Interviewing Prep Guide

  1. Know the position and organization.Take the time to learn about the position and how you fit into the organization. Come to the interview with a mental list of 2-3 specific aspects of the position or organization you personally find exciting and can talk about. You should know the current trends in the field or industry, the products and/or services of the organization, and its competitors.
  2. Know yourself. Be prepared to answer the opening question: Tell me about yourself.  In your response, discuss yourself in the context of the position for which you are applying. Tell the employer specific aspects of your experience and interests that make you a strong candidate for the position. Employers want to know that your skills, interests, and career goals mesh with the position.   
  3. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. You should be prepared to discuss both. When it comes to your weaknesses, explain what you are doing to address said weakness. No one is perfect. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses shows the interviewer that you are mature, reflective and know yourself; these are attributes many programs, fellowships, and employers look for. 
  4. Ask thoughtful questions. Asking questions shows your interest in the position and the research you’ve done to demonstrate your fit. The questions you ask give the interviewer insight into how you see the position.   
  5. Be honest but thoughtful about your responses. Do you think the interviewers will appreciate that you always need extensions on papers or that you tend to be late to meetings?  You do not want to lie during an interview, but there is some information that should be kept to yourself.  It’s true that you should discuss your weaknesses, but think of a way to present them in the most positive way possible.  
  6. Answer questions in a clear concise manner with examples.. Make sure you are answering what they asked and that you give them an example of what you did.  Show, Don’t Tell if you’re a very responsible person for example say my director always trusted me to close up at night. 
  7. Know your audience. You will interview with a range of people within the organization, including human resources staff, administrative staff, managers and recent grads. Remember that in each interaction – including informal lunches or formal dinners – your interviewers are evaluating your fit for the position and organization.  
  8. Follow their application guidelines. Submitting application materials late, asking inappropriate questions (what’s the salary?), or requesting to switch your interview date may give a negative first impression. Read their directions and follow through.
  9. Dress like a professional. For most interviews you will need to wear a professional suit. If you’re uncertain about attire, it’s best to dress conservatively for the interview. Dressing professionally shows your interviewer that you are a professional and want to be taken seriously. You can always come to Career Services to borrow a suit if you do not have one of your own.
  10.  Be prepared. Career Services offers mock interviews for both on and off-campus positions. Get some practice and feedback before you are in the stressful situation of an interview. A mock interview can be helpful in identifying and eliminating unconscious nervous habits that could significantly distract interviewers and detract from their impression of you. Dedicate time to think about possible questions you might be asked and to visualize how you will respond to them. 

Screening Interviews (possibly via phone or zoom)

Screening interviews are typically 30 minutes in duration and some interviewers will literally follow the structure of your resume. Know your resume!    

To prepare for a phone/video interview, have your resume/cover letter handy and the job/internship description.  Remember to smile as you answer their questions, positivity will come across. Use a self confident and enthusiastic voice.  It is also extremely important to enunciate your words clearly.  Cell phones are not ideal for phone interviews – if you need a quiet space with a landline, ask to reserve an interview room in Career Services.

2nd and 3rd Round Interviews

Second, third and even fourth round interview rounds tend to be longer in duration and allow you the opportunity to interview with more individuals at the organization, including decision-makers at higher levels within the organization. Advanced rounds of interviews often include a group component, sometimes a role play where you function as part of a team with fellow applicants or where you are interviewed by a panel. Advanced interviews usually include a lunch/dinner to see how you interact socially with your potential colleagues. They want to be sure they’ll actually like working with you! 

Interview Questions are designed to learn many things about the candidate.

  1. Questions that explore your goals and motivation. Show how you are interested in their field, that you know how your skills and experience meet their job requirements.
  2. Questions about your education. Describe the skills and knowledge you’ve developed through your studies and relate these to the position; demonstrate your ability to plan, organize and manage your workload.
  3. Questions about your skills and experience. Demonstrate you have the skills necessary for the position and provide examples. Discuss relevant transferable skills gained from an experience that the employer may not immediately see as related to their industry.  

Behavioral Interviews

Most employers will supplement standard questions with behavioral interview questions. These questions attempt to assess your past experiences as predictors of your future behaviors and potential for success in a position.

Using the STAR Format to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

In telling stories or giving examples of what you have done and specific skills and qualifications you have used or developed, divide stories into four parts. This will keep you focused and will allow you to be more concise. The four parts can be described by the acronym, STAR:

SITUATION: What was the situation? What problems or challenges was I facing? When did this situation occur? Where did this situation occur?

TASK: What needed to be done? How did I need to be involved?

ACTION: What did I do specifically? When part of a team, what was my role? What did I put my energy into?

RESULTS: What were the outcomes? What were the unintended outcomes? What did I learn? What would I do differently next time?

We communicate a great deal about ourselves through nonverbal expression. Show interest and enthusiasm: maintain good eye contact, sit up strait angled toward interviewer, smile, limit gestures and have a strong handshake.

Verbal Communication:

  • Be articulate and specific in your answers. Don’t just claim you have “excellent interpersonal skills” – provide specific examples of how you have used these skills in your academics, experience, activities or community service.
  • Make sure that you answer the question that is asked! Nervous candidates often begin preparing an answer before completely understanding the question. Listen carefully and ask the interviewer to repeat the question if necessary.
  • Relate your answers to the position you are interviewing for and the skills the employer is seeking.
  • Be organized about what you want to say; avoid rambling. A key signal that you’ve started rambling is when the interviewer drops eye contact or starts looking for their next question. If you find yourself rambling or off-topic, try to quickly conclude and feel free to ask, “Did I fully answer your question?” 
  • Avoid saying anything negative about anyone (especially past employers). Employers see this is a warning sign that candidates can’t take responsibility for their own actions and outcomes.
  • Be honest and be yourself. 

Questions you can ask:

Have about three questions prepared based on your research about the organization/industry. You will want to ask questions showing you know what the organization does, who are its competitors and peers, and what new trends are happening in that field. 

  • What type of formal or informal training you would receive.
  • Whether there have been any recent organizational changes.
  • What your predecessors in the job have moved on to do.
  • How job performance is measured.

What not to ask:  what is the salary, how much vacation will I receive, what are the benefits, is graduate school tuition reimbursed, etc.  These are questions to ask after you’ve received a job offer.

If you want to be seen as a professional you need to dress as one.  Dressed professionally, you may just feel more confident in communicating your skills and abilities during the interview.  Know the organization you’re interviewing with; are they business casual or professional every day?  When in doubt, wear a suit! 

What to Wear – Check out our CAREER CLOSET too!

  • Suit: Well-fitted, conservative suit in a neutral color. 
  • Shirt: White or pale colors are best, but avoid anything sheer (solid or thin stripes also work). 
  • Shoes: Conservative closed toe dress shoes.
  • Tie:  Again, keep it simple and coordinate with the rest of your outfit. 
  • Apparel should be clean and neatly pressed

Send a thank you letter or email to each person you interviewed with, reiterating your interest in the position and strengths. This is also an opportunity to add any pertinent information about yourself you didn’t get to say in the interview.