Student On Campus Interviewing FAQ

What is On Campus Interviewing?

On-Campus Interviewing (OCI)  is the service that enables organizations to come to campus to interview students for post-graduate jobs and summer internships . Managed by Career Services, OCI schedules thousands of interviews each year. For Fall 2020, due to the pandemic, these “on campus interviews” will take place virtually. Check out our video for an overview of the process:

What kinds of organizations recruit on campus?

The majority of organizations choosing to interview at Penn are those that have regular, predictable hiring patterns – typically corporate employers hiring students for business-related and technical positions. Organizations that hire only as specific positions become available typically do not utilize OCI services. (However, many such organizations do post non-OCI job listings on Handshake.)

How has on campus interviewing changed in recent years?

Employers’ recruiting practices have changed dramatically in recent years. Employers are increasingly using technology including asynchronous interviewing platforms such as HireVue to conduct first-round interviews with students, bypassing the traditional campus interviews.  Other employers rely on live phone or video-conference interviews as opposed to in-person interviews on campus.  Many employers, particularly in the financial services field, have started interviewing for summer internships much earlier than in the past – in fact over a year in advance.  These diverse hiring practices have made the process for finding internships and post-graduate positions much more variable than it was previously. We encourage students to review the Outcomes tab on our website to learn more about the hiring timelines for specific industries as well as join the industry communities on our website to keep updated on hiring practices for specific career areas. Of course, students should also feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Services advisor through Handshake to learn more about the recruiting timelines for specific industries.

How does OCI work?

OCI works through a system called Handshake. Handshake is an integrated on-line system through which you have access to OCI as well as other jobs and internships that employers post for Penn students. Through Handshake you will be able to find out which organizations are coming to Penn to recruit; read job and organizational descriptions; submit application materials (resumes, cover letters, unofficial transcripts) for employers to review; find out if you have been selected for particular interviews; and sign up for a specific interview time.

How often should I check Handshake?  When are the deadlines for OCI positions?

You should check Handshake every day, especially during the recruiting season. It is important to check daily so that you do not miss any deadlines. OCI resume submission deadlines are at 11:59 pm. Be aware that although web servers sometimes go down, our deadlines don’t change. If you wait until the last minute to meet recruiting deadlines and the Handshake server goes down, you may miss out on opportunities. We encourage you to complete all activities associated with recruiting at least 24 hours before each deadline.

Who can participate in OCI?

OCI is open to residential students enrolled in degree programs (not certification or online programs) in the following schools: Annenberg, Arts and Sciences, Biomedical Graduate Studies, the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, Engineering, Education, Design, Nursing, Social Policy and Practice, Wharton Undergraduate and Wharton Doctoral Programs, as well as alumni from these schools within one year of graduation upon request. Those eligible to interview for permanent positions in 2020-2021 include undergraduate and master’s degree students graduating in December 2020, May 2021, or August 2021, alumni within one year of graduation when given special permission by Career Services, and doctoral candidates (post-master’s/ABD) whose last academic year at Penn is 2020-2021. Those eligible to interview for summer jobs include all full-time, residential underclassmen, master’s and doctoral students, and, upon request, seniors going directly to graduate school. (Note that alumni, even those within one year of graduation, are not eligible to use OCI for summer internships. December graduates automatically maintain on-campus interviewing privileges until the following May.

How do I register for Handshake and gain OCI access?

Students can register in Handshake using their PennKey and PennKey password to access and apply for OCI listings.  Note that alumni are not eligible to participate in on-campus interviewing.  The only exception to this is alumni within one year of graduation upon special permission from Career Services. These alumni are only able to interview for full-time opportunities, not internships

If you are a current student and cannot see OCI positions please contact a staff member for your school immediately (including your name and graduation date) to explain your situation. This occasionally happens when a student changes his/her graduation date and the setting can only be changed by a Career Services staff member.  

What job search documents can I store in Handshake?

Handshake allows you to store resumes, cover letters, writing samples, unofficial transcripts, and “other documents”. You indicate what type of document it is when you upload it to the system. There is no limit to how many documents you may have in the system at one time. Once you have submitted document(s) for a position, you may delete it to upload new ones.

Can I change documents once I have submitted them for a position in Handshake?

