Learn to Interview
Interviewers will decide who best aligns with the opportunity based on these factors. Use them to guide your preparation:
Strengths – Do you have the right skills and abilities? Examples include anything from a programming language to techniques for hitting deadlines.
Knowledge – What have you already learned, and what will require training or practice? Examples include business models, industry regulations, biology fundamentals.
Behaviors – What do you do with consistency or as a habit? Examples include testing code, gaining consensus as a team, or writing to-do lists on paper.
Attitudes – Is your mindset well-aligned with the role and team? Examples include appetite for risk, pace of work, independence, or amount of structure.
To give your interviewers an effective and lasting impression, aim to offer stories and examples that are:
- Clear – organized, easy to understand, and included relevant information
- Concise – provided the right details without distracting information
- Differentiating – precise, genuine, and distinct from other candidates
✅ Use your NetID to login to Duke’s Big Interview account. Use the “Fast Track” curriculum with 16 videos and quiz to get started with a short but comprehensive overview. In the future, you can go back to the “Mastery Track” to complete the entire interviewing course.
Even without specific roles, organizations, or fields in mind, we encourage you to begin preparing right away. Use this set of three reflective lists to align with the categories above. These will become the stories that you tell during interviews, and qualities you draw from to be at your best throughout the interview process.
✅ Consider your past and write down the times when:
- you’ve done something really well (strengths)
- put in attention and effort beyond expectation (motivation)
- what environments or situations support your best efforts (fit)
✅ Save your lists somewhere accessible and update them over time. Keep the past drafts so that you can notice your progress over time. This can be very motivating when you lose enthusiasm for the search sometime in the future.
✅ Get out your phone or laptop and press record on an audio app. Tell one of the stories you identified in the prediction step above. Try it again!
- What belongs in the beginning, middle, and end to create only one story arc? (Clear)
- How brief can you make it without losing the important and individual details? (Concise)
- What details about what YOU experienced and learned can you include? (Differentiating)
Master the Basics, Starting Now
To begin, pay attention to these four components of most interviews:
• asking your questions
Because most job seekers will need these interviewing skills, it’s helpful to build your skills, knowledge, and habits to support your success starting now. By practicing over time, you’ll have confidence and a good attitude about interviewing – two things that set you up to thrive under pressure and show your strengths, your motivations, and the ways you connect with an opportunity with more ease.
✅ Identify a few ways you might highlight your strengths, motivation, and fit in the four areas: transition, your introduction, interview responses, and your questions
Even at the beginning of your search, you can establish some very general structures that will benefit most of the interviews that come in the future. Don’t worry too much about the details and specifics, you will fill those in as your search progresses. Once invited to interview, you will build on these skills with confidence, shifting your attention into the nuances of each specific interview opportunity.
✅ Right now, focus on:
• remembering what you’ve done in the past and what energizes you
• investigating how this connects to the roles you want and qualities your interviewers seek
• writing and scripting stories that align with common questions and interview response structures
Begin converting these important themes into words, phrases, and responses you could use during your interviews.
Transitioning/ Warm Up
✅ Challenge yourself to go 10% beyond your “small talk” comfort zone in your day-to-day life. This means starting up more conversations with others, being receptive to others’ invitation to chat, and looking for patterns in what works well and does not. By practicing conversation with strangers, you’ll have your own set of habits and topics to rely on during an interview.
✅ Take the 10% comfort zone challenge when introducing yourself to others, too. Test out various approaches by including different information or styles when meeting others. Notice what people pay attention to and ask questions about. Notice what feels right and describes you well as you say it. Keep notes on the phrases and topics that are reliable over testing and time.
✅ Practice your responses to behavioral questions using these sample questions organized by common themes and the self-scoring rubric guides your improvement. Use it when practicing interview responses by yourself or with friends.
Asking Your Questions
✅ Start a “wonder list” where you note the different questions that capture your attention and might relate to your professional life. Over time and as they emerge, add some categories. Reference this list before your interviews, selecting any that are relevant to the conversation. Whether they be personal to the interviewer based on their background or expertise; or aligned with aspects of the field, organization, or role you’re applying for, these questions will be your own, not generic, and differentiate you from other candidates.
✅ Additional Tasks
• Learn about interviewing with this short Interview Strategies course from the Duke Career Center for an introduction to interviewing with helpful tips for preparation and structuring your response using the STAR method.
