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Interviewing is a crucial part of the job search process.

Your resume and cover letter have landed you the interview. Now it is time to sell yourself to the interviewer.

Your goal is to show the employer that not only do you have the skills, background, and ability to do the job, as stated in your resume, but that you have the passion and desire that will allow you to successfully fit into the company and its goals.

  • Learn about the employer’s needs and be able to express how you can meet those needs.
  • Gather information about the job, the company, and future career opportunities to determine whether the job and the company are right for you.
  • Personality, confidence, enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and quality communication skills are significant parts of the selection process.

Purpose of Interviewing

  • To convince the employer/interviewer that you can make a contribution to their organization
  • To evaluate the job opportunity
  • To avoid being screened out
  • To land the job

Interview Preparation

  • Know yourself: strengths, values, interests, skills, accomplishments, goals, etc.
  • Prepare materials in a professional format: resume, references, transcripts, supplemental materials
  • Prepare your interview attire to reflect professionalism (when in doubt, choose conservative attire)
  • Participate in a mock interview with CDC Staff (see the mock interview checklist below)
  • Research the Employer by talking with faculty, alumni, other employees, acquaintances, etc.
  • Research the organization using a variety of web sites and acquire information on ownership, products, services, new projects, location of facilities, headquarters location, recent market developments, competitors, growth patterns, reputation, size, international operations, training, evaluations, etc.

Interview Etiquette

The job interview is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. Interviews give you the chance to leave a lasting impression on your potential co-workers or employers and show why you are right for the job. Just remember- 90% of what you communicate is not through what you say. Here are some etiquette tips to get you on the right track for a successful interview.

Things to Keep in Mind

Before the Interview

  • Do a little research about the company and your interviewer. Know the interviewer’s name so you can greet them properly.
  • Arrive at least 10 minutes before your interview. The extra minutes will also give time to fill out any forms or applications that might be required.
  • Do not arrive too early. You may inconvenience the interviewer, or appear wasteful of your time.
  • Turn off your cell phone or PDA.
  • Do not assume that whoever greets you is the receptionist.
  • Greet everyone positively and with a smile. Shake hands with everyone who offers. Thank each one by name.
  • Dress for Success

During the Interview

  • Avoid jargon and slang that the interviewer may not know.
  • Be open, honest, and flexible.
  • If interviewing over a meal, order something simple to eat. Remember to stay focused.
  • Show enthusiasm and confidence.
  • Keep good eye contact. Sit up straight and be attentive. Keep your feet on the floor and hands in a somewhat visible place.
  • Avoid going overboard on hand gestures, and leave clicking pens and anything else you might fidget or play with at home.
  • Use the interviewer’s name throughout the interview.

After the Interview

  • Remember to thank and shake hands with the interviewers after you finish interviewing.
  • Send a thank you note as soon after the interview as possible. When writing your thank you letter, remember to mention the names of those you were interviewed by.
  • If you interviewed with multiple people, try to send a personalized thank you note to each one. The note for your potential boss should be different than one for your potential coworker.
  • If you feel that you need to clarify anything you said, do so in your thank you letter, or in a brief phone call. This may improve your chances of landing that job.

Types of Interviews

Interviews can be conducted one on one, in a panel, or as a group.Interviews can be informal or formal, relaxed or stressful, and directed or undirected.

To prepare for the interview process, find out how the interview will be conducted. You can do this when the interview is being scheduled by asking the following questions:

  • How many people will be interviewing me?
  • Will I be the only candidate in the interview session?
  • How can I best prepare for this interview?

The Exploratory or Informational Interview

The exploratory or information interview is used as a screening and fact-finding tool for you, the candidate.This interview is used to:

  • Find out about a company as a potential place to work, including its corporate culture, organizational structure, and future growth.
  • Learn about an occupation, including the educational requirements, experience needed, and responsibilities involved in doing a job.
  • Find out about the hiring trends, positions available, and application procedures.
  • Carefully select the questions you will ask, so you can obtain practical information. Be prepared to leave your resume for future reference. As for any interview, be sure to follow up with a thank you letter.

The Directed Interview

The interviewer uses an outline and asks specific questions within a certain time frame. The interviewer works from a checklist and takes notes. This type of interview is impersonal, and the purpose is to uncover information about the candidate.

The Undirected Interview

The undirected or non-directive interview is unstructured and allows candidates to discuss their qualifications openly. This interview gives candidates a measure of control over the interview, providing for an opportunity to concentrate on strengths and to show leadership and organizational abilities.

The Panel Interview

A panel involves a number of interviewers.The composition of this panel could include:

  • The supervisor
  • The manager
  • A union representative
  • A human resources officer
  • An employment equity officer
  • Employees from the hiring department

Typically, members of the panel will ask one question representing their area of concern. To succeed at this type of interview, it is best to anticipate and prepare for questions on a variety of issues related to the organization and to the occupation. Thorough company and occupational research will help you to prepare for such interviews.

The Group Interview

The group interview is used by some large companies or organizations for graduate intakes when several graduates are interviewed at one time. This interview can last from two hours to a day or longer and usually includes a group problem-solving exercise.

The interviewers may ask questions in an unstructured manner; therefore, the questions and comments may be unrelated to one another. This type of interview is used to:

  • Observe how candidates react under pressure
  • Evaluate how individuals interact with people with different personalities
  • Test for communication skills
  • Assess the “fit” with the group

It is wise to seek the advice of someone who has experienced this type of interview before engaging in this process.

The Sequential Interview

Some interviews are sequenced over a longer period, such as a half or full day. These interviews are used as an assessment tool. The first stage may begin with a panel interview,followed by a tour around the company (during which the assessment continues). The interview sequence may then conclude with another interview when you may be asked questions that test your creativity or your “fit” within the organization.

