Interviews take on particular significance with public interest employers, who give tremendous weight to the kind of person they sense you are, the depth of your commitment to their mission and how well you would fit in with the office. The focus of the interview should be to persuade the employer that you are the best and most qualified applicant.
Researching the Employer
- Learn all you can about the individual organization or office with which you will be interviewing
- Review any press releases or recent news about the organization
- Carefully review the organization’s website
- Try to find out as much as possible about your interviewer
- Speak with OPIA advisers, fellow classmates, alumni/ae, professors, or clinical faculty members who have prior experience or personal contact with the particular office or organization with which you will be interviewing
- Be able to show that you have comprehensive knowledge of the employer’s mission, areas of specialization, major accomplishments, current concerns, and your potential role within the office
Developing Your Narrative
- View the interview as an opportunity to advocate for yourself
- Use your research about the employer to convince them that you understand their mission and can make a substantive contribution
- Convey your enthusiasm about the position and the organization
- Think through and write down four or five essential points to communicate during the interview, including:
- The reasons you are interested in the position and the organization
- Personal experiences that are relevant to the work of the organization
- Relevant professional experience and how it has influenced your interest in the work
- Specific skills that make your application outstanding, including examples of how you developed those skills
- Your personal strengths
- Do a mock interview before the real interview! Book an appointment with an OPIA adviser
- Set aside time for an OPIA adviser or friend to ask you questions you think the prospective employer might ask
- Make a list of things that you would like the interviewer to know about you by the end of the interview and practice working them into your answers
- Solicit feedback from the person interviewing you and incorporate it into your responses
- Practice, practice, practice – responding to questions out loud will be very helpful preparation for the interview
Type and Format of the Interview
- There is no uniform interview style; determine the type and format of your interview in advance
- How will you communicate with the employer?
- By phone?
- Over Zoom or other virtual platforms?
- In person?
- Summer internship vs. post-grad interview?
- Typically, interviews for internships will consist of a single, short (30 minutes) meeting via phone or virtual platform (unless you are in the same location as the employer). More often you will be interviewed by one person; sometimes multiple people will be involved in the interview
- Typically, post-graduate interviews are longer and may involve multiple rounds, including phone, virtual, and in-person interviews. Usually, there are several people from the employer involved in the interview(s)
- If the employer doesn’t give you specifics about the interview format, ask classmates, OPIA advisers, and others for information about the interview
- It is essential that your answers to questions be clear, concise, and focused; use your voice to express your enthusiasm for the position and organization
- Prepare for the phone or virtual interview in the same manner that you would for a face-to-face interview; do not rely on written answers or outlines to questions, as you will likely find them distracting and the noise of rustling paper will distract the employer as well (a brief checklist of points to address may be helpful, however)
- Determine what phone and space you will use in advance; avoid cell phones if possible (OPIA may have private rooms with landline phones available to book specifically for interviewing)
- Specific organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, may require landline phones for interviews, so make phone arrangements in advance.
- Make sure when you schedule a phone interview that you establish who will initiate the call, in addition to the time and the date of the interview.
Zoom or Virtual Interviews
- Prior to the interview, set up an account with a professional username and appropriate profile picture
- Be sure to dress professionally and arrange to hold the interview in a neat, clutter-free area with minimal background noise and sufficient lighting
- Test your equipment beforehand to make sure it is working
- Make sure your interview location has a reliable internet connection in advance
- Keep in mind that the employer will be able to observe your actions, so stay alert and focused throughout the interview
- During a video interview, you will need to develop thoughtful responses to questions while looking into a camera lens; mastering this skill requires practice. You may book an appointment with OPIA for a mock video interview
- The Office of Career Services can help facilitate videoconferencing in the HLS Videoconference room on the fourth floor of WCC
Materials to Bring
- For in person interviews, bring copies of your resume and your list of references
- You may also want to bring any other materials you submitted as part of your application (i.e., transcript and writing sample)
- Do not consult any written notes during the actual interview