• Practice an interview in Quinncia, an AI feedback tool (for Engineering Master’s students), to receive AI feedback on your performance.
• Record yourself as you answer interview questions in Big Interview, a video-based tool. You can choose questions you’d like to answer or the type of interview (general, competency-based, etc.) you’d like to practice.
• Use Exponent to get an insider’s view of high-tech interviews across a range of roles. This resource has training modules, practice interviewing opportunities, and an invested community for Q&A.
• Use additional resources like LinkedIn’s 30 Questions developed from interviewing 1300 employers and The Muse’s 30 Behavioral Questions to help practice expected questions.
• Schedule an appointment with a career coach for a practice interview! You provide a job or internship description and complete some pre-work, and we develop a custom interview for you.
Transitioning/ Warm Up
• The “Introducing Yourself” section in Talk about yourself | Duke Career Hub
• Planning Your Response to “Tell me about yourself.” Brainstorm ideas for your response using these prompts. | Duke Career Hub
• How to Respond to “Walk Me Through Your Resume”—and Get Your Interview Started on the Right Note | Duke Career Hub
• Interview Questions & Rubric | Duke Career Hub
• Talk about yourself | Duke Career Hub
• Other Types of Interview Questions | Duke Career Hub
• Answering Questions about Soft Skills: What Will They Ask and How Do I Answer? | Duke Career Hub
• 10 Qualities to Emphasize Instead of Passion in a Job Interview Duke Career Hub
• Bad interview questions and how to handle them | Duke Career Hub
• 6 Great Questions to Ask Your Interviewer | Duke Career Hub
Asking Your Questions
Anticipate Various Interview Types
Interviews come in many forms and the interview process with each organization and for different roles will vary. Steps that are part of a pre-screening process in one application process might show up later (or not at all) in another. Sources like Glassdoor and Exponent are nice resources to check if you want crowdsourced information about what to expect.
Some common interview phases are listed below. Even if you start by interviewing online, you may be invited to meet face-to-face in the final stages.
compiling a pool of qualified candidates to consider more seriously
• recruiter interview
• AI video interview
narrowing the pool of qualified candidates to those most likely to thrive
• behavioral/fit interview
• case interviews
• technical interviews
Final Round Interviews
choosing which candidate receives an offer
• repeat phases of the interview round with closer attention and higher standards
✅ Each organization will have a different interview process, with varying steps, combination of AI/human interactions, and interview types. This article shows you how to check in with your interviewer before each interview to confirm and clarify what to expect. Done well, this allows you to make a strategic connection and ensure you’re preparing well. Coaches can help you to take this initiative with skill and confidence.
Each search is different and you may not encounter the same interview types as your friends if your professional paths are different. Anticipate the interview types you might encounter by looking at trends in the opportunities you plan to target across these four variables:
Fields (consumer products, higher education, consulting, medical devices, contract research)
Organizations (Meta, Edwards Life Sciences, Tesla, Ripple)
Roles (back end developer, data analyst, manufacturing engineer, product development intern)
Locations (United States, Triangle area, full-time remote).
For example, product managers and consultants will each invest considerable time preparing for case interviews, but different for each role. At one organization, an AI coding interview may be an immediate step, at another you’ll code in front of an interviewer, explaining as you work.
Begin preparing for interviews right away with these three steps.
1. Complete the focused study and practice that are required to be successful in technical and case interviewing.
✅ If you’re targeting product, software, design, or data science roles, use your NetID to login to Exponent for their training materials and practice community. Don’t miss out on their active Slack community with an active Q&A.
2. Build your ability to customize your introduction and stories about past experiences for each interview.
✅ Complete the “Fast Track” video lessons in Big Interview to familiarize yourself with interviewing best practices. If you’re ambitious, there is also a “Mastery Track” with more detail.
3. Familiarize yourself with AI interviewing and the factors that influence your success.
✅ Sign into Quinncia, upload the latest version of your resume, and complete a practice AI interview. Review your results, practice, and try again!
✅ Additional Tasks
• Watch this recorded workshop from Spring of 2022 on How to Use Quinncia to Beat AI Interviews. What you learn here can also teach you tips for any job interview.
• Use your Duke NetID and Exponent set up a practice interview session. Every day, at 11 am and 9 pm ET, they conduct peer mock interview matching sessions, where you’ll be matched up algorithmically with the best practice partner for you! These partners often include people already working in tech fields.
