Pre-Interview Preparation

Your research before an interview can be broken up into four buckets: The Job, The Employer, The Industry, and The Applicant (You). Take some time to focus on each of these buckets to build a framework around how to best interview for a new role.

The Job 

Understand what skills, tasks, and day-to-day responsibilities are a part of the job. Talk to current and former employees/alumni that have had similar experiences. You can identify contacts using LinkedIn, Handshake, or DartmouthConnect

Below is a sample of the skills needed for a Social Media Manager position. We’ve bolded the key skills that should be addressed in an interview. For example, since they are looking for a “team player” it’s important to acknowledge any experiences that demonstrate your collaborative skills. Match what you’ve done with what the employer is looking for.

Skills needed:

  • Good writer, researcher, and able to effectively communicate 
  • Proficient in Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media platforms
  • Understanding of how podcasting works
  • Able to learn new skills and programs if needed
  • Able to multitask and happy to take on multiple roles
  • Meets deadlines and keeps projects on track
  • Detail-oriented
  • Team player 

The Employer 

What are its products and services? What is the organization’s mission and culture? How is this organization different from its competitors? How has the organization performed in the last year?

Resources (access via Undergraduate Job Hunting Guide):

The Industry

What are the recent developments/trends in the industry? How will these trends affect the work performed by the employer?

Resources (access via Undergraduate Job Hunting Guide): 

  • General Industry Overviews (U.S., some global):
    IBISWorld (see for SWOT analysis with sample questions to ask)
  • Emerging OR Rapidly Growing Industries: BCC Research (pick category that most relates to organization)
  • Statistics: Learn about the nature of the work through Statista

The Applicant 

What are your most relevant skills, experiences, and knowledge related to the job? How will you describe these so that they are well understood?


  • Career Competencies Readiness Worksheet: Learn about the top career competencies employers seek – and get prompts on how to reflect on your experiences for interviews
  • Go through your resume and identify key skills used in each experience
  • ‘Match’ all the skills needed to perform the job you are applying for to all the experiences you have had where you used those same qualities

Prepare for Common Interview Questions

We tend to spend a lot of time trying to anticipate the “curveball” questions that may be thrown our way and prepare for those. While it’s great to think outside of the box, it’s important to ace the interview questions we know will be present. A sample of these questions include:

  1. Tell me about yourself / Walk me through your resume.
  2. Why do you want to work for us/Why this role?
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Why should we choose you for the position?

The best way to answer these questions is to think about your reason for applying to this particular opportunity, the impact you would like to make, and the growth you are looking forward to achieving. For a chance to practice answering these questions, make an appointment with a CPD career coach through Handshake for a one-on-one mock interview!

Don’t Forget to S-H-A-R-E

There will be moments when an employer will want to evaluate your ability to overcome challenges. For example, you may get questions like, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with conflict?” or, “Have you ever had to work on a team project during a time constraint?”

When describing a time you had to handle conflict or collaborate with others, it’s important to structure your answer well so the interviewer can easily tie it to how great of an asset you will be for their organization. One way to do this is through the SHARE method:

SSituation. Describe the situation – Where did it take place? When? Who was involved? Etc.

HHindrance. Talk about any barriers – Was there a time constraint? Was this a new project?

AAction. What steps did you take to reach the goal? And why did you decide on those steps?

RResult. What was the outcome, regardless of success or failure? Be transparent.

EEvaluation. What did you learn from this experience? How did you grow? What new skill did you learn? If/how would you handle this situation differently today?

Prepare to Ask Questions of Your Own

While it is generally OK to ask questions when it makes sense throughout the interview, a clear signal that you are reaching the end of an interview is when the hiring manager asks: “Do you have any questions for me?” This is an important opportunity that you can prepare for.

Generally speaking, avoid saying that you have “no questions.” 

Asking questions is a great way to not only demonstrate your interest and preparedness but to also gain valuable information that can help you make an informed decision about whether the job and company are a good fit for you. Consider these important reasons to ask questions of the employer during a job interview:

  • Demonstrates Interest: Asking questions shows that you are genuinely interested in the job and the company. It demonstrates that you have done some research on the company and are invested in learning more about the role and how you might contribute.
  • Shows Preparedness: Asking thoughtful questions also shows that you are prepared for the interview and that you have put thought into the role and how you might add value. This can help distinguish you from other candidates who may not have prepared as thoroughly.
  • Clarifies Expectations: Asking questions helps you clarify any questions or concerns you may have about the job or the company culture. This will give you a better sense of whether the job is the right fit.
  • Provides Insight: Asking questions can also give you insight into the company culture.

It’s important to come up with questions that will provide you with information about the company’s values, culture, career growth opportunities, and expectations for the role. Don’t just focus on questions you think will impress the interviewer, but rather ask questions that you genuinely want answers to. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time, but don’t be afraid to stray from the list if your discussion prompts additional questions. Remember, it’s best to keep the conversation natural and non-formulaic. 

Some sample questions you might consider. Please modify these to make them your own.

  • What makes this office special?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • Why are you excited about hiring a new person in this role?
  • What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?
  • What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?
  • How will you measure the success of the person in this position?
  • Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?
  • I know one of your company values is [value here]. How does that manifest itself in the workplace?
  • What’s the typical leadership style here?
  • What does a typical day or week look like in this role?
  • What actions have been taken to create an inclusive company culture?
  • How does the company avoid inequities at work?
  • How does the company encourage a culture that embodies DEI on a consistent basis?
  • How would you define diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What does DEI training look like at the company and how often is it?
  • What’s your timeline for next steps?

