Interviewing & Networking


“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a familiar adage to most people. Looking deeper into this phrase reveals the importance of establishing relationships with people who can help you move forward with your career. Networking is about connecting with individuals and developing a relationship from which you can seek advice and request referrals to get your foot in the door. Building relationships can offer leads and referrals to help you gain successful employment as well as to build your reputation in a positive way. This should be a two-way street in which you contribute to others as well as for you to benefit from them.

Networking Skills

Think of networking as a skill that can be developed. Following the tips below is a good way to develop this skill:

Set Goals
  • Just as you’ve had to with your graduate studies, you need to set goals for networking. Share these goals with a friend, partner, and/or advisor, including how many people you want to meet this quarter.
Keep your Options Open
  • Do your best to put yourself in circumstances where you can meet people. Avoid playing on your phone, leaving a meeting early, and missing opportunities to network.
Be Prepared
  • Practice your elevator speech and how you can talk about yourself and your work while still being able to connect to others. Your goal is to pique someone’s interest, not drone on about minute details.
Gain Confidence by Practicing
  • Try “networking” at a social party, a partner’s work event, or at your housemate’s summer family reunion – a place where there is little job pressure present. Use this opportunity to practice what you say about yourself, how you build a relationship, and how you want to shape how your professional-self is seen by others. 

How to Network

Once you have developed your networking skills, it is time to put them to good use. The tips below are a good way to help you get started:

Make a List
  • Begin by making a thorough list of possible contacts that might be able to help you get a job. job, or to meet with you for an informational interview (see next section).  Even in networking, be somewhat specific:  you represent yourself better by stating you are looking for a marketing analyst job (for example) than by appearing desperate and stating you’re searching for any job.  It also helps your contacts to be aware of specific openings. Think of family members, previous supervisors, peers, previous graduate students you know, etc.
Reach Out
  • Reach out to your contacts via LinkedIn, phone, or email and let them know that you are looking for a job. Ask if you could talk to them about what you are looking for and see if they have any contacts for you.

Where to Network

Networking can happen anywhere you go, so you must always remember to present yourself in the best way possible. Below are a few common networking opportunities:

Opportunities for Networking
  • Conferences
  • Presentations
  • Organized meet-ups
  • Online forums (e.g., Versatile PhD)
  • LinkedIn
  • Professional networks
  • Set up informational meetings
  • Talk to your UCSB connections, such as professors and previous students

Informational Interviews

This step generally follows after you have done some brainstorming and have an idea of jobs/careers that seem interesting to you. One of the best ways to understand what a job is truly like is to talk to someone who is doing it. If you aren’t familiar with informational interviews, they are an opportunity for you to call, email, or meet in person someone who has a job that interests you. Below are some tips to help you succeed with informational interview:

Talk to Someone
  • Request to speak to them for an informational interview. These can take place over the phone, at a coffee shop, at their office (if they offer it), or at a lunch.
Be Respectful
  • Be cognizant that if they said they have time for 15 minutes of questions, stick to that. Come prepared with a list of questions of what you are interested in knowing.
Don't Ask for a Job
  • This is an information-gathering expedition, not a job interview or request. If you abuse this, then the person will most likely not be interested in talking with you further. If you are truly there to understand their work, you are more likely to build a connection.
Follow up
  • Write a thank-you card (or email) expressing your appreciation for their time and what you learned. You have created an opportunity to build a connection in the field that you may be interested in, so try and stay connected if you are interested. Consider asking them if they know anyone else that you should talk to and consider adding them on LinkedIn.

Creating an Effective Online Presence (LinkedIn)

It is essential for job seekers to understand and utilize the ever-evolving technologies at their fingertips. The internet has proven to be an extremely valuable tool, connecting you with businesses looking for employees and people looking to network. LinkedIn is your ultimate tool to build your personal brand, strengthen your online reputation, create a virtual portfolio, and connect with the world's professionals. It also makes it easier to to search for jobs, research companies, join professional groups, and explore universities. Below are a few tips on how to create a strong online presence:

