that you are excited about the opportunity and if the connection seems open to it, ask if they can flag your application with the hiring manager.

Preparation (1–2 weeks in advance of interview)

  • Draft and practice your general interview responses (see practice questions below)
    • In drafting responses, make sure you drive home 1-3 key points you would like the hiring manager to take from your response. We recommend writing out your responses and practice verbalizing and adjusting them so your language is colloquial and natural.
  • Review the job description again, and list out major workstreams required for the job 
    • Come up with 1-2 sample questions and develop thorough interview responses for each using the STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result) structure. Reference your cover letter for content.

Example: If the major workstreams in a job description are: data systems management, dashboard creation/ data visualization, report writing and presentation, and working with various stakeholders, you need to detail your experience for each workstream. Let’s use dashboard creation as an example. 

Tell me about your experience developing dashboards and visualizations for a company? Thank you for asking, I am passionate about helping companies develop operational efficiency by building clean, effective, and beautiful visualizations! My favorite tools are Tableau and Excel, and I’ve developed 8 dashboard systems through work, internships, and school. Most recently, I built 5 real-time reporting and feedback systems for [Company 1] to their track customer progress and success. Situation: [Company 1] is a edtech company that aims to [XYZ], and they are trying to learn more about where their 500+ students are struggling in their curriculum. Task: I was tasked with helping them gain more insight into this problem by analyzing their data. Action: I cleaned, organized, and created a data management system that allowed instructors to easily pull reports. I also created the first dashboard for the company using Tableau, which illuminated that students were dropping midway through the program when the curriculum became progressively harder. Result: This allowed managers to implement a new remediation strategy and instructor office hours for their students that reduced drop rates by 25% in the subsequent cycle.

  • Review the job description again, and list out major workstreams required for the job 
    • Come up with 1-2 sample questions and develop thorough interview responses for each using the STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result) structure. Reference your cover letter for content.
  • Practice all your interview questions out loud again.
    • Do not read from a script, even in a virtual interview, because the recruiter will be able to tell if your responses flow naturally.
    • Tip: Record yourself practicing your interview questions and assess your delivery, body language, voice intonation, and facial expressions. Which questions do you need to practice? What would you change about your delivery? Do you come across confident and excited, or indifferent about the role? Review The Hard Truth About Soft Skills to get a sense of what hiring managers look for and further refine your interview presence.  
  • Research the company
    • Do you know what the company does, and how they do it? How large is the company and who leads it? How long have they been around, what sets them apart from their competitors, and what their vision moving forward? How do their values and trajectory line up with your background and what you’re looking for in your next role?
    • Check their recent articles, social media, or initiatives to get an idea of what the companies’ priorities, mission, and challenges are. Review staff profiles of the team and leadership to understand their experience and perspectives. 
  • Come up with 3–5 questions to ask at the end of the interview.
  • Tip: Top soft skills recruiters look for:
    • Growth mindset and adaptability: Are you open to learning and developing skills, or do you think “I’m really just not that great at XYZ skill.” It’s great if you know how to use different languages, programs, and skill sets but recruiters are more interested in HOW you respond to a challenge if you don’t have the right skills or knowledge to address it.  Here’s advice on answering a complex question you don’t know the answer to.
    • Approaching a problem: Be able to clearly communicate a logical plan and process for: identifying and understanding a problem, assessing potential solutions, implementing the top solution, measuring results, and changing strategy if results are not met. 
    • Team building mindset: To achieve great results, teams need to be diverse in their approach and skill sets. How will you leverage the talent and knowledge of your teammates to accomplish a job? 

Conduct a mock interview (one week in advance) 

  • Schedule a 1:1 mock interview with your career navigator. Send them the job description and the resume and cover letter you applied with at least 48 hours in advance and let them know when your interview is scheduled and if it is over phone/video. Prepare to jump right into the mock interview as if it were the real interview. 

Troubleshoot tech (two days in advance) 

ESL Interview Preparation

Practice general interview questions

  • Tell me about yourself. Always start with the relevant parts of your background, which should detail your newly acquired skills, education, transferable skills from previous career, and your career objective (e.g. I’m a digital marketer focusing on SEO with 5+ years of project management experience in various industries. I most recently completed a certificate with UCSD Extension where I focused on XYZ, and am currently interning with Company X, running their digital marketing strategy). Proven Recruiting has a great article on how to answer this question. 
  • Why are you interested in this role? Discuss your interest in the organization’s mission and focus, and describe how the opportunity fits in your career trajectory.  
  • Describe a difficult work situation or project and how you handled it? OR Tell me about a time you failed to succeed in meeting a project goal and how you handled it? Emphasize learning and growth from a previous work experience. 
  • How would you rate your [programming/language] skills? Focus on what the recruiter is trying to assess by asking this question. Most likely, questions are purposefully vague and they are trying to see how self-aware, confident, and open to learning you are instead of expecting a numerical rating. Detailing your competency by highlighting what you’ve been able to build, how many years you’ve done it, and areas you want to develop in leads to a richer conversation.
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker or supervisor. What was your approach? Showcase your ability to navigate conflict within an organization and how you can communicate a difference in opinion or approach but remain dedicated towards a shared goal.  
  • What are your goals in the next 5 years? Recruiters ask this to get a sense of whether or not your professional growth is in line with the role and what the organization is able to support. 
  • Tell me about a major professional achievement you’ve accomplished. Come prepared with 2-3 major achievements that you can discuss that reflect Situation – Action – Result format. Ideally, this is in line with the job description but may also include transferable skills if you don’t have a major achievement directly relevant to the position.  
  • What type of work environment do you thrive in? Recruiters ask this to get a sense of how you collaborate within a team environment versus working independently, how you communicate, and how you receive feedback. Research the company ahead of time to get a sense of company culture but also be honest about what environment you thrive in.  
  • How would others describe you in 5 adjectives? You may want to ask your current or past colleagues about how they would describe you, but this is also an opportunity to showcase your strongest soft skills. 

Continue your interview practice with Technical Interview Questions