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Setting Yourself Up for a Successful Interview

Interviews can be very intimidating and stressful. Whether it is for a campus organization, an internship, or an actual job, it can be challenging to remember all the things you want to mention or ask because you can’t calm yourself down.


To organize your thoughts during these stressful meetings, I have created a walkthrough to set you up for success!

Know both your resume and cover letter so well that you can answer in-depth questions about either of them.

Prepare yourself to answer any questions about your resume. It is a given that interviewers ask specifics about your experience, like what you learned from it and why you think it has prepared you for the position you are going for. 


Be able to speak on exactly what you did during those past experiences and explain how they made you professionally grow into a worthwhile candidate. It is also important to have a couple of extra paper copies of your resume to give to your interviewer in case they ask. 


Your cover letter is also a way to mention your passions and interests sparked from past experiences. Be able to explain how you became interested in these topics. 


For example, I always like to mention in my cover letters how I am very passionate about storytelling and using my voice. I link this interest to Penn State’s Her Campus chapter. Through this organization, I get to use my voice to tell stories published on this national website.

Know about the company and the specific position you are applying to.

Before heading into an interview, you should always do some research on the company. Review their website for past accomplishments, events, or projects and check if they have a company mission statement. 


If they do, you should incorporate the wording from that statement into your cover letter or even into the interview. This can show your employer that you read it, and you will help fulfill that mission as a potential employee. 


Look up the company’s social media accounts. Check for an Instagram, Twitter and a LinkedIn account. You can learn a ton about a company and the people that use the service or product through these accounts. Use all of this information to understand what the company is really about and brainstorm some beneficial questions you could ask the interviewer.


Use the website and social media accounts to see what part your possible position would play in the company. Most of the time, the job description that comes with the recruitment email or application can be enough to figure this out, but it never hurts to look for more information.


Going into the interview, make sure you know the job description pretty well so that you can answer questions like, “Why should you be considered for this position?”

Know how to answer the most common interview questions.

So many interviews include some of these classic questions. It is a good idea to have some of these answers memorized so you don’t end up stumbling. 


Some questions you will probably see are:

What is one of your strengths and weaknesses? What are some of your short-term and long-term goals? Tell me about an obstacle you overcame and how you did it. Why do you think you are a good candidate for this position? 


Having a quick answer to these questions can show an interviewer that you are prepared and know yourself well enough to talk about your good and bad traits without hesitation.

You are interviewing them too, prepare questions to ask the interviewer.

Being able to ask in-depth questions in an interview says a lot about you as a candidate. You always want to have something to ask when they offer you a time to ask your questions. 


Some of these questions can be:

What does success look like in this position, and how do you measure it? What’s your favorite part of your position? What does your typical workday look like?


You may want to ask two more tricky questions:

What is the average pay for a position like this? When can I expect to hear back from you? I personally am nervous to ask these questions most of the time, but their answers are just as important for you to know in your job search decision.

Follow through after the interview.

Send a thank-you email within twenty-four hours of the interview. Thank the interviewer for their time and for considering you for the position. Let them know you are looking forward to hearing back from them. 


Consider following the company on LinkedIn or the other platforms you previously found them on while doing research. This will show that you are interested in what the company is doing. 


Also, don’t be afraid to follow up! If you have not heard from them in a while and they never gave you an actual date that you would hear their decision by, it is okay to send an email. Wait a couple of weeks, depending on what their timeline looks like. That way, you don’t stress them out, but let them know you are still interested.

If you follow all of these pointers to prepare yourself and feel ready, you will have the potential for a successful interview.


Interviews may not always be easy, and you will have to think on your feet for some random questions. The best thing you can do is research and prepare beforehand, then deep breathe going into the interview. Good luck, you got it!

Marlena is a third-year in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Psychology and Digital Media Trends and Analytics. She is so grateful to be at Penn State and loves learning more about communications, her peers, and herself every day. She hopes to use this knowledge and her own positive outlook to help others in any way she can.
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