You’ve got the skills. Show you’re a fit.
Anticipate the type of interview and prepare accordingly.
Prepare for the interview, research the organization, and keep networking.
Learn as much as you can about the organization, interviewer, and position competencies.
Contact alumni who work there to let them know you’re interviewing. They might have some tips.
Develop an “elevator pitch” that summarizes why you are the best “fit” for the organization.
Always practice verbally articulating your responses to potential interview questions in advance.
Questions to ask
Prepare 5-10 insightful questions that demonstrate your preparation for and interest in the position.
Write a thank you note right after the interview. A follow-up is appropriate if you haven’t heard back in a bit.
The Look of Success
Show you understand how to dress in a professional work environment.
Every work environment has its own unique expectations. By looking the part, you can show a potential employer that you’re a good fit for the position.
Be sure to look your best and feel confident.
Suit: Pant or skirt suit in black, gray, navy blue, or other subdued color. You will get the most wear out of a classic look that complements your body type; trendy styles will quickly become outdated.
Shirt/Tie: Under your suit jacket wear a collared, light-colored dress shirt. Ties are considered a standard part of business professional attire. Choose ties in solid colors or subdued patterns that complement the color of your shirt.
Leg Wear/Socks: Socks should be a matching pair in a color one shade darker than your suit. If you choose to wear a skirt, pair it with nylon stockings even in warm weather. They should complement your skin color.
Overcoat: Consider investing in an all-weather ¾- or full-length wool coat for use in autumn and winter. A tan or black trench coat will be useful for mild or rainy days in spring and summer.
Shoes: Choose black or brown leather dress shoes or a classic pair of pumps in black, brown, navy blue, or taupe. Avoid extreme styles, i.e. excessively pointed or square-toed shoes, or shoes with unusually thick soles or high heels. Shoes should be polished and in good repair. Do not wear brown shoes with a black suit.
Belt: Your belt should be leather and should match your shoes. Cloth belts should not be worn with suits.
Standards vary widely from one field to another, but the following are typically appropriate.
Pants or Skirt: Wool, gabardine, khaki, or corduroy pants. Skirts should fall to the knee while standing. Despite being slightly more casual, pants and skirts must still be crisp and wrinkle-free.
Shirt: Collared shirts in solid colors or tasteful patterns. You may keep the collar open under a sport coat, blazer, or sweater.
Sport Coat or Blazer: In some cases you may want to wear a seasonally appropriate sport coat or blazer. Consider corduroy, cashmere, cotton, linen, or wool gabardine fabric.
Sweater: Sweaters should be in good condition (i.e. no pilling or loose threads) and can be worn alone or layered over a dress shirt. A tie is optional.
Shoes: Choose black or brown leather dress shoes or a classic pair of pumps in black, brown, navy blue, or taupe. Appropriate and coordinated flats are an alternative to pumps in a business casual setting. Shoes should be polished and in good repair.
Jewelry: Keep it simple. Use gold and silver colors and avoid extremes of style. No more than two rings per hand. No ankle bracelets. Find a simple watch in a non-athletic style; leather watchbands should match your belt and shoes.
Belt: If your slacks or skirt have belt loops, you must wear a belt. Belts should be coordinated with the color of your shoes.
Bags: Small and simple purses are best. Structured bags look more professional. Work with basic and inconspicuous colors. Avoid hyper-trendy styles. Leather and finely woven fabrics are best. Canvas and straw are inappropriate.
Portfolio: A leather portfolio can be used for interviews to carry résumés, notepaper, and other helpful documents.
Pen: Look prepared by always carrying at least one nice pen.
Hair: Keep your hair clean, neat, and off your face. Head scarves are appropriate in understated patterns or tones that match the rest of your ensemble.
Nails: Keep your nails groomed, neat, and clean. Avoid long uncut nails or bright nail polish.
Piercings: Other than one earring per ear, leave your piercings empty while interviewing. They divert attention from what you have to say and are frowned upon in many offices.
Facial Hair: The clean-shaven look is always a winner. If you have facial hair, make sure it is properly trimmed.
Cosmetics: Keep makeup simple and natural looking.
Perfume/Cologne: Use sparingly or not at all.
Dry Cleaning: Have your suits, blazers, sport coats, skirts, and slacks dry cleaned regularly. Suits, sport coats, and blazers can be professionally pressed in between dry cleanings.
Alterations: Find a local tailor to handle alterations to your clothing. Most suits will almost surely need some adjustment to look their best on you. Many stores will include tailoring with the purchase of professional clothing—take advantage of this!