Further, you may be invited to more than one interview. For instance, the first interview may be an overall screening, followed by some form of assessment, then a post-assessment follow-up.

The Stress Interview

The stress interview intentionally creates and promotes discomfort. The interviewer may have an abrupt or brash attitude. Alternately, the interviewer may stare, be silent,and spend time taking notes. The purpose of this type of interview is to test the candidate’s ability to be assertive and handle difficult situations.

The Behavioral Interview

In behavioral interviews, candidates are asked to respond to questions that require examples of previous activities and behaviors performed. To succeed at this type of interview, be prepared to give accounts of how you have dealt with difficulties on the job. The purpose of this type of interview is to predict future performance based on past experiences.

The Phone Interview

Participating in a phone interview seems like it would take some pressure off the entire interviewing process, but it doesn’t. Phone interviews are perceived as being an informal means of securing a job. Unfortunately, job seekers make some of the most critical mistakes during this type of interview.

It’s important to recognize why phone interviews are becoming popular. Time is one of the biggest factors. As employees are taking on more responsibilities, they’re trying to find time saving techniques. The interviewer can discuss matters with a potential candidate prior to an official meeting, clarify discrepancies or concerns, conduct an informal introduction, discuss the position, and/or ask for additional career information.

Although a phone interview caters to employers, it doesn’t always have the same affect for interviewees. A phone interview can be unexpected and leave the interviewee feeling that they have been caught off guard. Whether the interview was scheduled or not, you should have a cheat sheet by your phone to ensure preparedness regardless of which situation you find your self in.

Without an outline or list of potential answers, these types of interviews can feel and become quite casual. A casual phone interview can provoke unrelated and untargeted answers

Become familiar with various types of interviews, as you may encounter interviewers who blend styles to suit the interview objectives and to test for employment readiness.

Interview Questions

Typical Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself. 
  • Why are you applying for this job?
  • What can you offer us?
  • What are your strengths? weaknesses?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • What do you hope to gain from this job?
  • How did you choose your academic field?
  • What are your career plans for the next five years?
  • What is your long term objective?
  • Describe your work style.
  • How do you prefer to be supervised?
  • Have you ever had a conflict with a boss?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why did you take your last job?
  • Describe a situation in which you were successful.
  • How has your experience prepared you for this job?
  • What motivates you?
  • How do you handle stress?
  • How do you think a professor or friend who knows you well would describe you?
  • What have you learned from your past mistakes?
  • How do you determine or evaluate success?
  • Describe your most rewarding college experience.
  • Will you relocate? Do you have a geographical preference?
  • How do I know you’re the best candidate?
  • How has your education prepared you for this position?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • If you had to live your life over again, what would you change?

Behavioral Questions

  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
  • Describe a time on any job that you held in which you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
  • Give an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
  • Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.
  • Give an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
  • Describe the most significant or creative presentation which you have had to complete.Tell me of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you or vice versa.
  • Tell me about a time when you worked under tremendous stress.
  • Describe the most rewarding aspect of your previous job.
  • Describe the most challenging or frustrating aspect of that same job.
  • If you could change one thing about your current boss, what would that be and why?
  • Give me an example of a problem you faced on any job and how you went about solving it.
  • Describe an experience when you dealt with an angry customer.
  • When was the last time you “broke the rules” (thought outside the box) and how did you do it?
  • What was the wildest idea you had in the past year? What did you do about it?
  • What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make and how did you arrive at your decision?
  • When taking on a new task, do you like to have a great deal of feedback and responsibility at the outset or do you like to try your own approach?
  • Are you a team player? 
  • Why did you wait so long to begin your job search?

Illegal questions

Interview questions must all be job/experience related. If questions come up that are illegal or improper, such as questions about your family plans, etc, then you need to consider your options:

  • Refuse to answer: this can tell the employer you think the question is improper
  • Answer the question: you decide to swallow your pride and privacy
  • Answer the legitimate question and ignore the illegal or improper questions
  • Ask a question rather than answer the improper question. When in doubt, ask for clarification

Interviewee Questions

  • What do you look for in applicants?
  • What continuing education and supervision is provided?
  • In what directions do you see your organization going in the near future?
  • What are some current challenges here?
  • What do you like most about your work here?
  • What makes a successful employee in your organization?
  • How would I be evaluated?
  • What’s a normal work week like?
  • Is there other information I can provide you?
  • When will your hiring decisions and offers be made?
  • What are the specific duties required?
  • Please tell me about your experiences with this organization.

Evaluating the Interview

The employer will consider the following in evaluating your interview:

  • Your handshake, attire, eye contact, etc.
  • A demonstration of awareness of the company/organization
  • Relevant questions asked
  • Responsive listening Enthusiasm about the company/organization
  • Ability to fit in with the company/organization
  • A fit between the company’s needs and your talents/skills
  • Demonstrated ability to work as a team player
  • Motivation, innovation and energy level
  • Attitudes toward work, self and others
  • Ability to lead or supervise

After the Interview

  • Send a thank you letter within 24 hours of the interview; you may email or fax your letter, but always send a hard copy in the mail for follow-up
  • Complete any written applications and forms requested
  • Make notes to yourself
  • Write down key things that were said. These can be used in your thank you letter

Tools for Interviewing

Mock Interview Checklist

You should:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the company/employer & job description.
  2. View short CareerSpots videos on interviewing. Review career services interview webpage on interview etiquette, types, and different questions to practice and ask.
  3. Utilize the interview module in OptimalResume/SkillsFirst, including view sample responses from virtual career coach and record yourself responding to interview questions.
  4. Schedule an appointment in CareerConnect, and meet with a career counselor to conduct a mock interview.
  5. Prepare for the real thing! Practice. Practice. Practice.