LinkedIn Profile Checklist
  • Create a profile that showcases your accomplishments, including samples of work.
  • Have a good photo. Do not crop yourself out of a group. Keep the background simple. Crop close enough to see your face clearl. A professionaly taken shot works best. Get a headshot at Career's quarterly career fairs for your profile picture.
  • Customize your LinkedIn public URL to share in your email signature and on your resume.
  • Build your network by connecting with coworkers, classmates, recent alumni, faculty, TAs, and your personal connections.
  • Research top skills within industries and at specific companies.
  • Explore graduate programs and see what their alumni currently do.
  • Use the Alumni section to look at Gaucho career paths and get leads for internship jobs.
  • Join groups related to UCSB and your interests to connect with top people in industries and enhance your job search.
  • Take control in Privacy & Settings to manage how people find you, access to view your profile, and regulate your status updates and activity.
Be Professional
  • Regardless of the social media platform you are using, only display on your profile what you would put on your desk. In an office, a person's desk can be a great way to understand the type of person they are. Their values, hobbies, and interests are on display for all to see, but you would be hard-pressed to a professional desk with pictures or images containing activities inappropriate for work. When customizing your online profiles, ask yourself "Would I put this on my desk at work?"
Reinforce your Brand
  • Many employers are "Googling" the names of prospective job-seekers and screening initial candidates. They are basing their decisions on both the number and quality of hits for each potential employee. Therefore, your brand needs to have a strong online presence. Your personal page, regarsless of the website, is a great place to market yourself. While it is important to censor your page, it is also imortant to build on the information you post. This means choosing links and media in your news stream that add value to your brand.


If you’ve made it to the interview stage, then you should be celebrating! Your application materials were successful in doing their part, and now there is an opportunity to show your prospective employer what you could bring to the position.

Interview Preparation

The key to succeeding in an interview is to prepare in advance. Below are some tips on how to prepare for an interview:

Know Yourself

  • Be ready to explain why you are interested in the position
  • Be able to talk about your skills, accomplishments, and strengths that you would bring to the job
  • Know what is on your résumé and how to talk about it

Know the Position Requirements, Company, and Field

  • Review job description thoroughly
  • Review company website, news articles, and LinkedIn profile to understand employer goals, mission, products, services, organizational structure, clients, growth and future direction, and current challenges
  • Know the latest topics and trends in the field
  • Make a link between your academic preparation and how it fits with your work experience and the target position

Prepare for Potential Interview Questions

  • Refer to the "Common Questions" section for complete list of questions

Develop a Brief List of Questions to Ask the Employer

  • It is important to have a list of questions prepared for the employer to show that you have a vested interest in the company and the position. Below is a brief list of potential questions.
  • Examples:
    • What qualifications are you looking for in the ideal candidate?
    • Please describe the training and/or professional development opportunities offered by your organization.
    • How do you see this position fitting the larger goal of the organization?
    • How are new employees evaluated?
    • What would day to day be like in this position?
    • What are some typical first assignments/goals for this position?

Common Questions

Below is a list of common questions employers may ask you. Be sure to review them and practice answering them, but keep in mind that they can ask other questions that are not on this list.

Example Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about your experience and how it qualifies you for this position.
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Why did you choose this career?
  • Describe a situation in which you were successful.
  • What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?
  • What are your experiences working with others/on a team?
  • Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
  • Tell me about a time where you handled conflict.
  • How do you handle pressure?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • If I were to ask one of your professors (or a boss) to describe you, what would he or she say?
  • Explain (this issue) on your resume (low GPA, lack of experience, gap in employment).
  • Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
  • Tell me about a time where you handled conflict.
  • How do you handle pressure?
  • What areas do you need support in to become a productive employee?
  • What type of supervisor do you like?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • How familiar are you with the community that we’re located in?
  • Are you willing to relocate? In the future?           
  • Are you willing to travel?
  • What kind of salary are you looking for?

How to Answer Behavioral Questions

Behavioral questions aim to reveal your reactions and decision-making processes. They may require you to identify and reflect upon a previous experience, or you could be asked how you would respond to a hypothetical situation. Your goal is to answer the question in a way that describes how you arrived at your choice/behavior/action.

STAR Method

Use STAR Method to answer behavioral interview questions:

  • Situation: Describe a situation and provide context. Where? When?
  • Task: Describe the challenge and expectations. What needed to be done? Why?
  • Action: Elaborate your specific action. What did you do? How? What tools did you use?
  • Results: Explain the results and outcomes. Highlight accomplishments, recognition, savings, etc. Quantify where you can.


  • Question: “Tell me about a time you handled a stressful situation.”
  • Answer:
    • “During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing a research project with various stake holders. I noticed that there was conflict between two organizations prior to the event and identified that the source of the issue was conceptual differences regarding the research question. I decided to hold a meeting between the two conflicting participants to find a way to compromise on the research question and see if resolution could be had. Although it was a difficult conversation to start, it ultimately led to a more productive research question that had buy-in from all parties. Importantly, all stakeholders were able to move forward and collaborate effectively on addressing the initial issue and we were able to provide a written product of our work.”

Elevator Pitch/ "Tell me about yourself" Question

Your elevator pitch is supposed to help you introduce yourself in a concise and targeted manner, so it is important to have one ready. Developing a strong elevator pitch can also help you answer employers' favorite question, "Tell me about yourself".

