Interviewing Strategies

The purpose of the interview is to convince the employer to hire you.  To do this, you must know what you have to offer and how your abilities match the employer's needs.  You must learn to communicate this effectively to the interviewer.  Successful interviewing requires preparation and practice.

Preparing for the Interview:

  • Be prepared to discuss your educational background--not just the classes you've taken but what you've learned.
  • Be prepared to discuss in detail any particular jobs or experiences you have had.  What did you learn from them?  Are they relevant to the job for which you are interviewing?
  • Be prepared to describe yourself.  What motivates you?  How do you get a particular job done?
  • Do you get involved?  Are you a leader?  How do you interact with co-workers, supervisors, and possible clients?
  • Research the organization and position.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice!

While you can never be sure what will be asked during an interview, you can be prepared for those questons that are likely to arise.  You should rehearse your responses to common interview questions in advance.  Practice with a friend, or better yet, participate in a "mock interview."  Mock interviewing is when you sit down with a business professional and pretend you are in an actual interview situation.  Arrangements for a mock interview may be made through Career Services.

Going to an interview unprepared is like taking a test without studying!

During the Interview:

  • Arrive about 15 minutes early:  If necessary, drive to the actual interview site prior to the interview to determine traffic patterns, parking, etc.  If, for any reason, you cannot make the interview, notify the employer as far in advance as possible.  Don't be a no-show!
  • Make a good first impression:  Dress appropriately, be well groomed, give a firm handshake and make eye contact.
  • Conduct yourself professionally:  You may meet your interviewer in the parking lot or in the hallway.  Be courteous and pleasant to everyone you meet.
  • Answer questions thoroughly and with examples:  Give specific details.  If an employer asks, "Did you like your last job?"  Don't simply answer yes.  Instead, state what parts of the job you enjoyed and why.
  • Examine your body language:  Maintain good posture.  At times, leaning forward will demonstrate enthusiasm and interest.  Watch for crossed arms.  Maintain good eye contact. 
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm:  A positive attitude goes a long way.  Demonstrate that you are excited about the possibility of working for the company.
  • Let them know you are interested:  Sometimes employers truly don't know if the candidate is interested.  Hopefully, you have demonstrated interest and enthusiasm throughout the interview, but don't be afraid to state in closing that you are very interested in the position.
  • Before you leave, did you cover everything?  Often, in closing, an employer might ask, "Is there anything else that you would like to mention that wasn't discussed?"  Take this time to tell the interviewer about relevent skills, qualities, or accomplishments that were not covered.
  • Thank the interviewer:  Always thank the interviewer for his/her time whether or not you want that particular position.

Types of Questions:

  1. "Tell me about yourself."  This is an open-ended question usually asked to help "break the ice."  Remember to keep your response related to the job.  Be specific and don't ramble.  Your answer should be about two minutes in length. Watch this New Grad Life blogspot.
  2. "Questions about anything on your resume."  An interviewer may probe for more information or just a general discussion of something you listed on your resume.  Be prepared to elaborate on anything you list on your resume--give examples.
  3. "Give us an example of a time when _______."  Based on the premise that an applicant's past behavior will predict how he or she will respond in similar situations in the future, behavior-based interviewing focuses on determining how you have actively applied your skills.  Be prepared to give specifics using the S-A-R (situation-action-result) approach.
  4. "What is your major strength/weakness?"  Your major strength should be easy, but be sure to relate it directly to the position.  As for your major weakness, prepare to put a positive spin on it.  For example, "I tend to be nervous around my supervisors, although I've gained more confidence in this area since my last job where my supervisors encouraged me to ask questions."  One way to think of a weakness is to look for something that might be perceived as a gap in your resume.  For instance, "You may notice that I haven't held a professional position in accounting, but through my involvement with the VITA program, I flawlessly processed over 50 income tax returns for low income citizens."  Remember that your job in discussing weaknesses is to select something noteworthy and honest, but to put a positive light on the trait and to show how you are working on it.  Avoid cliches such as "I'm too much of a perfectionist!"
  5. "If you could be an animal, which would it be and why?"  This is not a trick question.  You may be asked questions that seem ridiculous or out of place.  The interviewer is trying to determine if you can think on your feet.
  6. "Do you have any questions for us?"  Always have questions!  Be sure not to ask questions that can easily be answered through research or questions that the employer has already answered for you during the interview.  Doing so would signal that you did not do your homework or that you were not listening.  Questions might include:
  • Technology the company uses
  • How your division interacts with other divisions of the organization
  • Characteristics of a star performer
  • Why the interviewers were drawn to the company themselves
  • What will need immediate attention upon starting the position
  • What the interviewers consider the most challenging aspects of this job

Don't ask:  questions about salary, vacation, benefits, and retirement--they reflect misplaced priorities.  These questions should be saved for "after" you have been offered the position, unless your interviewer brings up the topic.  Some positions may require you to "state your salary requirement" in which case you must do your research and always leave room for negotiation.

After the Interview

  • Send a thank you note:  Send a short personal note to the interviewer within 48 hours.  Keep the note brief, but reiterate your interest in the position (if you are, in fact, interested) and use the opportunity to mention a key point that you failed to mention in the interview.
  • Evaluate your performance after the interview:  Make notes on how you did overall, what were your strengths, what needs improving, is the job right for you, and would you enjoy working here.  Your interviewing skills will improve as you learn from each interview.

Dressing for an Interview

Need advice on how to dress for an interview?  Syms Dress to Achieve is specially designed for college students.

Phone interviewing tips from New Gradlife.
New Gradlife Blogspot ~ Watch this video on acing the phone interview.

Additional Resources

Job Web
Quintessential Careers
College Grad

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