Preparing for an Interview
Preparation is the most important part of your interview. You can maximize your success
by preparing in advance by doing the following:
- Knowing yourself in terms of skills, interests, values, and future aspirations.
- Polishing your communication skills (ability to deliver ideas, clear and concise answers,
and verbal animation).
- Conducting a mock interview with a career advisor.
- Knowing how to communicate the contents of your resume and your top reasons for pursuing
Conducting thorough company research is vital to an effective interview. Employers
view researching the company as a critical factor in applicant evaluation because
it demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for their company.
- What are the core values of the company?
- What are recent contributions, breakthroughs, or noteworthy activities of the organization?
- What does the company DO?
Pro tip: Ask for the names and job titles of your interviewers prior to the interview. Conduct
a little research on their professional backgrounds and contributions, so that you
are aware of their professional interests and "hot buttons." You can research through
the company website or LinkedIn, but don't request a professional link through LinkedIn,
Bonus: Because you will have the names of your interviews in advance, your post-interview
follow-up activity (writing a thank-you note to each interviewer) is already launched!
Practice Interview Questions
No two interviews are alike. In each interviewing experience there will be questions
you were not asked in previous interviews. However, there are a number of questions
that seem more common than others, and these are the questions you should think about
before each interview. A majority of interviewers will concentrate more on open-ended
situational or behavioral questions. Common themes include applications of analytical,
problem-solving, and decision-making skills; leadership; creativity; teamwork; communication;
and personal development.
Prepare Your Answers to these Questions Prior to the Interview:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in our organization?
- Why do you want to work in this field?
- What work experience has been the most valuable to you and why?
- Give an example of a problem you have solved and the process you used.
- Describe a situation in which you had a conflict with another individual and how you
dealt with it.
- What idea have you developed and implemented that was particularly creative or innovative?
- Tell me about a team project of which you are particularly proud and your contribution.
- What types of situations put you under pressure and how do you deal with the pressure?
- Describe a leadership role you have held and tell me why you committed your time to
- Describe a team-oriented accomplishment in which you participated as a member of the
team. What did you find to be the most difficult issue or process in becoming a successful
- What characteristics do you think are important for this position?
- Describe a situation in which you were criticized and how you responded.
- How has your education prepared you for this position?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Dressing for the Interview
Your primary goal in dressing for an interview is to feel good about the way you look
while projecting an image that matches the requirements of the position and company.
Business Professional Attire Guidelines for Women
- Suits, Dresses: Conservative business suit or dress.
- Blouses or tops: Avoid low-cut necklines or very frilly styles.
Business Professional Attire Guidelines for Men
- Suits: Dark blue, gray, or muted pin-stripes.
- Shirts: A nice quality white button-down or white classic collar is preferred. Be
sure it is ironed.
- Ties are a MUST: Conservative patterns that complement your suit.
Guidelines for Both Women and Men
- Avoid unkempt hair or over-the-top hairstyles
- Avoid excessive perfume or cologne
- Manicure nails and have clean hands
Business Casual Attire
Business casual is becoming more and more common in the workplace. It is typically
defined as no jeans, no shorts, no short dresses/skirts. You are still expected to
look professional. For men, a business casual wardrobe includes a button-up shirt
or polo shirt, chinos or slacks, optional tie, and optional sport coat. For women,
shirts or blouses, sweaters or knit tops, or dresses.
This is the most common type of interview and can take place in many environments
- Video (Zoom, etc.)
- On-site (organization/company office)
- Off-site (restaurants, hotels, conferences, etc.)
Interviews can last one hour to an entire day. The number of people with whom you
talk during the day may vary. You might speak with as few as three or as many as ten
people. This is not to create a stressful situation, but rather to allow you to talk
with as many people as possible. When meeting these individuals, you will usually
be asked some of the same questions. Remember, you are only being repetitive to yourself.
Do not leave out important information because you have already discussed it with
Pro tip: Create a list of questions you plan to ask during and at the close of the interview.
There are different types of phone interviews. A recruiter may call unexpectedly to
conduct a pre-screen, or you might have a scheduled phone interview before moving
forward to a video or face-to-face interview.
Pro tip: The employer's first contact with you may be through your voicemail so make sure
your outgoing message is professional and gives identifying information so the recruiter
knows they reached the correct person.
A recruiter may call unexpectedly to conduct a pre-screen. The purpose of the pre-screening
is to ask a few key questions before going further in the interview process. The information
they’re generally looking for includes the following:
- Are you still available?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- Are you interested in the position?
- Do you know anything about the organization?
- Do you have the skills for this position?
- Do you sound professional?
The recruiter wants to ensure that you meet the basic criteria and are sincerely interested
in the position.
How to Prepare
- Make sure you keep a list of the positions you are applying for along with contact
names. When the employer contacts you, you should be able to recall information regarding
the position and what the position entails.
- Do not get put on the spot! If the recruiter calls unexpectedly to conduct a pre-screening
interview but you are in a situation where you are unable to carry on the conversation
(class, basketball game, driving, etc.), ask if you can call them back immediately
and get to a place where you can carry on the interview without distractions.
Scheduled Phone Interview
A scheduled phone interview is an in depth pre-screen before the site interview. In
some cases, for example internships, the scheduled phone interview is the actual interview.
If the phone interview is the actual interview, applicants are hired solely on the
basis of the phone interview. Scheduled interviews can last anywhere from 15 minutes
to one hour.
How to Prepare
- Choose a place to conduct the phone interview without distractions (if you have roommates
you may want to give them notice)
- Make sure you can get a good signal in the chosen location
- Keep your resume and job description in clear view
- Make a short list of accomplishments/things you think the employer should know about
you that makes the connection between your skills and the position
- Have pen and paper ready to take notes on questions and answers immediately after
the phone interview
During the Interview
- Sit with good posture and smile - it actually comes across and affects how you sound
- No food, drink or gum
- Speak clearly and enunciate
- If you are having difficulty hearing the recruiter, let them know
- Follow recruiters' cues and don't ramble to fill silences
- Convey that you are interested in the position
The office visit is usually the final stage of the interview process. A job offer
for a full-time position is rarely made without a second interview, which is typically
held onsite, but can also be on video. The purpose of this interview is for the employer
and the student to become better acquainted with one another.
Pro tip: Arrive 15 minutes early. If interviewing virtually, make sure all of your tech is
ready to go before the interview begins.
Questions You Should Be Asking
The following are additional suggestions of questions you should ask during the office
Questions to Ask the HR Representative
- What is the typical career path for this position?
- Do employees have the opportunity to express their ideas?
Questions to Ask Your Prospective Supervisor
- What would be my primary responsibilities?
- What are some of the department's special projects?
- How much interaction would I have with superiors, colleagues, and clients?
Questions to Ask Prospective Co-Workers
- Can you describe a typical workday?
- What do you like best/least about working for this company?
- Do you have the opportunity to work independently?
Within 24 hours of the interview, write an email (or if you’re really ambitious, mail
a thank you note) to the people who took the time to meet with you about the job opportunity.
Reaffirm your interest in the position.
Sample Thank You:
It was a pleasure meeting with you to speak about the Marketing Representative position
at ABC Company. I sincerely appreciate the time you took to give me a tour and provide
some insight into your goals as a department. If given the opportunity, I believe
I can make valuable contributions at ABC. Thank you for taking the time to interview
me, and I look forward to hearing from you about the position.
Take no further action until at least one week beyond the date when they said they
would contact you. At that time, a phone call to see if a decision has been made is