While you can withdraw applications from Handshake, be aware that employers can view applications as soon as they are submitted, so even if you withdraw and reapply for a position it is possible the employer may have already viewed the original documents.

I’ve been selected for an interview and want to change my resume prior to the interview. How do I do this?

While you cannot change your resume after an employer has downloaded it, you can provide an updated copy of your resume during the interview for the employer.

How do I know if an employer wants a cover letter or transcript?

Employers may request or require documents such as cover letters or unofficial transcripts in addition to a resume.  Read the application instructions for each position to determine which documents the employers would like to receive. (You will not be able to apply for a position if a document is required unless you submit all required materials.) 

I would like to add a cover letter for a position that does not request one. Will Handshake allow this?

Yes, Handshake will allow applicants to submit a cover letter even if it is not requested.

Can I change or correct a document after I have submitted it?

You will be able to withdraw your OCI application materials and resubmit new ones (if you wish) for a particular position as long as the submission period for the position is still open. Find the application in the applications tab under “Jobs” on Handshake. However, realize that the employer may have already viewed your original documents. 

An employer requires a transcript. What do I do?

To submit an unofficial copy of your transcript to an employer through Handshake, copy and paste your transcript from “Penn-in-Touch” into a Word document. Since “Penn-in-Touch” does not have your name on each page, you’ll need to add it. If you don’t, the employer will not know whose transcript it is, and will consider your application incomplete. Make sure your name on this document matches the name on your resume.  It is common for employers to request an official transcript later in the hiring process or upon start of employment. Career Services will spot-check transcripts for accuracy. Be aware that falsification of data on your transcript is an academic integrity violation and will result in revocation of OCR privileges and a charge of academic dishonesty.

Where can I obtain an official transcript?

You can obtain your official transcript from the Registrar’s Office, located in the Franklin Building, Suite 221, or by phone at 898-7511. There is a fee for this service, and it may take several days to process. Note that you do not need an official transcript to apply for OCR positions, but most employers will require one when they extend an offer to students.

An employer requested my SAT or GMAT scores. Where can I include them?

If requested by an employer, include your test scores on your resume or in your cover letter. We recommend not including them as a separate document.

What types of OCI interviewing schedules are there?

Organizations recruiting on campus may choose from the following options for filling their interview schedules:

  • Pre-select Schedules: This is the most common way for students to get interviews. Using this option, employers receive and review the resumes students submit electronically via Handshake. Employers select the students they wish to interview. Selected students are designated as “primary” or “alternate” candidates. If you are a primary candidate, you are guaranteed an interview spot, provided you sign up for your interview during the primary sign-up period. Alternates will be able to sign up for interviews after the primary sign-up period, provided that not all primary candidates opt to sign up.
  • Open Schedules: Occasionally, organizations opt not to review resumes in advance, but rather let you sign up for interviews on a first-come, first-served basis. These are called “Open” schedules.

How do I find which employers are interviewing on campus? How do I sort results by deadline?

To find OCI positions from the main Handshake home page, simply click on the “Jobs” tab to see all job listings in the system. To see ONLY OCI positions, click on the “Interviewing on Campus” option which you can see when you click the “All Filters” button.  Select either “Internship” or “Full-time Job” depending on what type of position you are seeking. Use the “sort by” feature at the top of the resulting left column (it maybe default to “relevance”) to  sort by expiration (deadline) date. 

Where do I find job descriptions in Handshake for the employers interviewing on campus?

To see complete information for each job posting, simply click on the job title.

How do I submit application materials for a specific position?

First click on the job title to read the job description and determine if you would like to apply. If you are interested, click on the “Apply”  button on the job description page. It may also say “Apply Externally” if the button will take you directly to the employers applicant tracking system. Note that you will not be able to apply until the application period is actually open.  Handshake will indicate how closely you match any preferences the employer might have included in the job description, such as class year, GPA, work authorization, or major.  While it makes sense to apply to those positions for which you meet all or most of the employer preferences, Handshake will not prevent you from applying even if you don’t match all of the preferences.

I am only interested in very specific positions. Can I limit my search to those areas?

You can keyword search and/or filter on a variety of options (such as job function or industry) in the bar on the top of the “Jobs” page in Handshake.  Expand the filter button to see the complete list of options you can filter on.   

