7 tips to ace an interview

Posted: September 16, 2017 in Job Search Help

Great article from Insider (http://www.thisisinsider.com/how-to-interview-internship-google-apple-facebook-2017-1?utm_content=bufferb9ff1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer-insider-design):

A Harvard junior who received internship offers from Google, Apple, Facebook, and more shares her 7 tips to ace an interview

Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 12.10.54 PM.png
Preparation is key, says Harvard student Jessica Pointing (pictured).

Jessica Pointing knows how to interview.

The Harvard University junior received internship offers at companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, McKinsey, Bain, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley.

A computer science and physics major, she’s received offer letters for roles in software engineering, data science, product management, consulting, investment banking, trading, and quantitative finance.

How does she do it? She credits being prepared and relaxed with her string of successful interviews.

Pointing published her best interviewing tips on her blog, the Optimize Guide,which features educational and career advice for high school and college students. Business Insider has shared her tips below, with permission.

1. Do your homework

Pointing made sure to hit the books before interviewing.

“I treated the internship interviews as a class — I studied material from books and did practice problems before the test (a.k.a. the interview),” she writes. “There is usually a go-to book for each industry.” These books help prepare job candidates, covering likely interview topics and even featuring practice problems.

For example, for software engineering interviews, she recommends “Cracking the Coding Interview” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, while people going for consulting gigs should brush up on “Case in Point” by Marc Cosentino.

2. Develop a structure for problem solving

The stress of interviewing can make it pretty easy to blank out when you’re speaking to a hiring manager.

That’s why Pointing says it’s important to adopt a problem-solving mindset.

Here’s the structure she used for answering questions in her software engineering interviews:

  • Repeat the question to make sure that you understood the question and have all the relevant details.
  • Clarify the function input and output.
  • Check assumptions.
  • Give an approach to solving the problem.
  • Discuss the tradeoffs of the approach.
  • Code the solution.
  • Test the solution with a normal test case.
  • Test the solution with some edge cases.

She also broke down the approach she uses for consulting interviews:

  • Repeat the question to make sure that you understood the question and have all the relevant details.
  • Explain the objectives of the case and ask if there are any more objectives.
  • Ask any clarifying questions.
  • Generate ideas and a solution.
  • Organize and structure the answer.
  • For calculations, give insights into what the calculated number means.
  • Summarize the case at the end.

“These structures ensure that I hit almost everything I need to mention for a successful interview,” Pointing says. “In consulting, giving insights into a number you just calculated separates a good candidate from a great candidate.”

3. Practice and strategize

“It is very important to practice in an interview setting before the interview,” Pointing says. “If your college offers mock interviews, take them! Some companies offer mock interviews too. There are other services out there, such as Refdash that give you free mock interviews. Do a practice interview at every opportunity.”

If at all possible, Pointing recommends scheduling your “dream interview” last. That way, all of your previous interviews can serve as practice sessions.

4. Have a backup plan

Interviews can be pretty stressful.

So how can you keep your cool when the stakes are high?

Pointing advises having a backup plan in mind. You should always have an alternative path to pursue if your job or internship opportunity falls through.

“If you are interviewing for the summer and you go into an interview with no plan for the summer, then you will probably be way more stressed,” Pointing says. “Instead, if you already have an offer or a vague idea of something you would do in the summer (e.g. travel), then the stakes for the interview aren’t as high. The more options you already have, the more relaxed you will be in the interview and the higher your chances are for the job.”

So take some pressure off yourself and make sure to sketch out a backup plan.

5. Invest time

The interviewing process isn’t just about setting time aside to talk to a bunch of hiring managers. You’ll need to devote time to reading, practicing, and perhaps even traveling.

“I traveled across the country more than six times in twelve weeks for my interviews, and spent approximately 80 hours in planes,” Pointing says. “Make sure you have enough time in your schedule to invest in your internship search process. You should dedicate a few hours each day practicing for interviews. I scheduled time in my calendar for interview practice for every morning (after my regular morning routine).”

6. Create a question bank

Pointing recommends that after each interview, job candidates write down interview questions and solutions, as well as their own strengths and areas they could improve on.

“In one of my software engineering interviews, I missed a particular data structure that would have allowed me to have given a more efficient solution, but I made a note of it, and in another interview later on, I ran into a question where I could use that data structure,” she says. “After doing enough cases and problems, you will start to recognize patterns and you will become more confident and quicker in solving problems.”

7. Don’t skim over behavioral questions

Don’t just focus on industry-specific questions. Pointing says that interviewees must also come prepared with answers for common behavioral questions.