• Tips for Virtual Interviews | Duke Career Hub
• Online Interview Advice from Employers & Recruiters | Duke Career Hub
• How to succeed in a HireVue Video Interview | Duke Career Hub
• How to successfully navigate one-way video job interviews (opinion) | Inside Higher Ed
Final Round Interviews
• Guide To Understanding the Technical Interview (With Tips and Examples) | Indeed
• Technical Interviewing Guide | Duke Career Hub
• The Ultimate Guide to Acing Your Technical Interview in 2022 | Learn to Code With Me
• The Ultimate Guide to Acing Technical Interviews for Data Scientists | Duke Career Hub
Build on the Basics When Ready
The basics of interview preparation focusing primarily on yourself. You’ve invested in developing and understanding the behaviors, attitudes, skills and knowledge that you can bring to work opportunities. Going BEYOND the basics empowers you to connect with your interviewer through refining the finer details of interviewing.
An alum shared this note just after he started his job at a top consulting firm and began interviewing candidates, himself:
It was weird. I noticed everything discussed previously. Lack of preparation. And what I really didn’t like is people reading their screens. Or searching their computer for answers. I found that very unprofessional.
More importantly the all-importance of the Beginning Pitch and questions asked. The Pitch sets the tone for the whole interview. And the questions asked by the candidate leave lasting impressions.
✅ Model your practice and responses after what Bill Gates does artfully in this fun interview video with Steph Curry. This Forbes article breaks it down. Take note that his responses are conversational. They’re natural and authentic, not at all stiff or robotic.
✅ Inform or refresh yourself on interview etiquette in the United States. This article covers some fundamentals.
Kill your scripts.
Interviews are conversations, not performances, so your next challenge is to move beyond every well-rehearsed response you developed in your initial interview preparation.
✅ Take the “Ten Times Challenge”. Starting with your interview introduction, answer an interview question or prompt repeatedly WITHOUT repetition. After ten tries, you’ll be able to identify the important themes, the phrases that work best, and which story arcs and details work better than others. You’ll also have confidence that you can make it from beginning to end with nimbleness, without needing notes to support you.
Include emotion and insight.
Excitement, devastation, passion, commitment, failures, successes, and boredom have all been a part of your path so far. They will be part of your work life to come as you face deadlines, difficult coworkers, project failures, regulatory environments, and so on. During the interview process, the recruiters and your future boss and coworkers want to understand what motivates you to persevere.
✅ Ensure your introduction demonstrates you’re well-aligned with opportunities by including elements of both motivation AND strength.
✅ Incorporate insight and emotion into your behavioral responses. If you’re using the STAR format to structure your stories, keep the Situation/Task short to leave time to share the highs/lows of your experience and lessons learned in the Action and Task sections, which should be longer.
Ask incredible questions.
Like mentioned above, the questions you ask at the end of an interview leave a lasting impression and are a powerful way to connect with the interviewer and stand apart from the crowd. As an intelligent and creative person, we know you’ve got questions. As someone who is enrolled in a graduate program and starting or shifting your career, we know you’re learning in new areas. Your role in the interview process is to be attentive and curious about the things that others have figured out (or are working on) that you haven’t yet.
✅ Create a “Question Tracker” document. Get in the habit of noting what you wonder about and want to know whenever it comes up. This could be in class or doing homework; when networking or attending employer events; while reading job descriptions or company webpages; any time, really!
✅ Prepare your introduction, responses to behavioral questions, and the questions you ask for each interview using the Interview Questions and Feedback Template.
✅ In addition to the preparation steps listed above, practice these recruiter-recommended conversational skills for interview success:
1. Do not diminish your work with words like basic or simple.
2. Ask for clarification, it demonstrates critical thinking and avoids wasting time.
3. Narrate moments you are thinking so we know why there is a pause, especially in phone interviews.
✅ Additional Tasks
• Continue practicing with people: peers, family, faculty, the Graduate Communications Center team, and your career coaches.
• Continue practicing using Duke’s technologies: Quinncia (customized AI interview based on your resume), Exponent (tech sector-focused training modules and a community for practicing), and BigInterview (training modules plus a large library of interview questions).
• Use the materials in the “Ask Questions to Connect and Learn” page to practice the art of asking a good question. There’s even a section for standing out in interviews.