The Leeds Office of Career Strategy has 10 great tips to help you crush it!
1. Stay Current
Think ahead to holding a casual conversation with your interviewers and what they may find interesting; finding common ground can create memorable moments and personal connections that separate you from the competition. Avoid cliché answers your interviewers have likely heard ten times that day —and be ready to elaborate on news stories of interest. Additionally, it’s always a plus to showcase your interest and competence in the world of business.
Ava’s Tip: I personally follow @wsj, @bbcnews, and @bloombergbusiness on Instagram and listen to “Up First” by NPR when getting ready in the morning. I also turned on notifications from the Apple News app and set my interest preferences to technology and business to get more personalized content. By implementing these practices into my daily routine, I feel confident that I could carry a discussion regarding global news while simultaneously forming my own unbiased opinions.
2. Check Your Tech
Prior to the big day, select a quiet space with a clean and professional background. Make sure your technology is optimized, set up properly, and working flawlessly (plan to use your computer, not your phone). Test your internet connection and microphone, and consider wearing earbuds or headphones to facilitate better communication. If your Wi-Fi is spotty, consider using a hard-wired connection via an ethernet cable. Find out what platform you’ll be using to interview and optimize your settings in advance—be sure to check your name, photo, and video settings (CU Boulder often uses Zoom). On the day of the interview, arrive early so you can remain calm, cool, and collected even if you have to tackle unexpected tech issues. The less you have to think about your gear, the more you’ll be able to focus on highlighting your accomplishments.
Tanya’s Tip: Practice by recording yourself using the platform you’ll be interviewing on, answering anticipated questions just as you would during the interview (to save your Zoom recording, make sure to select ‘record on this computer’ rather than ‘record to the cloud’). Almost immediately, you will be able to pick up on anything that is subpar or doesn’t look and feel natural. You’ll also be able to determine if any sound, lighting, or tech adjustments are necessary.
3. Dress the Part
Whether there is an explicitly stated dress code or no information at all, always arrive dressed to impress. Even on the virtual platform, appearance goes a long way, and it isn’t limited to what you’re wearing. In fact, your nonverbal communication skills are just as likely to be a dealbreaker as your clothing, but that’s nothing to stress about! Think about what you might look for as one of the interviewers: you would likely seek someone who could maintain eye contact, be expressive with their emotions, talk with their hands (in moderation), and doesn’t continually fidget or do something distracting. Try your best to come across as professional with your clothing—avoid bright colors and anything that could be perceived as objectionable by your audience. The goal is for you to be the center of attention, rather than any distractions.
4. Pass the Airport Test
If you’ve never heard of the airport test, it’s one of the most common methods to screen candidates in an interview, many times without realizing it. What the interviewers are looking for is whether or not they would mind being stranded with you in the airport. This may sound intimidating, but it’s a simple measure to see if you’re a good cultural/personality fit. Think of anything an individual may do to make it difficult to be with them for extended periods of time. Think effective communication, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence; in the case of a layover, or a delayed departure, you may be travelling through a chaotic environment and dealing with exhaustion. If you can’t pass the airport test, why would your interviews want to spend time with you? The main advice here is to be delightful to be around.
5. Project Enthusiasm
Genuine enthusiasm is so refreshing to interviewers. If your interviewers can sense that you are truly excited to have this opportunity, they are that much more likely to cheer you on and advocate for you later on. A lack of enthusiasm can translate to boredom or apathy. Here are some simple things you can do while preparing for an interview—convey what you bring to the table, how you will invest in the program, and what your legacy will be.
6. First Impressions Matter
Be prepared for the most common, yet sometimes most difficult question: “can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” This may seem very straightforward and simple, however it’s easy to get off on the wrong foot.
Do not fear though! When well-prepared, this one is an easy win. To break it down— start with a brief elevator pitch of who you are and what you do. To keep it simple, begin by sharing the present: your name, high school, any special curricular or co-curricular involvement, along with your current employment. Then, transition to the past: tell the interviewers where you grew up and something memorable about you, such as a sport, hobby, or interest that has been prominent in your life long-term—reminder, this response is super open-ended and customizable, so feel free to go about it however you see fit. You could also briefly touch on an experience or passion that provides insight to who you are, just be succinct. Finally, as you’re wrapping up, bring it full circle to how you see your future. This could be anything from talking about your vision of the future, whether that you college experience, or even a global problem you seek to solve, and how this opportunity would be instrumental in your success. Whatever you choose to go with, keep it brief, about one minute in length; this is an efficient way to train yourself to be concise while not rushing through it.
A Tip from the LSP Designing Your Leeds Course: To start brainstorming your response to this question, get out a piece of paper and write down facts about yourself (this could be hobbies, where you’re from, awards you have won, etc.). Then, have a friend or family member highlight the most interesting and try to form your story around that.