I really don’t know anything about a particular industry or particular organization recruiting on campus. Should I submit my resume anyway, just to see if they are interested in me?

It is not a smart strategy to drop your resume for “everything” and see where it lands. You should always read the job description and review the qualifications before submitting your resume. It is a waste of both your time and the employer’s to apply for a position for which you are unqualified or have no interest. You are not required to be an expert on an organization or type of job in order to apply for it. However, you should know enough to believe that you’d be interested in interviewing for the position and that you have the requisite qualifications for it.

The specific position listed on Handshake does not interest me, but I am really interested in working for the organization.  Should I submit my resume anyway?

No, you should submit materials only for the specific position for which the organization is coming on campus. If, however, you want to let an employer know of your interest in a different position, you may write directly to the recruiter if his or her contact information is included to express your interest and to ask for an appropriate contact if he or she is not it.

An organization is recruiting for multiple positions or locations. Can I apply for more than one?

Organizations vary on this. Many allow you to apply for more than one position, provided you are genuinely interested and meet the qualifications for each opportunity. Some, however, will limit you to one application only. The job description should specify if the organization limits the number of positions to which you can apply. If you choose to apply for multiple positions, be aware that the same individual(s) at the organization may receive all your materials. If you apply to too many positions, you may end up appearing unfocused and unsure of your career goals.

What should I do if Handshake does not allow me submit my materials for a position that interests me?

Be sure that the submission period for the particular position is open. If you are not within the exact dates for submission, you will not be able to apply. If the application period is open and you still can’t apply please check with a Career Services advisor who can research the situation.

What do I do if I missed an OCI resume submission deadline, but I would still like to apply for the position?

If you miss the deadline for submitting your resume for a specific position, you may be able to get the name and address of the appropriate contact person if that person decided to include her/her information on their employer profile in Handshake or on the actual job description.  Email your resume, cover letter and any other required materials directly to the recruiter. You will be added directly to the organization’s interview list in Handshake if the recruiter wishes to interview you. Keep in mind, however, that employers review resumes and select students for interviews relatively quickly after the on-line submission deadline. If you send your materials well after the final resume drop date, they may not arrive in time for consideration. 

How do I know if I was chosen for an interview?

If you are chosen for an interview as a “Primary” or “Alternate” candidate, Handshake will automatically send you an e-mail inviting you to schedule an interview when sign-ups begin. You can also view your status under the “Applications” tab under “Jobs” as soon as the employer changes your status in Handshake.  (This could be a day or two before sign-ups actually begin.) In addition, you may also receive an e-mail directly from the employer, congratulating you on receiving the interview, and inviting you to sign up. Often this e-mail will arrive before the sign-up period starts. Keep in mind that you will not be able to sign-up until the appropriate sign-up period begins. Sign-ups begin at 11:00 pm on the date noted in Handshake for the particular interview schedule.

How do I sign up for an interview?

You may sign up for an interview from the “Applications” tab in Handshake.  Pay very close attention to deadlines when signing up for interviews. Primary candidates can begin signing up for interviews on the first day of sign-ups for the particular interview schedule starting at 11:00 pm. Simply click on the link and all available times will show up.  If you’ve been designated as an “Alternate,” your sign up generally starts 2-3 days after the primary sign-up begins. From the time that alternate sign-up begins, primary candidates and alternates become equal, and alternates are able to sign up for any remaining interview slots. If you are selected as an alternate, but cannot sign up, it indicates that all the interview slots have been filled.

I’ve been told by an employer that I have been selected for an interview, but the invitation is not showing up on Handshake. What do I do?

While a majority of employers enter their invitations through Handshake, some employers contact students directly to invite them for an interview. If you find yourself in this situation, you should check Handshake for a schedule of when sign-ups will begin for the particular position. Sometimes employers send e-mails before sign-ups officially begin. Note that you won’t be able to sign up early. (A few employers opt to schedule interviews outside of the Handshake system. The employer will notify you if you are selected and this is the case.)

If, however, after sign-ups have officially started on Handshake and the employer still has not selected you for an interview in Handshake, you must contact the employer and ask them to contact Penn’s Recruiting Manager so that you may be added to the schedule. Contact information for employers can generally be found in the job description in Handshake, provided the employer chose to release that information for students. Check with Career Services if you are not able to resolve the problem with the recruiter.

