Interviewing

While the resume gets you the interview, it is the interview that gets you the job!  It is so important to be prepared by researching the company, anticipating and practicing questions and preparing questions to ask during your interview.  There are many ways Career Services can help you get ready for your interview:

Prepare to be Your Best

Employers are impressed by candidates who have researched the organization, analyzed the job description and show energy and enthusiasm for the job. Take the following steps to increase your interview IQ:

Research the organization

Learn as much as you can before the interview. Visit their website to understand their products/services, volume of business, competitors, culture, and other information. Search for news articles or other publications about the organization. Use Google News, LexisNexis, Hoovers, Wetfeet, and Business Week as well as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Research the job

In addition to researching the company, you need to understand as much as you can about the job itself. Analyze the job description and match your experiences, skills and interests to the job. It is important to have a good idea of a salary range for the position so that you can better negotiate when the time comes. Professional trade associations, the Department of Labor and www.salary.com are some sources of salary statistics. Speaking to professionals in the field is the best way to find accurate salary information (see Informational Interviewing handout).

Know yourself

Now that you have completed your company, job, and salary research, you need to focus on yourself. Why are you interested in this position? How do your experience and qualifications fit the requirements of the job? Be able to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, your educational and work experiences, and your goals and values. Write down your accomplishments and prepare concrete examples as evidence.

Know the interview format ahead of time

Employers, depending on the type of role they are interviewing for, may structure the format to highlight job-seekers strengths and abilities to think on their feet.  It is completely appropriate to ask “with whom will I be meeting?” and “how long should I plan to be at your office?” so you can prepare appropriately and pace yourself once you are there.

Practice, practice, practice

Read the job description thoroughly. Prepare answers to potential questions in advance. Be sure to connect your skills with their specific requirements. Practice your answers with a friend or a Career Services counselor.

Recorded mock interviews are also available, after a practice session with a counselor. Take advantage of InterviewStream, an online interview-practice tool that can be used from home if you have a webcam on your computer, or from the designated computer in Career Services.

Make a list of questions to ask

The questions you ask indicate your level of interest in the organization and your preparation for the interview. If you don’t have any questions to ask, most employers will think you’re not really interested in the job. Don’t ask questions that could easily be answered through your own research. Instead, ask questions which demonstrate a genuine interest in and understanding of the organization and the position.

Examples:

  • What are some of the qualities that will make the person in this position successful?
  • Can you describe a typical day or week for the person in this position?
  • What will the biggest challenges be for the person in this job?
  • What are some of the possible career paths that this position may lead to?
  • Could you tell me about the people with whom I will be working directly?
  • What are the challenges currently facing the department/organization?
  • When may I expect to hear from you regarding my candidacy?

Common Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why are you interested in this position?
3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
4. Can you describe one or two of your most important accomplishments?
5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
6. What is a high pressure/stressful situation you’ve experienced recently? How did you handle it?
7. Give me an example of a conflict you encountered and how you handled it.
8. Describe a situation in which you worked as a member of a team/acted as a leader.
9. Why should I hire you?
10. List three things your former supervisor/co-workers would say about you.

Difficult Questions

Be prepared for the questions you hope no one asks. For example, if you have a gap in your resume, you should expect to be asked about it.

Your explanation should emphasize the positive, such as what you learned from the experience:

“That’s correct, I didn’t work in 2009. I had been a part-time student, and decided to go full time to finish sooner, so I wasn’t working.”

Perhaps you were laid off. Frame your explanation in a matter-of-fact way that does not refer to your job performance:

“I was one of 180 people laid off last September when XYZ Inc. went through a major downsizing.”

What if you were fired for some reason?

“I just didn’t fit into the organization. Finally, my supervisor and I decided it was best for me to leave. This was difficult, but it showed me the importance of finding a good match for my next position.”

These examples show straightforward answers that reflect well on you, demonstrate that you are resilient and that you have learned from any mistakes or setbacks.

Thank You Notes

Employers expect to hear from you and will wonder about your interest in the position and your professionalism if they don’t receive one. Traditionally thank-you notes have been brief handwritten notes sent by regular mail. It is completely acceptable to send a typed note by regular mail or by email. Try to send it within 24 hours after the interview, but don’t send it immediately after, while on the commute home. Give yourself a little time to actually process the interview and write a targeted, thoughtful note.

Responding to The Job Offer

Your first step after being given a verbal job offer is to thank the employer for the offer, ask when you can expect to receive a written offer, and when they need to hear back from you regarding your answer. It is not advised to accept the offer on the spot, as that will not leave you even the possibility for negotiating your salary or other elements within the offer. After receiving the offer letter with salary and benefits information, you can now ask any questions, negotiate, and/or accept the offer.