Improv for interviewing

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

What’s your favorite movie? Favorite subject? What would you bring to a picnic? What do you do to relax? Thinking of quick answers to these questions can help students prepare for the job market, says J. Michael DeAngelis, senior associate director of communications and technology at Career Services.

If you stumbled over a response, you’re not alone, DeAngelis says. “People get hung up on right answers and wrong answers,” he says.

A former theater major, published playwright and podcast creative, DeAngelis runs a semiannual workshop, “Improv for Interviewing,” that uses games and techniques from the theater world to guide students to enter the job market by thinking on their feet.

“Improv is all about keeping the conversation going,” he says. “If you’re in the interview, they already think you can do the job.”

The interview is a way to assess soft skills and interpersonal communication, but many people panic and seize up over simple questions. Everyone gets nervous, DeAngelis says. “I was nervous walking over here today,” he told a group at an April 16 session in Van-Pelt Dietrich Library Center. “Oh, this is such a weird workshop, are people going to like it?”

Bianca Vama, a fourth-year neuroscience major from New York City, is applying to medical schools and interviewing for summer programs. She attended the spring workshop as a good way to get advice and to practice and better handle unexpected prompts, she says.

Lisa Yang, who will graduate with a master’s in higher education from the Graduate School of Education in May, found the workshop on Career Services’ Handshake, a platform that gives students and alumni access to employers, job and internship postings, networking resources, and events. “I’m looking for opportunities to sharpen my interview skills,” she says.

Originally from Beijing, Yang is applying for academic advising and program coordinator positions in the U.S. and China but struggles to bring her authentic point of view and have honest, normal conversations while under pressure. “I always overthink and over-prepare for an interview,” she says.

For one exercise, DeAngelis had the group stand in a circle. Holding a small stuffed Ewok that “will bite you on the arm if you hold it too long,” DeAngelis asked Yang a question, tossing the toy as he waited for an answer.

“Lisa, what’s your favorite vacation?” he asked.

“Uh … what kind of vacation?” Yang responded.

“Doesn’t matter,” DeAngelis said. “There’s no wrong answer.”

“When I was in middle school, I went to Europe,” Yang answered. Yang tossed the stuffed animal and addressed another participant, “What have you been watching lately?”

DeAngelis says he has led this workshop a half-dozen times. He first started over Zoom in the summer of 2020, at the request of the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships. “They were hearing from folks on campus that students were really stumbling over the personal, anything that didn’t have to do with their academics or research,” he says. “That was in line with what we were hearing from employers.”

Conversations, small talk, and storytelling are transferrable skills that are helpful in any profession, he says. “I’m such a strong believer in the liberal arts, particularly being a theater major,” he says. “I can rely on that training that I have to ask questions, to keep a conversation going, to listen.”

The workshop has traditionally attracted international students, who have the additional challenge of answering off-the-cuff questions in a foreign language, DeAngelis says. Regardless of reticence or language difficulties, everyone ends up participating, he says. “I’ve never had to pull teeth. Sometimes you get that one person who’s like, ‘No, no, no,’ … And then they get up and do the last one.”

For students looking to practice interviewing skills, Career Services offers mock-interview practice for both in-person and Zoom meetings. They also have rooms that students can reserve to speak with potential employers. “Improv for Interviewing” workshops and other services can be requested through the Career Services website, DeAngelis says.

Nicholas Yohn, a third-year student studying finance and statistics at the Wharton School, already knows where he’s going to land this summer. Originally from Hoboken, New Jersey, Yohn will be interning at a private equity firm and wants to make the most of his experience.

“I’m going to be meeting a lot of new people, trying to understand the firm,” Yohn says. He is also hoping to entertain future job offers and says, “This is for me to be able to keep up the conversation and think on my feet.”

Private equity is a relationship-driven business, Yohn says, and he wants to start making contacts and learning to talk about himself in professional settings “in a way that’s not overly prepped.”

In the workshop, Yohn volunteered to play a scene where two participants are given established roles—in his case, a student called into the principal’s office—and secret identities—the principal is also his long-lost father!—a detail revealed later in the conversation.

The exercise is relevant to interviewing, Yohn says. A lot of firms ask potential hires scenario-based questions based on ethics, deadlines, or interpersonal conflict, giving interviewees 20 seconds to film a response with no re-dos, he says.

“I’ve been hit with some of those curveballs,” he says. “It’s a skill I’m trying to work on.”

A look at the preparations for this year’s Spring Fling concert and festival

Monday, April 22, 2024

Ahead of Spring Fling 2024, which is set to feature Daya and Metro Boomin, The Daily Pennsylvanian took a look at the behind-the-scenes work which makes the event happen.

Spring Fling, which is planned by Penn’s Social Planning and Events Committee, consists of the Daytime Festival and the Spring Fling Concert — planned by two separate committees within the organization. SPEC leadership, which described them as “some of the largest college events on the East Coast,” wrote that their planning processes are distinct from each other.

Over 10,000 students attend Spring Fling over the course of two days, according to Wharton senior and SPEC President Megan Li.

SPEC’s goal for the Daytime Festival is to create “a more lighthearted event that will be fun and enjoyable for all.” SPEC researches food options, carnival activities, and merchandise opportunities throughout the year and contacts student performing groups, Penn Athletics, and different vendors.

Most of the planning and organizational work during the fall semester for the Spring Fling Concert focuses on talent acquisition. Li wrote that SPEC works closely with multiple talent agents to find potential artists, considering factors such as availability, price, and logistics, which narrows artist options. Then, throughout the spring semester, the committee shifts their focus to event logistics — such as audio and visual technicalities at Penn Park, ticketing, and advertising.

The focus of this year’s event is the performances of Metro Boomin, the headliner and Daya, the opener. 

“Metro Boomin and Daya fit our vision for what we wanted the concert to look like this year,” Li wrote. “We are very fortunate to be able to welcome them to campus.”

Spring Fling will also feature several changes from last year’s edition in an attempt to make it a “novel experience” for attendees.

For the concert, Li highlighted changes in the genre of the headliner, with Metro Boomin belonging to a different genre than last year’s headliner, Lauv. She added that SPEC attempts to avoid having performers who have previously appeared at Spring Fling.

Li added that the Daytime Festival has “more flexibility year to year,” with many new food vendors — Korea Taqueria, Mom–Mom’s, and Funnellas Funnel Cake — joining the event this year. There are also new activities like a Human Claw Machine, Spinning Tea–Cups, and Shoot and Shower Basketball. 

Li also wrote that SPEC faced additional challenges from inflation, which caused production costs to increase “exponentially” compared to the allocated budget.

“We’ve been working diligently to negotiate costs with different vendors and figuring out where we can be flexible in order to maintain the quality of experience our attendees are used to,” Li wrote.

Li wrote that Spring Fling is one of the most anticipated events students look forward to, noting her excitement for students to see what they have prepared for the weekend.

“This is our best selling concert in recent memory and we have an excellent lineup of food and activity vendors for the Daytime Festival,” she wrote. “I don’t think there really is anything to not be looking forward to. Perhaps what I’m looking forward to most is driving a golf cart around campus.”

Hey Day 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Back in the spring, the Class Board 2022 made the tough decision to postpone their Hey Day to the fall. They held out with hope that it could take place in person. Today , they got their wish—one that many students expressed their gratitude for.