I’ve been pre-selected for an interview but I’ve decided I’m not interested. Do I have to sign up?

No. If you’re pre-selected but don’t want to interview you can decline the interview or simply not sign up for a slot in Handshake.

I was selected a primary candidate. However, I can’t sign up for an interview because no slots are available. Why can’t I sign up?

First, make sure that the sign-up period is open. If you are a primary candidate, you must pay careful attention to when alternate sign-ups start!  If you do not sign up for an interview before the alternate sign-ups begin, your time slot may go to another student. If it is unclear why you can’t sign up, please contact a Career Services advisor ASAP so that they can research the issue for you.

Can I schedule two interviews in a row?

It is better not to, as it is possible your first interview may run late or long. Also, be sure to check the length of the interview. Don’t assume that an interview is a half-hour. Back-to-back interviews are two consecutive interviews with the same organization. Occasionally interviews run 45 or 60 minutes in length. Always make sure you check the interview length and leave an ample amount of time to reach your next interview.

I already signed up for an interview, but now I want to change my interview time.  How do I do that?

As long as the sign-up period is still open, you may change or withdraw from your interview with no repercussions. If you need to change the time of your interview, or you decide that you want to cancel your interview entirely, you can do so from the “Applications” tab on Handshake. Sign-ups generally end two working days before the interview date at 11:59 pm. Note that it may be difficult to find alternate times if the schedule is full.

I have a conflict and would like to swap interview times with another student. How do I do this?

You can use the Interview Swap request feature in Handshake to request to swap times with another student already on the schedule. To request an interview swap, just click the appropriate button on the interview sign-up page in Handshake. You will then have the option to select a new time (if another slot is available) or request a swap with a student if the slot you want is taken. Clicking on the link will trigger an email to the student who has the slot, which the student can than accept or decline.  If the swap is accepted, the trade will automatically take place.

I need to cancel an interview and the sign-up schedule is no longer available on Handshake. What do I do?

Students may cancel an “on campus” interview through Handshake with no penalty at any time before the schedule closes on Handshake which is typically at 11:59 pm two working days before the interview.

Once the schedule closes on Handshake we expect students to attend their interviews. However, if you absolutely cannot make it, cancel your interview as soon as possible but at least one hour before the interview. Given the virtual nature of recruiting during Fall 2020, please cancel directly with the interviewer or the recruiting coordinator for the organization if you have their contact information as this will be the most expedient way to let them know. If you do not have contact information for the organization, please call 215-898-4068 to let Career Services know that you will be cancelling. This line will be answered between 8:00 am – 6:00 on days interviews are scheduled through OCI. We will try to relay the information to the recruiter, assuming we have their contact information. This is considered a “late cancellation.”

If you have late cancellations on more than two separate recruiting dates, your recruiting privileges and Handshake access may be rescinded for the remainder of the academic year. Failing to show up for your interview, or canceling less than 60 minutes before the interview, is considered a “no show”. If you no-show on more than one recruiting date, your recruiting privileges and Handshake access may be rescinded for the remainder of the academic year.

In either case, you must send the recruiter an e-mail apologizing for missing the interview. In addition, you must send a BCC (blind carbon copy) to apology@pobox.upenn.edu so that the OCI staff knows that the apology has been sent to the recruiter. If OCI does not receive the blind carbon copy within three working days of the interview date your recruiting privileges and Handshake access may be suspended until it is received.

I missed an interview. What do I do?

This counts as a “no show”. You will need to follow the procedures outlined above.

Will there be a  “recruiter add-on” process for 2020-2021?

Given the virtual nature of recruiting during the Fall 2020-2021 year, we will not have a process to request “day of” interview additions.

Where are interviews held? What do I do?

All of Fall 2020 interviews will be virtual.  In most cases, employers will add a link to the Handshake schedule for you to connect with the interviewer. However, some employers may choose to email applicants instructions on how to connect remotely with the interviewer, so please be sure to carefully monitor your email and your spam folder.

I’ve signed up for an interview. What copy of my resume will the interviewer have?

