Career Exploration

The job interview is your opportunity to shine! It gives you the chance to display your intelligence, talent and enthusiasm. It lets an employer learn about you and your:

  • Abilities 
  • Work experience 
  • Talents and education 
  • Interests and motivation 
  • Personality 

Preparation is the key to having a successful interview experience.

Know yourself

Before you go to an interview put thought into why you want this job. Understand how the job will match with your personal interests, abilities and values. Be able to explain to the employer how the knowledge you gained from your college training and previous work/volunteer experiences will help you be the right person for the job. Also, understand your strengths and weaknesses. We all have them and you need to be able to explain them to the employer. Tell what you are good at and areas where you are working for improvement.

The interview is your chance to sell yourself. Do this with enthusiasm. Participate in conversation with the interviewer. Use examples or stories to explain what you mean. Look the interviewer in the eye. Use your hands to illustrate what you mean. Smile. Add humor.

What Employers Are Looking For

These are the reported top ten qualities employers seek. Be prepared to tell about your competence in these areas:

  • Communication skills (written and verbal) 
  • Honesty/Integrity 
  • Teamwork skills (works well with others) 
  • Interpersonal skills (relates well with others) 
  • Motivation/Initiative 
  • Strong work ethic 
  • Analytical skills 
  • Flexibility/Adaptability 
  • Computer Skills 
  • Self-Confidence 

Know the Organization

Knowing about the organization before the interview will impress the employer and give you an edge over other candidates. Learn all you can about the employer's:

  • History Locations 
  • Products or services standing in the industry 
  • Business methods organizational structure 
  • Current job openings 

To find this company information do an internet search for a company website. If you can’t find information, check with the Career Development office or call the company directly and request company literature to be sent to you. Before the interview, or at least early into it, try to find out what the essential responsibilities of the job are. Throughout the interview, give information from your background that shows you can handle those responsibilities.

Know what to wear

Take a good look at yourself. Employers are increasingly broadminded about clothes and hair, but few are truly ‘liberated’. If you are serious about getting the job, then you need to look and dress the part. No interviewer will tell you what to wear, but the person will measure your maturity and judgment partially by your appearance. Remember that the first impression is often a lasting one. It’s not necessarily the best-qualified person who gets the job, but the one who makes the best impression. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression! Points to remember about your appearance for an interview:

  • The employer will assume this is the best you’ll ever look 
  • Lean to the side of conservative dress 
  • Lay off the jewelry (especially multiple earrings, eye brow, nose, lip or tongue rings) 
  • Smell good, clean. Your scent should leave the room when you do 

Know how to respond to questions

  • Answer as directly as possible, articulate and natural-no canned answers and be honest! 
  • Be yourself and focus on positive qualities; never apologize for your lack of any thing; back up everything you say with examples 
  • Take a couple seconds to think about how you are going to answer a question so your response is accurate and appropriate 

Know the type of questions you can expect to be asked

  • Tell me about yourself. 
  • Why do you want this job? 
  • Why should I hire you over other candidates? 
  • What are your career plans? Where do you see yourself five years from now? 
  • Why did you leave your last job? 
  • Why do you want to work for us? 
  • Tell me about an accomplishment in which you take pride. 
  • What does success mean to you? 
  • What have been your favorite and least favorite classes? 
  • What jobs have you enjoyed the most? The least? Why? 
  • What specific skills do you have that relate to this position? 
  • What do you do in your leisure time? 
  • What were the three most important decisions of your life? 
  • What are three of your strengths? 
  • What aren’t you good at? 

Behavioral Based Interviewing Questions

You may go to an interview where the employer is asking behavioral type questions. Behavioral based interviewing is the systematic use of job-related, open-ended questions to help measure your skills for a particular job. The driving idea of this concept is that ‘past behavior predicts future behavior'. Research shows that people will act consistently over time.

