Cornell University

Successful Interviewing

Advance Preparation

Research the Position and the Organization
Obtain a detailed job description, if possible, and be prepared to mention job responsibilities during the inter­view. Attend employer information sessions and read the organization’s website and literature, news articles on the employer, and other information sources to learn about products and services; size (sales and number of employees, locations, etc.); employer strengths, values, and distinguishing characteristics; recent stock performance, if a publicly traded firm; key staff and orga­nizational structure; competitors and growth potential; and industry trends. Conduct information interviews with alumni and others in similar organizations to increase your knowledge of the career field and the industry. 

Online resources such as, LexisNexis, and provide valuable employer information. Gain access through or a Cornell library gateway page.

Identify Connections Between You and the Position

Develop Questions to Ask the Interviewer
Formulate questions covering a broad range of topics of interest to you—business direction and goals, business philosophy and management style, competitive stance and market growth projections, and career paths/career enhancements—based on your research of the organi­zation and understanding of the position.

Take Advantage of Resources
A search of the Cornell Career Services Library holdings in 103 Barnes Hall, using the keyword “interviewing,” will help you identify many resources on effective interviewing techniques. Some examples are The Everything Practice Interview Book, 2nd ed., by Dawn Rosenberg McKay, for general interviewing advice; and Cracking the Coding Interview, by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, for programming interviews.


Analyze and Improve Your Communication Skills

Become Comfortable Talking About Yourself

Practice Interviewing Techniques

  • Be sure you understand a long or complex question before you answer. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.
  • Take time to think about your answer before you begin; short pauses are acceptable.
  • Learn to generate answers that are neither too long (over two minutes) nor too short (under twenty seconds).
  • Frame your answer with introductory words when appropriate, for example, “I see three main points that relate to this issue. First, ...”


Evaluate Your Performance
Make it a point to learn something from your interview experience, even one that didn’t go as well as you had hoped. Analyze your performance immediately after each interview, asking yourself:

Meet with a career advisor to discuss difficult questions or issues about the interview.

Follow Up With the Employer

Following each interview, write a short and timely letter of appreciation to the interviewer. This will demonstrate professionalism and give you an opportunity to make another positive impression.

  • Include any information or documents requested during the interview.
  • Restate briefly any points you think you may not have communicated effectively, or add an important point you may have forgotten.
  • Send a letter or e-mail to the key contact person who arranged an on-site visit, and request that your thanks be conveyed to others involved in the interview process. Avoid sending e-mails outside of normal work hours.
  • Direct a separate letter to your potential supervisor, if you interviewed with that person.

After the Interview

  • Send your follow-up letters promptly.
  • Return phone calls during normal business hours as soon as possible. If you delay in returning them, an employer may assume you’re not interested in the position.
  • Notify the employer immediately if you accept another position.

Application Status
If you receive a rejection from an employer for whom you would like to work, follow up with another letter reiterating your interest in the organization and expressing your desire to be considered for other positions in the future.