Interviewing Resources

Interviews are a way for organizations or graduate schools to learn about your qualifications and an opportunity for you to share your experiences, strengths, and why you would be a good fit for the position or program. Interviewing is not just your time in the interview, there are things that you need to do before and after to be successful.

Ask for help - at any stage, whether you are preparing for an interview and researching the company or you are needing help with following up after an interview. Career Development is here to help you! Call (507-933-7575), use Handshake, or stop in to schedule an appointment or drop in during the academic year to meet with a Peer Career Advisor.


Phase One: Preparing for the Interview

It is expected to research the company before you go into the interview. Research is for your personal benefit and to aide you in the interview process. Interviewers commonly ask questions like “What do you know about our organization?” and “Why do you want to work here?” or “How does this program fit in your career goals?”

Research the organization’s website or for graduate school look at both the program and the larger school. Use Glassdoor and Hoonuit, provided by Gustavus Career Development, and your personal network to learn more about the organization and its culture. Connect with current graduate students or alumni of graduate programs, to find out more about the student experience. If the organization or program has an online social presence, make sure that you are following them through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

There are many ways that organizations structure interviews. It is good to know about the different types of interviews to be best prepared for meeting with prospective organizations, graduate and professional schools, and service programs. You may experience multiple rounds of interviews with different or similar structures for the same position.

Gustavus Resources

Phase Two: Making a Good Impression

What to Wear

How you dress for an interview can send a first impression that matters to the interviewer. By dressing professionally you can help the interviewer focus on your interview answers, skills, and abilities during the interview. The way we dress can often reflect our personality, identity, culture, and values. Some workplaces still have dress codes that are required to be followed. Knowing about these can help as you explore or interview at different organizations and industries. If you get specific instructions from the interviewer, organization, or program on what to wear for an interview, follow those instructions. Otherwise, use the information below as a helpful guide. 

  • Learn from the organization you are interviewing with if they have a dress code or are business professional dress or business casual every day. 
  • Have an interview outfit ready to go early on in your search. Make sure it fits, is clean, and you feel comfortable in it so that you can feel confident. 
  • Wearing neutral colors is often a good idea. Dark colored suits (Black, navy blue, brown) paired with lighter color solid or small print, khaki/beige, or white shirts are good choices.
  • If your suit jacket or skirt has long thread in an X shape holding a slit or vent together, that should be cut and removed before wearing. If the jacket has a tag on the sleeve remove it carefully. 
  • If a garment is worn for cultural or religious reasons there is no need to change that practice for an interview setting. Organizations in the United States are not able to discriminate against candidates based on nationality or religion. 
  • If you choose to wear makeup, keep it simple and natural-looking.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum.
  • Avoid using any products that are heavily scented. Some organizations may be scent free or you may encounter those with sensitivities or allergies to strong scents.
  • A professional padfolio is often helpful to hold notes, copies of your résumés - there are Gustavus branded ones available in the Book Mark.
Business Professional Dress
  • A solid dark color or a simple pattern (black, charcoal, navy blue, brown, etc.) matching jacket and pant or skirt suit. Pants should end or break at or just below the back of the shoe; Skirts should be around the knee or below and the slit should be minimal - pair with neutral or black nylons. 
  • A light colored or neutral colored long sleeved dress shirt and coordinating tie (solid or simple pattern)
  • A solid colored or small print top with a conservative neckline. If you are not wearing a jacket with your suit or expect to take off your suit jacket during an interview, avoid sleeveless tops.
  • Wear dark coordinating dress shoes that are business appropriate (i.e. closed toe, not casual or athletic, no sparkles, no sandals, not strappy, etc.) with dress socks or nylons. Wear shoes that you will be comfortable walking in; it is recommended to wear flats or shoes with a low heel.
  • If wearing a skirt, it’s length should be around the knee or below and the slit should be minimal - pair with neutral or black nylons.
  • Hair, whether short or long, should be clean and neat and facial hair should be trimmed. Hair can be worn up or down as long as it is clean and neat.
  • Choose a professional looking bag or purse to hold items you might need.
Business Casual Dress
  • Dark dress pants (black, brown, khaki, charcoal) or skirt with a long-sleeved dress shirt (tucked in); a short-sleeved button down; collared shirt or blouse or blouse without a collar and a dressy sweater/blazer; or nice polo shirt may be acceptable depending on the formality of the event.
  • If choosing to wear a tie keep it in a coordinating solid color or simple pattern.
  • Wear dark coordinating dress shoes that are business appropriate (i.e. closed toe, not casual or athletic, no sparkles, no sandals, not strappy, etc.) with dress socks or nylons. Wear shoes that you will be comfortable walking in; it is recommended to wear flats or shoes with a low heel.
  • Choose a professional looking bag or purse to hold items you might need.
Self-Expression and Interviews

Self-expression is important. Tattoos, body piercings, hairstyle, and clothing are all ways we express our individuality. When interviewing, it may be best to be conservative, but this is why research before an interview is important to understand cultural expectations at an organization or in a program, so as to understand what may or may not be appropriate in an interview.

 

Interview Etiquette

  • Leave early for the interview. Be prepared for potential traffic and plan for parking. Wait to enter the interview location if you arrive more than 15 minutes early. Allow time to review your notes, practice what you plan to say and straighten your clothing or hair.
  • As interviewers introduce themselves, when possible write down names and titles or ask for business cards at the conclusion of the interview. This will make following up with thank you notes easier.
  • Focus not only on what you will say, but also be aware of your nonverbal communication. Pay attention to your posture. Be sure to make eye contact with those interviewing you. If you are not sure who to look at, make eye contact with the person asking you the question, trying to stay engaged with the rest of the group.
  • Show enthusiasm for the organization and the position. If your nervousness shows in your voice try to control your breathing and tone.

Prepare Your Own Questions

Even if you think the position is a perfect fit, you will want to ask questions to make sure that your perception of the position and organization match the reality. So, what should you ask? Prior to the interview conduct research. From this research you will have a basic understanding of the organization, so think about what else you would want to know.

Interviewing Booklet - Section Two


Phase Three: After the Interview

Always follow-up with a thank you message after an interview, networking meeting, or informational interview. Traditional guidance has been that thank you messages should be handwritten cards mailed within two days. While handwritten cards are nice, email is appropriate and preferred for quick timelines or for organizations that are high technology. Unless initiated by the other party, thank you messages are not appropriate via text or social media. If you are in an interview process with multiple rounds of interviews, thank you messages can be sent after each round, but will be different (e.g. a brief email thank you after a phone screen followed by a more detailed thank you after an in-person interview).

Interviewing Booklet - Section Four


Additional Resources

  • Big Interview can be used to watch videos on preparing for interviews AND to record practice interviews. 
  • glassdoor.com can be used to look up past questions used by organizations during interviews

Updated 7/27/22 JV