Sample Behavior Based Question and Response:

Q: Tell me about a difficult situation and how you dealt with it.
Response: My marketing class was assigned to groups and given a project that we had to complete by a set deadline. Our group decided to divide up the responsibilities in order to complete the project by the deadline. The problem was that one of the group members was not completing his assigned parts or showing up for our group meetings. Our group got together and brainstormed ideas on how we should handle this situation. We decided as a group that we would confront him about this and review what was expected of him in order to complete the project. It turned out that the person had a lot going on in his life at that time with work, school, and a sick relative. Our group decided that we needed to help him in order to complete the assignment. By talking with him we decided what he should be able to complete and then we divided up the remaining responsibilities amongst the rest of us. This experience taught me the importance of teamwork and how an effective team can work together to get a goal accomplished.

Other Sample Behavioral Based Interviewing Questions:

  • Spoken Communication: What types of experiences have you had in talking with customers or clients? Specifically, tell me about a time when you had to communicate under difficult circumstances.
  • Policy and Procedures: Tell me about your experiences in documenting your work activities in a written form. Be specific. 
  • Written Communication: This job will require you to spend a large amount of time writing. Tell me about your writing experiences that you think will contribute to your ability to do this job well. 
  • Commitment to Task: Tell me about a time when you were able to provide your own motivation to produce even though you were working alone. What were the circumstances of the situation and how did you manage to motivate yourself? 
  • Analytical Problem Solving: What was your greatest success in using the principles of logic to solve technical problems at work? Be specific. 
  • Goal Setting: What have been your experiences in defining long-range goals? Tell me what specific goal was set, how it was set, and how successful you were in its achievement. 
  • Decisiveness: Describe a situation in which you had to draw a conclusion quickly and take speedy action. 
  • Assertiveness: Tell me about a time when your job required you to say how you really felt about a situation. What did you say and how did you say it? - Coping: Tell me about a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands. Give me an example. 
  • Tolerance or Ambiguity: Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with frequent job changes or unexpected events on the job. What does this situation say about your ability to work in an ambiguous or unstructured circumstance? Know how to conduct yourself at the interview

Additional tips

Plan to arrive for your interview at least fifteen minutes early. 

Establish a friendly relationship with the secretary or receptionist. 

Be aware of your body language. Your tone of voice, posture, etc., all give clues about your feelings and attitudes. Develop a firm handshake and use it when introduced. 

Maintain good eye contact. It’s key to building trust in a relationship. 

Address the interviewer by name. 

Be positive. Keep the atmosphere friendly and pleasant. Don’t put others down to make yourself look good. 

Be a good listener. Be alert to nonverbal cues indicating when you should start or stop talking. Don’t be thinking of your response while the interviewer is still talking. 

Above all, try to relax! Apprehension, tension and anxiety are a normal part of the preinterview jitters. Relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises should help. 

BE YOURSELF!Don’t try to change your personality. Give the interviewer a chance to find out who you are.

Know what to bring to the interview

  • Extra copies of resumes
  • Transcript 
  • List of references 
  • Pen and paper (you can jot a few notes during the interview, but most notes should be made directly following the interview) 
  • List of well thought out questions you have for the interviewer 

Know what to expect in the interview 

Although every interview is different, most follow a general pattern. A typical half-hour session can be roughly divided into four segments. The first 5 or 10 minutes are usually devoted to establishing some rapport and opening the lines of communication. Try to relax and enjoy this part of the conversation. The interview begins the moment you introduce yourself and shake hands. Your ability to converse and express yourself intelligently is being measured. The adept interviewer will move subtly from a casual exchange to a more specific level of conversation.

The second part of the interview gives you a chance to answer some ‘where, when and why’ questions about your background-to supply information that does not appear on your resume. This is your chance to maximize whatever you have to offer. Don’t monopolize the conversation; let the interviewer lead. But don’t confine your statements to yes or no answers. As you communicate information the employer will be looking for your logical organization and presentation of thoughts.

Part three begins when the interviewer feels your skills and interests have been identified and can see how they fit the organization. If a good match seems possible, the interviewer will begin discussing the company and the job opening. The end of the interview is usually your chance to ask any questions that had not been answered earlier. Two final questions to ask might be, "Do you need any additional information?" and "What is your time line in filling this position?" After you leave the interview take a few minutes to analyze how you did. What questions did you find difficult? What did you forget to say? How can you improve on the next interview? While the interview is still fresh in your mind write a thank-you letter to the interviewer, reiterating your interest in the job and recalling a significant fact or idea that will set you apart from the other applicants. One paragraph is usually sufficient.