The copy you submitted through Handshake for the specific schedule. Feel free to to provide an updated copy of your resume to the interviewer  if you have recently made changes to it.

What do I wear to the interview?

Even though the interviews will be conducted virtually, formal business attire such as a suit is expected for most interviews for both men and women. Note, however, that some organizations do allow more casual dress for interviews. If the recruiter suggests that interviewees dress more casually it is acceptable to do so. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression, and you want to make the most professional one possible. Discreet clothing is always preferable in an interview. (Please note that Career Services has a partnership with Career Wardrobe available for lower-income students to obtain professional clothing. Please speak with a Career Services advisor to find out more.)

How can I find out the name of the recruiter I interviewed with?

Given the virtual nature of recruiting this year, please be sure to ask your interviewers for their emails as Career Services will not be able to collect business cards from them.

What should I do to prepare for an interviewing on campus?

To be really well prepared for an interview, you want to both read as much as you can about the organization and also talk to people about it. Be sure to review the job description the organization has provided. Scour the organization’s website. Do an internet/Google search for recent articles about the organization. Search the Penn Alumni Directory (QuakerNet) or LinkedIn to talk to Penn graduates working at the organization. Learn as much as you can about the industry of which the employer is a part. Talk to people who work in the field. Be sure to check if the organization is holding any information sessions. These will either be open sessions for general information or “night before interview” sessions for students who will be interviewing the next day. If you are interviewing, you will be expected to attend the “night before interview” session and should contact the recruiter in advance if you aren’t able to attend.

In general, what do employers look for when they interview? What makes someone stand out?

Employers are looking for students who are interested in them and seem sure of their career choice. They seek applicants who project self-confidence, are aware of their skills, interests, and goals, and who can demonstrate knowledge of the specific position, the organization, and the industry in which the organization fits. Think carefully about your personality and your goals, skills and interests.

I’m nervous about my interviewing skills. What can I do?

First, review the interviewing tips on the Career Services web site. Attend a Career Services interviewing workshop offered throughout the semester. Schedule a mock interview with a Career Services advisor to practice and refine your interviewing skills. Use the interviewing software practice tool Big Interview to practice your interviewing skills via a computer webcam.

Does Penn have a second round interview policy?

Career Services typically asks on-campus interview employers to refrain from inviting students for second round interviews on days when we have many first round interviews scheduled.  You can see the 2020-2021 guidelines here.  Because even second round interviews are likely to be virtual this year, we expect that they may interfere less with first round interviews than in previous years.  However, if you find you are in a conflict between first and second round interviews, we encourage you to ask the second round employer for an alternate time or date.

Should I send a thank you email after the interview?

It is always appropriate to send a thank-you email or note after an interview. Your email should refer to your conversation and reiterate your interest in the position. It needn’t be very long, but it should be specific and personal. There is no “right answer” as to whether your thank-you note should be e-mailed or posted, as employers differ in their preferences. What is important is that the correspondence be sent shortly after the interview. (However, if you know the firm will be making very quick decisions on whom to invite for second round interviews, it makes sense to email your thank you as opposed to mailing a hard copy.)

Does Penn have offer guidelines for employers?

We suggest that employers extending full-time offers at the end of summer to Penn interns returning for their final academic year give students until Monday, October 12, 2020 to decide on the offer so that these students may participate in on-campus interviewing.  Please note that this guideline also pertains to other students whom employers may have interviewed off-campus over the summer. We ask employers extending full-time or internship offers through the fall (for summer 2021 start dates), to give students two weeks or until Monday, November 2, 2020, whichever is later, to decide on the offer.  We ask that internship and full-time offers extended after January 1, 2021 be held open for at least one week. We sincerely appreciate employers who opt to honor these guidelines as we believe it is best for both the student and the employer.

Career Services advisors will be happy to meet with students to discuss asking for additional time if needed to decide on an offer. While we cannot force employers to adhere to these guidelines, we frequently meet with students to discuss the best ways to ask for more time if needed.

I have a question not answered here. What should I do?

Please feel free to contact a Career Services staff member if you have other questions or difficulties not answered above. Although we try to answer emails and other inquiries promptly, we do not have round-the-clock technical support and will answer your question as soon as possible.  You can schedule an appointment with an advisor on Handshake or can check the website for our walk-in hours.