Adulting 101: Career Advice from Mark Burson

Are you graduating soon? Trying to nail that dream job or internship? The application process can be tough, especially if you don’t have a ton of experience with it.

Mark Burson, instructor of IMC 362 (From Student to Professional), is a master at helping students get where they are trying to go after graduation. So I asked him for some tips and tricks on how to nail your interview and this is what he told me.

First of all, he noted that what he had to say was all tips (and unfortunately no tricks) because “this stuff is hard work.”

Also, the key to killing the interview starts before the interview does. Think about these four questions when preparing for your interview:

  • What do I still need to know about this organization?
  • What information do I need to communicate about myself?
  • What challenges face this organization that communication can solve?
  • How will I differentiate myself from the field?

The most important things you can do going into an interview are to dress professionally, be in a professional mindset and know your company.


  • Give the interviewer a good, firm handshake, accompanied with eye contact.
  • Show your enthusiasm and confidence by smiling, maintaining eye contact, good posture, and listening carefully.
  • Convey interest and knowledge about the company.
  • Provide specific examples when asked about your skills.
  • Ask relevant questions


  • Use fillers such as “umm”, “you know”, “like”, etc. as those terms convey a lack of self confidence and professionalism.
  • Dominate the interview. Practice concise answers to avoid rambling.
  • Discuss personal problems. Keep the focus on professional, not personal examples.
  • Interrupt the interviewer.
  • Make negative comments about past experiences, supervisors, teachers, etc.

When it comes to interview questions, many interviewers enjoy asking about situations in which you faced adversity and how you went about fixing it. It is important that you use the STAR method when answering these questions. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. You want to be sure to explain the situation, describe the task that you had to achieve, the action you took, and most importantly— the result.

Some questions you might be asked include:

  • From everything you’ve learned about this role, me and our company, tell me how you feel you’d make a contribution.
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell me what motivates you and what frustrates you?
  • Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.
  • Pitch yourself to me as if I were buying your product/service.
  • What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date? Walk me through the plan, how you managed it, how you measured its success, and what were the biggest mistakes you made.
  • Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?
  • What’s your definition of hard work?
  • What is something you’d be happy doing every single day for the rest of your career?
  • What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?

After the interview, it is important to come up with some follow-up questions of your own to show the interviewer that you are interested in the position and what it entails.

Examples of this might be:

  • What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?
  • Can you rank the three attributes your top performers share?
  • What are the company’s highest priority goals this year and how would my role contribute?
  • What do team members say is the best part of working here?
  • Can you tell me about the team I will be working with?
  • Is there a culture of collaboration and opportunities for additional learning?

Finally, once you have finished your interview, follow up with an email. Do this in a timely fashion as this is your final opportunity to sell yourself. Pick your best skill and reiterate why you match up with the job. Also, identify a specific point in the conversation and connect with the interviewer personally.

To find out more about landing your first job, including what to say/not to say in your hiring interview, how to create that winning impression, tips to be successful from day one, the importance of finding your passion, ways millennials can get along with baby boomer and Generation X bosses and colleagues, join Mark Burson on Friday, January 27, 2017 when the Meek School of Journalism and New Media hosts its inaugural Jobs and Career Advice Conference.


For more information, contact Mark Burson at

Rachel Vanderford

Rachel Vanderford is a senior Integrated Marketing Communication major. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to punk rock music and playing with her cat, Dinah.