Shoe Polish: Polish your shoes regularly so they look great and last as long as possible.
Ask yourself, “Will they remember me, or my outfit?” Do not wear anything that distracts from what you have to say. Also, choose clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident. You will be distracted during your interview if you have trouble walking in your shoes, feel constrained in your jacket, or have to keep adjusting your pants.
General clothing to avoid:
Sandals or athletic shoes/sneakers, athletic socks or white socks, poorly-fitting garments, loud colors or fabrics, shorts, capri pants, leggings, jeans.
Talk about Yourself
Practice short vignettes that illustrate your strengths and connect back to your experience.
More Common Questions
Prepare clear, quantified examples of the ways in which you’ve developed skill and experience.
- From past experiences (internships, jobs), what tasks/responsibilities did you enjoy the most? Least?
- Who is your favorite professor and why? What was your least favorite course and why?
- Do you work best under pressure or with time to plan?
- What are the hardest decisions for you to make?
- What do I not know about you from looking at your résumé?
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- How has your education prepared you for this job?
- Why should I hire someone with a liberal arts background over someone with a research university education?
About the Job
- What challenges do you seek?
- What interests you about this field? About our products/research/programs?
- Why should we hire you?
Questions to Ask
Ask questions to demonstrate your interest in the position.
About the Position and Department
- With whom will I be working most closely?
- What type of training will I receive for this position?
- How do the department’s goals fit into the overall mission of the organization?
- What are some of the current projects that the department is undertaking?
About the Organization
- What changes/new initiatives are happening at your organization?
- How are decisions made? Is there collaboration within and/or across departments?
- What is the overall corporate/organizational structure and culture?
- What opportunities are there for professional growth and development?
About the Hiring Process
- What are the next steps in the hiring process?
- When might I expect to hear from you?
Questions about compensation, time off, and benefits. The interviewer might bring it up in the interview, but if not, it’s better to wait until you receive an offer to discuss the terms of employment.
Prepare for a case interview.
What is it?
To assess your critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills.
Why do they do this?
To replicate something you might experience on the job on any given day.
How does it work?
You will be given background facts and a question or problem to solve.
Understand, Prepare, and Practice
Tips from the Class of 2016
Ready to prep?
You can borrow books from the Career Exploration and Development Library. Cracking the Case Interview, Case in Point (Cosentino), How to Get Into The Top Consulting Firms (Darling), Case Interview Secrets (Cheng).
Join the Bowdoin Consulting Club and attend on-campus case prep workshops and alumni speakers. Also, find fellow students to practice interviewing with.
Schedule an appointment with Dawn Gerding to explore consulting careers and get advice on how to best prepare for recruitment.
Careers in Consulting
Whether at the computer or on a whiteboard, show your analytical thinking.
Sometimes you don’t have all the information. Show you know how to ask and test assumptions.
Show Your Work
Show the interviewers what you is going through your mind. You can always cross things out.
Solve the problem with the language or approach you are most familiar, even if it’s not the best.
Don’t waste time coming up with the perfect solution. Start with something that works and make it better.
Mention doubts and explain your thought process. Transparency is just as important as the answer.
It’s hard! The interview is designed to show how you think, learn, and approach putting out fires.
Free online course teaching technical interview skills
Practice questions submitted by people interviewing for real jobs
Practice interviewing with a Bowdoin alum working in industry
Tips on how to ace your virtual interview.
- Live Interviews (e.g Skype)
- Recorded Interviews (One-way)
- Know who is going to call who.
- Communicate logistics as soon as you are scheduled to do an interview: What are your interviewers’ contact information? Is this over Skype, FaceTime, or a different platform?
- Make sure your technology works. Test out the webcam and microphone, so the interviewer can see and hear you clearly. Furthermore, check internet connectivity.
- Create an interview environment: check the lighting, the background noise, and for any other distractions. You want the interviewer to concentrate on you…nothing else.
- Have a notepad and a pen.
- Have a back-up plan ready. Make sure you have the employers’ phone number just in case your technology stops working.
- Dress as if you would dress up for an in-person interview, but make sure to check yourself out on the webcam – you may look slightly different than you would in front of a mirror.
- Maintain eye contact with the webcam and not the computer screen when you are speaking. This ensures that you are looking directly at the interviewer.
- Make sure to enunciate your words and avoid long pauses. You always want to be ready to answer what’s being asked.
- Write a thank you note as you would in any other interview!