Preparation is key to a successful interview. The tips and questions below are designed to let you know what to expect from the process and to help you plan your approach. Remember, the path of your discussion will depend on the company and industry in which you are interviewing.
Keys to Successful Interviews
- Prepare. The work and research you do prior to your interview conversation is essential to a successful interview. Meaningful preparation leads to a productive and positive conversation.
- Establish a positive mindset. The interviewer wants to engage in a positive conversation - like you, he/she wants a good outcome.
- Passion. Make sure you are interviewing for roles that you are genuinely passionate about. The interviewer wants to be excited about your conversation.
- Convey your agenda: three or four selling points for that position. Connect your skills to the role.
- Give examples to demonstrate each of those selling points.
- Frame whatever you say positively, even if asked negatively ("What did you like least about your previous work as a ____?").
- Be honest with yourself and the interviewer. You don't want to talk your way into the wrong position.
- Do communicate to the interviewer that you really want the position (and why) and that there is an excellent chance you would accept their offer (if this is true).
- Be prepared for questions you hope they won't ask. Be matter-of-fact in your responses, not defensive.
- Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes. Think about what might concern the interviewer about you and what you can do for the company.
- Have several good questions to ask the interviewer.
- Be sensitive to cultural differences if you are interviewing with a firm from a country of which you are not a native.
- Practice, practice, practice!
General Interview Questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What are the most important things to you in a job?
- What would you like me to know about you, that is not in your resume?
- Give me an example of a situation where you demonstrated leadership.
- How flexible are you?
- Give an example of how you worked on a team.
- How creative are you? Give an example.
- Why are you interested in this industry?
- Why did you choose to interview with us?
- Describe the ideal position in our firm.
- Who else are you interviewing with?
- What qualities do you think make someone successful in business?
- How do you feel about work-related travel?
- Why do you think you are qualified for this position?
- What did you like most/least about each position you held?
- Why did you want to attend business school? Why HBS?
- What courses did you like the most? Least? Why?
- What did you learn at HBS that will help you in this position?
Illegal Interview Questions
Under U.S. law, several types of interview questions are illegal. These generally fall under personal information, such as age, race, religion, etc. Below are some illegal interview questions, related questions that are legal, and suggested responses.
- Work/Visa Status
Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen?
Where were your parents born?
What is your native language?
Legal: Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?
What languages do you speak?
Response: I can work with (no/the following) restrictions.
I am fluent in, conversational in.
- Marital/Family Status
Illegal: Are you married?
Do you have, or plan to have children?
Have you ever been divorced?
What do you do for child care?
Legal: Are you willing to relocate?
Are you willing and able to put in the amount of overtime and/or travel the position requires?
Response: If you're asking whether anything is going to interfere with my being able to successfully do my work, I understand the hours and travel required and I am comfortable with them.
- Disability Status
Illegal: Do you have any disabilities?
How is your health?
Legal: Are you able to perform this job with or without reasonable accommodation?
Response: If you're asking whether anything is going to interfere with my being able to successfully do my work, either now or in the future, the answer is, "No."
Illegal: Are you a U.S. citizen?
What is your religion?
Are you practicing?
Legal: Does your religious affiliation, if any, interfere with your working in this position?
Response: I recognize I may have to work weekends and do not anticipate any issues with that.
Illegal: How old are you?
Legal: Are you over 18?
Response: If you're wondering if I'm over 18, the answer is, "Yes."
- Arrest Record
Illegal: Have you ever been arrested?
Legal: Have you ever been convicted of any crime other than a traffic violation?
Response: No./I've never been convicted of anything other than a minor traffic violation.
- Send each person you meet with a thank you email as soon as possible. If you are sending multiple letters, tailor each one to the conversation you had with that person.
- Thank You Email After Interview:
Dear Mr. Bolletaris,
Thank you for providing me with an excellent introduction to Alpha Galactic. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and learning more about the Manager of Marketing position. Likewise, the interview schedule that you arranged provided a valuable opportunity for me to understand the exciting projects already underway.
As I mentioned, I continue to be extremely interested in Alpha Galactic, particularly the AGO Division. My consulting background and health care experience would allow me to make a significant contribution to the division's marketing department. Not only do I have the analytical skills you require, but I also enjoy working on cross-functional teams.
I look forward to hearing from you next week regarding your decision. Thank you for your consideration.
The publicly available Web sites on this page were selected by a Career Information Librarian at Baker Library. Contact the Baker Library | Bloomberg Center, if you need further assistance.
Job Interview Net
This site is devoted to answering the toughest interview questions successfully.
Career Journal: From the Wall Street Journal
A general site for job search in business and management. The How Can We Help You section includes reliable tips and advice on interviewing for the corporate environment.
The following suggestions and resources can help you negotiate an offer that is fair, realistic, and the basis for a good working relationship between you and your employer.
Arm Yourself With Data
The following Web sites can help you research salary data and negotiate from a position of strength. You should also research company salary grades through employees and human resources. Contact the Baker Library | Bloomberg Center, for further assistance.
Use this site to find more than 300 industry-specific and general salary surveys. Test your salary savvy with the "Salary I.Q." test, and find tips and strategies for salary negotiation.
Devoted to all aspects of salary and compensation, this site offers a "Salary Wizard" that provides a benchmark for salaries by industry and zip code. The site also offers substantive advice on compensation and negotiation, current news affecting the labor market as well as a job and resume database.
A comprehensive guide to relocation resources, including a salary calculator, moving calculator, mortgage information, lifestyle guides to many cities, and crime statistics.
HBS Historical Salary Trends
Salary data is self-reported by HBS students at the time of graduation. This site, prepared for HBS recruiters shares placement statistics on the classes of 2006-2013.
Take a Strategic Approach
While you should be prepared to discuss compensation at any time, your position will improve if you are able to delay the negotiation. If an interviewer brings up compensation early in the process, you might say "I'd like to get a better sense of my fit with the position and company before discussing finances." When it's time to talk, the offer should come from the hiring manager or your HR contact.
Remember that the negotiation is about more than money! Evaluate all aspects of an offer and prioritize those that are most important to you. These include:
- Organizational culture and values
- Paid vacation time
- Maternity/paternity leave
- Growth opportunities
- Career progression flexibility
- Frequency of performance reviews, performance standards/goals
- Geographic flexibility
- Office space
- Paid travel
- Ownership options
- Professional training
The following tactics can help you conduct productive negotiations.
- Speak with the hiring manager, if possible
- Express enthusiasm for job and company
- Don't negotiate at the time the initial job offer is made
- Know your bottom line in terms of salary, benefits, etc...
- Negotiate base pay first, then other points the employer would likely agree to
- Save other issues of conflict for last
- Seek to understand ("Is there any flexibility in...")
- Use a collaborative tone ("Can you think of anything else we can do to bring us closer together?")
- Share your professional and/or financial goals
- Keep a calm, business-like tone
- Avoid getting into a discussion of market rates with knowledgeable employers
- Keep HR informed
- NEVER STOP SELLING YOURSELF
Acceptance Letter After Verbal Offer
If you have received a verbal offer, you may want to consider sending an acceptance letter to ensure you and the organization are on the same page.
Acceptance Letter Example (login required)
- Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. 2006
- John Hammond, Ralph Kenney, and Howard Raiffa, Smart Choices. 2002
- Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams, Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas in Bargaining. 2003