American Heritage Interview Questions

An example of a list of oral history interview questions used at the Library of Congress Veterans Oral History Program. The most current version of the questions are available at Protocol:

How can someone make the most of their career?

Making the most of your career involves research about what you want to do. Investigate what your ideal career entails and whether it fits you. The most important things you can do to make the most of your career are A) learn everything that you can and B) find a mentor. Network with individuals in the same industry and field, who have done it and are doing it. No matter if your mentor is good or bad, there are lessons to be learned from them. There is also “access” and “opportunities” to be gained from mentors as well, including shadowing.

As for how to build the mentor relationship: there may be formal programs within your school or organization, but most relationships occur organically or naturally. Find folks who share similar interests, whether it be through joining a network or association in the field of your interest or attending meetings, functions, or events.

You may also find someone external, perhaps a friend or someone you know. Don’t be afraid to ask for a few minutes of their time to answer questions. Ask to have lunch and spend five minutes to get answers to your questions. The more you develop the relationship, the more it will build. Most people enjoy sharing what they love about their careers and would love the opportunity to help someone realize their potential.

You don’t want to force relationships. Mentorship must be a good fit. Put yourself out there. People want to talk.

How would you describe your cultural identity or ethnicity?

This seems like a simple question, but it is important to ask your relative to describe the culture to which they belong in their own words. Many people have never thought about their culture as separate from the broader community, so it might take your relative a few minutes to think about this question.

Many of us consider ourselves to be a few generations removed from a unique culture, especially if we are the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of immigrants. Even if this is the case in your family, as it is in mine, your family may still have a cultural connection to these immigrant ancestors.

Sometimes, the answer to this question is different than you thought it would be.

Do you have any advice for someone who is just starting their career?

When starting your career, learn as much as you can and know the expectations of your organization. Know what it involves from you and know if you are willing and want to do it. What commitments are you willing to give to this career?

When you are still a student or just beginning a career, research as much as possible. Research the average salary, type of work, and how the industry works. Think about what it means to be in that world: the hours you would keep, the type of structure, the environment, and the risks.

Start building your education and certifications around it and know the timeframe for professional growth. Join clubs in school and speak to guidance or career counselors.

What makes a candidate stand out? Resumes? Interview?

Beyond having the requisite skillset, someone who stands out is someone who has confidence and the ability to tell a story – especially in an interview – that can connect themselves to the job available. Whether that means connecting their skills to the job or connecting their values to the company, a strong dialogue shows what they can bring to the table.

Tell Me About Yourself – A Good Answer to This Interview Question

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