7 Tips for a Successful Interview

My formula for a successful interview is:

successful interview = preparedness x relaxation

The tips below will help you greatly increase your chances of a successful interview.


Tip 1: Read from the experts


I read over six books for the internship interview process. I treated the internship interviews as a class – I studied the material from books and did practice problems before the test, a.k.a. the interview. There is usually a go-to book for each industry. For example, for software engineering, you should read ‘Cracking the Coding Interview’ by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. For consulting, you should read ‘Case in Point’ by Marc Cosentino. These books provide you with the essential topics that you should know for the interview, and also include a lot of practice problems.


Tip 2: Develop a structure for problem solving


It is important to get into the zone for an interview. You don’t want to blank and you don’t want to be left with nothing to say because you have no idea how to start. Having a structure in your head for the interview puts you in the problem-solving mindset and also allows you to communicate clearly with the interviewer. For example, for software engineering interviews, I follow this structure:


  1. Repeat the question to make sure that you understood the question and have all the relevant details
  2. Clarify the function input and output
  3. Check assumptions
  4. Give an approach to solving the problem
  5. Discuss the tradeoffs of the approach (time/space complexity)
  6. Code the solution
  7. Test the solution with a normal test case
  8. Test the solution with some edge cases


For consulting, I use this structure:

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


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


Tip 3: Practice and Strategize


It is very important to practice in an interview setting before the interview. 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.


In addition, you can strategize the timings of your interviews to allow you to get the essential practice you need. If you have a dream company, then interview with other companies before your dream company. The interviews with the other companies will give you the practice you need and will make you more confident for your dream company interview. Furthermore, if you receive offers from the other companies, this strategy gives you a great Option B (the next tip).


Tip 4: Have an Option B


As mentioned, my formula for a successful interview is preparedness x relaxation. The above tips mainly help with being prepared (being prepared also makes you more relaxed). This tip helps you in being relaxed for your interview. Having an option B makes you more relaxed in an interview and would lead to a more successful interview. What do I mean by an option B? An option B is any other alternative that you would do if you did not get the job or internship. For example, 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. 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.


Tip 5: Put time in your schedule


If you want to be successful in your job or internship search, you will have to invest time. You will be reading books, travelling, and practicing for interviews. I travelled across the country more than six times in twelve weeks for my interviews, and spent approximately 80 hours in planes. Therefore, 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).


Tip 6: Reflect and create an interview bank of questions


Create a bank of interview questions. What is this? For each interview you do, write down what you did well and what you could do better. In addition, write down the interview questions and the solutions. For example, 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. After doing enough cases and problems, you will start to recognize patterns and you will become more confident and quicker in solving problems.


Tip 7: Know all behavioral questions


You should already have an answer for 90% of behavioral question you will get in an interview. How do you do that? Behavioral questions usually fall under several categories: leadership, teamwork, challenges and successes. 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. A lot of interviewers ask common behavioral questions, such as ‘Tell me about a time when you were in a team and something went wrong’. You should write down answers for common behavioral questions and your answer to these questions should always explain the action that you took.


If you follow all of these tips, you will indubitably be prepared and relaxed for any interview, which will significantly increase your chances of getting that job!


  1. Hey Jessica, how are you?

    I read this article on Business Insider website, and I’ve found incredible. Thank you so much for sharing this experience!

    I hope you don’t mind, I’ve made a translation to Portuguese (I am Brazilian) and I would like to share with you. Maybe those tips could also help people who can only speak Portuguese.

    Thank you so much
    Alexandre Campos

  2. I noticed you mentioned going cross country in planes several times for your interviews. As a college student can you explain how you could afford to do that and how the average student could afford it?

    • Hello Judy, thanks for your question! That is a good question. Any time I travelled for an interview, the company paid for it. Usually, any costs that you incur whilst traveling (meals, hotel, flights) should be reimbursed by the company. So you shouldn’t have to worry about costs once you’ve secured an interview.

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