Prepare to Rock Your Interview!

On March 2nd, the Office of Career Development at Rockefeller College concluded the final sessions of its first ever Mock Interview Week. While similar mock interview programs are provided by various career services across the University, this program was tailored specifically for Rockefeller College students. From February 26th to March 2nd students were able to sit down with alumni and get valuable feedback to help them improve their interviewing skills.

Yalitza Negron, Director of Internships and Career Services, launched this program as an effort to create more opportunities for students to gain confidence in their interviewing skills through increased knowledge of the interviewing process and tailored feedback on their performance.

“I hope students are able to increase their confidence and feel empowered by understanding what is involved in the interview process,” said Yalitza, discussing her motivation to put the event together. “It is important to our alumni and college that our students are as prepared as possible. The more students are able to leverage this and other resources, the better they will be in navigating their career.” All this while strengthening the College’s connection with alumni.

The program was structured so that each student was paired with an alumnus who shares similar career passions and interests for a 30 to 45-minute interview. The interviewer was given information regarding a position the student is interested in along with the student’s résumé and cover letter. Students took these mock interviews seriously to get the most out of it.

Devante Spellman from the MPA program stated, “I mentally prepared myself. I dressed up as if it was an actual interview and also brought numerous resumes with me.”

During the interview, alumni had the option to utilize a standard set of questions or customize the interview as they saw fit to best help the student. After the interview, students completed a verbal self-evaluation where they reflected on what the felt they did well and what they need to improve. Alumni shared their experiences and provided feedback to students regarding areas for improvement and general guidance.

Toby Greenfield, an MPA student was very happy with the experience and stated, “I think my key takeaway was that I should be confident and stay true to myself during interviews, even if I feel out of place.”

The program was a success as alumni and students both expressed that their sessions were productive and enjoyable. Students cited different reasons for attending, such as wanting practice for interviewing for positions in new fields they were exploring, and simply wanting to refine their skills.

Diana Cruz, a student in the MIA program, expressed gratitude for her alumni interviewer and found the experience extremely helpful. “I feel much more prepared for interviews. Sheri helped me improve my telephone interview skills and I am glad the interview featured difficult questions, such as ‘name a time you demonstrated leadership’.”

Alumna Sheri Denkensohn-Trott, BS ’89, a member of the College’s Advisory Board, gave excellent feedback to students and shared some tips for having a successful interview. For students with an expressed interest in federal government, Sheri gave specific feedback using her personal expertise. Sheri stressed that students, “Learn everything there is to know about the position and the place you are interviewing with. Look at their website, publications, etc., because then you will come across as well prepared and extremely professional.”

Sheri and other alumni participants provided additional recommendations such as:

  • Certain questions should not take very long to come up with answer. For example, “Tell me a time when you experienced a challenge and how did you overcome it?”
  • If you are a fast talker, be mindful of that and practice slowing down your speech.
  • Give tangible answers that tell a story instead of generalizations because that makes much more of an impact on the interviewer and helps them to understand the strengths of the interviewee.
  • Do not ramble. Keep your responses and stories concise.
  • Include examples from class and previous internships.
  • If a person tends to be nervous, they should get there early and either go into the bathroom, go outside, or do anything that is comfortable to get themselves prepped, so they are ready to start answering immediately when the interviewer comes into the room.
  • Don’t forget to smile!