How to Develop your Elevator Pitch

  • Create a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced statement about your professional self
  • Include a “hook” or “theme” to make yourself memorable
  • Keep your answer to about 30-60 seconds
  • Should resonate with your unique personality and interests
  • Talk only (or mostly) about your professional self and utilize a mix of strong skills (e.g., PhD in physics) and soft skills (strong writer who works well under pressure)
  • Identify profession, expertise, types of business you’d like to work for and special strengths
  • Avoid showing a lack of confidence, lack of focus, and lack of skills


My name is Susan Hernandez and I am a third-year religious studies doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I do research on how religious influences affect health choices, and my work is currently supported through a grant from the Health Sciences fund. Through my graduate studies, I have developed skills in qualitative analysis and research design and am interested in furthering my experience in data analysis. Religious studies has always been a passion of mine, but I never felt that a career path in religious leadership was right for me. Instead, for me, religious studies is truly the study of beliefs and how they influence people’s behavioral choices. I have decided to apply my previous skills as a health specialist and my interest in religious studies to work in hospitals and health centers in order to work towards the well-being of others. I believe that my skills in research methodology and interest in health fields make me uniquely qualified for this position.

Tips for Video Interviews

A successful video interview hinges upon you addressing technical issues in advance - in addition to all of the preparation you do for any interview. Neglect this preparation and you are in peril of looking amateurish and unprepared. To make the best impression possible, follow these five steps.

Set up Ahead of Time
  • Download, install, and test the agreed-upon software or app well in advance of your scheduled interview. Practice video chats with friends to ensure all works properly.
  • Set up your camera so that your face is nicely framed.
  • Test your microphone to make sure your voice comes through without any echoes, hums or buzzing.
  • Check the lighting. Your image should be plainly visible without being too bright.  
  • Prepare the room around and behind you. Make sure that everything else in the frame of the camera looks professional.
  • Practice talking to the camera – not the image of the person in your display. 
Prepare your Environment
  • Make sure that you won't be disturbed during the interview. If you have roommates, ask them to be quiet and not interrupt you. Turn off any alerts you might get on your computer or cell phone so that you are not distracted by them. 
Dress up
  • Wear the same clothes, head-to-toe, that you'd wear if you were going to interview in-person. Wearing the complete ensemble will help you stay in the interviewing mood, and, should you have to stand up for some reason, you don’t have to worry about the interviewer seeing your shorts or sweatpants.
Get in the Zone
  • Pay special attention to what's going on during a video interview. Occasionally check for visual cues from the interviewer, but do your best to keep your attention focused on the camera. Practice will help with this.
  • Sit up straight and look at the webcam so that interviewers will see you looking at them directly.  This is a lot more difficult than it may appear.
  • Lean forward, and nod during the conversation so the interviewers can see that you're engaged.

Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers

When you receive an offer from an employer, you often have the opportunity to discuss terms of employment. Keep in mind that negotiations are often uncomfortable, risky at times, and can be unsatisfying as we are trained from an early age to value win/lose situations. Additionally, for many of us, the idea of negotiations isn’t natural or comfortable, and many opt to avoid this part. Before you rule out negotiations or steam ahead with a winner-take-all attitude, keep in mind the spirit of negotiations is to help meet the needs of both you and your employer.

Preparing to Negotiate
  • Ideally, before receiving an offer you should do your research for what seems like a salary that YOU would be comfortable with and will be sufficient to meet your needs. Take the time to inventory of your monthly expenses, prorating items like car insurance that come up less frequently than once a month
  • Additionally, make sure that what you want is reasonable. Do market research for salaries that are expected in your field and take into account the institution/industry/ organization you are going into. Consider looking at and asking a trusted mentor or peers who are in the industry you’re going into what range seems realistic.
  • Consider making an appointment with a career counselor to explore if negotiating would be good for your circumstance and how to go about it.
  • Review things that are important to you to negotiate and think about what would be on your “must haves,” “would be nice,” and “not important” lists.
Negotiating Etiquette
  • Don’t rush. Make your initial request in writing and then follow up to work out the differences.
  • Be assertive – up to a point. On the one hand, you have been chosen from a pool of applicants so you know you are a wanted employee. However, by entering negotiations you must realize that your employer can say “no.” It is very rare for employers to retract their offers, but be reasonable in your requests and make sure they are items that are important to you.
  • Back up your requests. Illustrate how your skills, talents, and potential make you deserving of these added requests and be prepared to show evidence to those facts.
  • Compromise. Remember that this is supposed to be a win-win for both you and the employer. If the employer chooses not to grant any of your requests, you still have the option of accepting the original offer, provided you have maintained a positive, productive, and friendly manner during your exchanges.