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College Student Tips to Surviving Your Formal Interview

If you are in a business major, it’s pretty certain that you’re going to have to take part in at least one formal interview. These can come in all shapes and sizes, from fancy dinners to a panel where several people are interviewing you. I admit they are a little daunting at first, no matter what kind, but with practice and a good idea of the protocol, there’s nothing to fear!


Remember, like it or not, your interviewer is going to make a judgment about the way you look as soon as they see you. You only have a few seconds, so make that first impression count.

My school always recommends that you invest in a good quality suit, and that’s always a safe choice. I also think that if you’re in a pinch you can pull off the same look with a couple of choice pieces. When it comes to suit colors, it’s best to stick to solid dark blues, grays, and blacks. Always black.

As for the shirt, you can get more personalized with colors, just nothing you would wear on a night out.

Speaking of personalization, when it comes to scenting, most professors have told me not to wear any perfume. You never know when an interviewer may have a pet peeve about perfume/cologne smell, or the smell could be more powerful than you think and you don’t want to put them off with that. Smell, of all the senses, is the most strongly tied with memory, so play it safe and leave the interviewer with a good memory of you.

Also, if your clothes are not ironed and clean, make sure to do so. That stain that you think is way too faint for anyone to notice, it’s visible. Clean it up!


If you have not heard of this term before, interviewers love to ask behavioral questions. These types of questions focus on getting an answer that will tell the employer if you are someone they want to work with. Generally the questions will describe a troubling situation and ask you to explain how you have handled or would handle these circumstances.

My mother advised me to use the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You explain a situation like the one posed that you were in and what the main task was, you detail what action you would take, and then you describe what the result was. Much like this method’s name, I’d recommend stories that show off your star moments, or times when you really outdid yourself because the result was very good.

Another part of the interview that some tend to forget is that you are here to learn just as much about the company as they are there to learn about you. You need to know if these people are a group you will get along with and want to work with, so ask questions! Not only will you learn if you like the environment of the job, but you’ll also show true interest to the interviewer(s).


In the final moments of the interview, as your host is gesturing you toward the door, make sure you shake their hand firmly, smile, and say thank you. They have given you an opportunity they did not give to others, so it is king to show your gratitude.

A great way to follow up and leave a little more impression is with a thank you note. This is a nice, brief, handwritten letter where you recall the time spent together (this sounds romantic, but it’s not), that you enjoyed it, and you are thankful for their time. This letter can either be pre-written, or you can find a way to write it privately afterwards and then later take it back to them or a secretary.

Once that’s done, the very last things to do are hope and pray that you get a call back! At this point, you have no power on their decision, and you did the best job that you could. If you get an offer, great! If they don’t offer the job, at the very least you still got interview practice, and that is surely no waste.

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