Ava’s Real Life Examples: I thought it might be helpful to share my past and present answers to this question —spaced exactly a year apart— to help you understand what it may look like in practice!
As a Senior in High School: Hello, my name is Ava Barnett, and I am currently a senior at Centaurus High School pursuing the IB Diploma with an emphasis in engineering. I’m originally from Athens, Ohio, but I moved to Lafayette, CO before my junior year of high school. Immediately following my arrival, I jumped into the IB Program and started taking engineering classes, all of which were brand new to me. I also joined the school’s varsity soccer team and the elite FC Boulder travel team to continue my love for the sport. Throughout high school I’ve enjoyed opportunities to shadow and intern with medical doctors as a way of gaining insight into the healthcare industry, and I’m thrilled to be attending Leeds in the fall to explore the intersection of medicine and business.
As a Current Freshman in College: Hello, my name is Ava Barnett, and I am a freshman at the University of Colorado Boulder - Leeds School of Business pursuing a dual area of emphasis in Finance and Entrepreneurship. I am currently involved in various student orgs and programs such as Leeds Honors and Scholars, and the BE Tech Scholars program. Additionally, I serve as the VP of Community for the Leeds Consulting Group. I grew up in southeast Ohio until I moved to Colorado prior to my junior year of high school. There, I played varsity soccer, earned the IB diploma, and went on to commit to Leeds. Now, I am extremely involved as a learning assistant (LA) for communication strategy and I’m also aiming to earn three certificates. Upon graduation, it’s my dream to commit to a career in consulting at an MBB firm and specialize in healthcare.
7. Show Off Your C.A.R.
You may be wondering how to effectively answer questions in an interview, and the C.A.R. method is your secret weapon. This preparation technique is the most straightforward way to nail any and every question. C.A.R. stands for Challenge, Action, Result, which help you organize your thoughts and deliver a compelling response. To put this to practice, take the following question: “Give me an example of a time when you did not meet someone's expectations. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?”
While you probably have a few ideas in mind of how to respond to these questions, practice by writing around two sentences that fall under each of the following: C/Challenge, A/Action, and R/Result. Again, you want to be careful to stay on topic while responding, so the C.A.R. method does a wonderful job of pacing you and keeping you on track while also rounding back to the question and ending on a reflection. It’s best to have anywhere from five to eight C.A.R. responses nailed down so that during the interview all you have to do is choose which story is most fitting to the situation.
8. Practice Makes Perfect
Mock interviews with friends and family can be uncomfortable, but they can also be extremely beneficial to your success. After all, putting yourself in an uncomfortable position will make the actual interview feel more comfortable. It’s important to keep in mind that greater preparation often correlates to great success.
Ava’s Tip: As someone that has struggled with anxiety since a young age, thinking ahead to an interview was almost unbearable until learning that by no means do you always have to be sure of an answer right away! In fact, you want to avoid coming across as robotic and over-rehearsed. One of my go-to strategies while interviewing is to actually give myself the time to think by bringing a water bottle and a notepad, I promise it helps. Not only does sipping on water save me when my mouth gets dry, but taking a quick sip of water after being asked a question gives me a moment to reflect and prepare as well. It’s also good practice to vocalize to your interviewer that you need a quick moment to think; even something as simple as “that’s a great question, let me think about that for a moment” can demonstrate that you’re comfortable with thinking on the spot and communicating with the interviewer—so important! They ask you difficult questions on purpose, and they don’t expect you to know the answer to everything. What they are really seeking is for you to demonstrate your thought process and adaptability.
9. Be Curious
It’s concerning when candidates don’t come prepared with thoughtful questions! To demonstrate your interest and attentiveness during an interview—wrap up the interview on a high note with one to two thoughtful questions.The most impressive questions are future-oriented, meaning you might imagine yourself in the position you’re interviewing for and ask a question that helps your interviewers envision you in that role as well. Consider asking hypothetical questions about what success may look like a year from now, or ask personal and thought-provoking questions that give the interviewers a chance to speak about their experiences.
10. Follow Up
One of the most important actions you can take is following up after your interview, as it makes such a dramatic difference. In fact, it can be a differentiating factor—it leaves a positive impression and demonstrates professionalism. More often than not, the interviewers choose to respond with appreciation for your note and see your display of gratitude as the metaphorical cherry on top. Regardless of the outcome, make it a habit to always follow up: the personal benefits along with the appreciation shown to the interviewer leave a lasting impression.
Tanya’s Tip: Handwritten note or email? Nowadays, with virtual interviews as the gold standard, a handwritten note isn’t always feasible or even ideal. Instead, try sending an email (same day or within 24 hours) to each interviewer. Thank them for their time and consideration while also voicing that you look forward to hearing from them. This should be short and to the point in order to be considerate of their time. And remember—this is your time to shine! You’ve made it to the interview round, so you’re already a success!