Your Humility Is Important

Humility allows an employer to know that you are eager to learn and open to new ideas, which in turn keeps work morale high. Here are some examples of how you can demonstrate humility in an interview while still exuding confidence:

  • Don’t overuse the word “I” during an interview. Use “we” when applicable to help the interviewer know you are a team player.
  • Don’t be afraid to discuss your own faults. Employers don’t want perfection, they want authenticity. It’s okay to mention a time you failed – use that as an opportunity to express what you learned and how you grew from that experience.
  • Leaning back or crossing your arms can come across as being arrogant or closed off. Instead, open up and show the interviewer that you are engaged. Speak clearly and with enthusiasm. 

While there are many different types of interviews depending on the industry, organization, and job type, these are just some of the key points to remember as you prepare. Check out our Interview Attire guide for tips on how to dress for your interview, too. Schedule an appointment with a CPD career coach to learn more, practice answering questions and build your confidence going into any interview.

Follow-Ups & Thank You Notes

  • Send a thank you note email after interviews, info sessions, and networking conversations.
  • Make every effort to send it within 24 hours of your interaction. If you are unable to meet that deadline, still send a response. It is much better to send a late response than none at all.

  • To express sincere gratitude for a positive interaction.
  • To build a professional network of future colleagues and possibilities.
  • To restate your interest in an opportunity and remind people why you would be a great person to have on their team.

  • Post-Interview. What you are thankful for: the opportunity to learn about the company and share your skills and interest in the company. Cite one specific aspect that resonated with you. Reiterate your interest in the position.
  • Post-Networking. What you are thankful for: the opportunity to learn about the company and share your skills and interest in the company. Cite one specific detail that resonated with you. 

  • Make sure to collect your interviewers’ names and email addresses. Ask the position contact/hiring manager/recruiter for this information if you don’t have it. Also ask about next steps and timeline, so you know when you can expect to hear back.
  • If you interviewed with multiple people, you can address all of them in the same message, or send separate messages to each interviewer.
  • If you haven’t heard back about a job or internship within 5 business days of the date you were given, send a polite follow-up email directly to the primary contact and re-state your interest. Ask if there is anything further you can do in support of your candidacy.

  • It is okay to ask if you can stay in touch during a first conversation with a networking contact, follow the lead that they set. One good way to keep your momentum is to ask, “Do you have any recommendations for organizations or other people I could potentially reach out to in order to learn more?”
  • There are two strategies you can use for maintaining/cultivating relationships:
    • Intentional: Set a pre-scheduled timeline for follow-up check-in, (sometimes this is suggested in advance by the individual – e.g. update me in six months).
    • Sporadic/Casual: Reach out again when something arises that reminds you of the contact.

Interview Thank You Template (Do Not Use Verbatim)

Dear [name of person], 

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me [insert day]. I enjoyed my conversation with you and am excited about the possibility of joining your team.

In particular, I appreciated learning about your […]. It is very easy to see how dedicated you are to […], and also to […].

I would like to reiterate my interest in the […] position/internship.  I believe that my skills and experience in [insert 2-3 skills] would allow me to contribute to and further the [team name] team’s work in meaningful ways.

With gratitude,

[your name]

Sample Networking Thank You Email

Subject:  Thank you for your time.

Dear <<insert name>>, 

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about career paths in publishing. I learned a great deal about Simon and Schuster from our conversation.  It has further increased my interest in pursuing a career in publishing. I also enjoyed hearing more about your graduate studies in publishing at Columbia. 

I plan to take your advice and contact Sally Smith at XYZ Company for more information about the publishing industry. Thank you for suggesting that I mention your name in my email. I will keep you updated on my progress and plans. 

I truly appreciate the assistance you have been able to provide. 


<<Your name>>

Email Samples for Developing a Relationship

Take the time to properly cultivate networking relationships. A crucial part of networking is reaching out to contacts after the initial conversation, but without directly asking for a job. Below are sample ways to engage with people using information gained from a previous conversation. Consult this guide for further information on the art of networking.

Reflecting on a Mutual Interest

Subject:  The Grand Canyon

Dear <<Insert Name>>,

I recently had an opportunity to fly over the Grand Canyon.  I was reminded of how you explained its formation to me.  It was interesting to see the evidence of the erosion from the sky; now I am trying to figure out a way to get there on the ground.  Have you had an opportunity to visit it more recently? I remember that you had hoped to take your daughter there.

Thank you again for your time last month. It was very informative, and I have had some great conversations since then with XXX and YYY whom you recommended. I am all set up for an internship this Spring with ABC Firm.  I will let you know how it goes.

Take care,

 <<Insert Name>>

Course Information That You Understood Better from a Conversation

Subject:  ENG 10 & Our Conversation

Dear <<Name>>,

We had a guest speaker in my Geography course the other day, <<insert name>>, and it reminded me of our conversation.  She recommended that all students increase their ability to speed read in order to maximize their exposure and comprehension of the vast array of information being uploaded these days. Thanks to you, this wasn’t a new concept to me.  However, some of my classmates were very surprised by this comment and are only now processing this information. 

Once again, thank you for the time you took to speak with me a few months ago.

Take care,

<<Your Name>>

Sharing Articles or Information from the News

Subject: Newsweek Article on the Publishing Industry

Dear Ms./Mr./Dr. X,

I recently read a Newsweek article stating that the publishing industry is taking a hit because of self-serve publishing software that has become popular over the last few years. I am curious what you may have to say in regards to this. The piece discussed how this trend will change certain career trajectories. How quickly do you think the newer publishing technologies will make a difference?

Here is a link to the piece: (enter link here) or hyperlink to the words “here”.

If you have the chance to read it, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Thank you and take care,

<<Your Name>>