“Behavioral questions usually fall under several categories: leadership, teamwork, challenges and successes,” she writes. “You should identify stories in your life that fall under each of those categories. You should also write down those stories and all the details. Writing down your answers to behavioral questions before the interview is important.”

The Resume

Posted: August 3, 2010 in Job Search Help

Basic Rule

Never cause the reader to hesitate on any wording or distracting visual elements.


To get a job – you don’t need to state that in the resume.


Every word should contribute to selling your skills.


Your resume should not be a visual cacophony. Keep it simple.

The Whole Package

Today’s resume is presented and read electronically. As you compose your resume pay attention to the top half of the first page. It is here that you hook the reader with an opening statement of the skills that you intend to present. This is followed immediately by your most recent position that further elaborates on the skills that you presented in the initial paragraph. This most recent position can extend beyond the first half of the first page, but should leave room to introduce the previous position. Followed by all other positions, education, awards, publications, organizations, and whatever else contributes to the over all content of the resume. Occasionally education is such a key element of the job requirement that it could be presented after the initial statement and before the most recent position.

Do’s and Do Not’s

Use a single font for the entire resume (Times Roman is the easiest to read).

Use simple bullets (don’t get fancy with check marks or arrows).

Use tabs to position elements that you want to separate from other text, but set the tab for that element in the tab bar, do not tab tab… space, space, space… to visually position the element. This will cause inconsistent results on different word processing packages.

Use the built in formatting of your word processing package but don’t try to use all of them. I would suggest using Heading 1 for your name, Heading 2 for the section titles, Heading 3 for each position. Use bullets, not numbered list (the reader will hesitate wondering at the priority of the items). All paragraphs should use the Text body format of your word processor. Note: the defaults for some elements may be a different font family – you can use select all and change all fonts to Times Roman after you have completed building your resume.

Proof read your resume – no, really, don’t rely on your word processor to catch everything, after all there are too many ways to present two different things. Read it backwards, have someone else read it for content, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Edit and proof your resume with the Nonprinting Characters displayed. There should not be a single extra space, tab, new line, hidden element, or revision text in the document. Neatness counts.

Basic Rule (again because it is important)

Never cause the reader to hesitate on any wording or distracting visual elements.

Before you do anything, go to Job-Hunt.org and make sure you know what you are doing. Another good site is Career Jockey for more resources. Also check PrepareToBeHired.com – some fee, some free.

I would also strongly recommend that you get at least a free membership on LinkedIn. The hiring manager (or director or C level) that you want to network with is most likely on LinkedIn. Work on building your network on LinkedIn by inviting all of your present and past managers, work associates, relatives, and anybody else you know. The more links that you have, the more people you have access to on LinkedIn. You can invite me to link (I will accept any invitation) at  http://www.linkedin.com/in/chetvolpe.

While all the job boards, classified ads, internet postings, resume distributions, and contact with agency recruiters (like me) are an essential part of the job search (after all, you don’t want to miss anything), networking person to person is the single best way to get the interview that will lead to an offer. You need to make these connection via networking events in your area, talking to people that you find on sites like LinkedIn, talking to strangers while in line at the store, tweeting, blogging, research at the local library, and searches on the internet.

One site that facilitates this type of connection is SimplyHired. When you do a skill search in your local area, some of the results may show a LinkedIn icon next to the result item. This will show you a list of people at the company advertising the position. This gives you a place to start – a target list of people to connect with that work at the company. Even if none of these are in a position to make a hiring decision, a peer contact will be able to recommend you to a manager for the position. Many companies have internal referral bonuses to encourage employees to recommend people they know for open positions (this is the single biggest source for new employees in most companies that I have experienced).

Next on the list would be making contact with several agency recruiters in your area. Establishing a relationship with the ones that you feel comfortable with will insure that you are on their radar when the right job is available. I suggest that you do the following with this group at least every other week:

  • call to check in and see what is new
  • update them on your activities
  • share any interviews that you have had
    (this is key as companies that are actively interviewing for positions are good leads for a recruiter – this is a give that will put you on top of their list)
  • provide information on companies that just did not respond to you on a job application
  • keep the dialog open.

You will find recruiters that will resist this level of contact – if so, move on to others that are willing to work with you.

One additional strategy that you may want to work on – check out any place online that recruiters have access to free services to post jobs or search resumes. Two examples are FeeTrader.com and any group on LinkedIn that provides job postings. I will add more specific sites in this category as time permits (your input always welcome).

Good luck and I invite you to provide any feedback or questions via email (chet.volpe at gmail dot com) to phone (303-578-9288).


Chet Volpe – Senior Recruiter (Retired)
Link to me on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/chetvolpe
© Chester B. Volpe 2009, 2010