Interviewing

The job interview is one of the most important parts of your job search. It is your opportunity to sell your strengths and present yourself as a candidate who is uniquely qualified. With preparation and practice you can learn the skills necessary to interview effectively. The interview is usually divided into three parts: a few minutes of “ice breaking” to allow the candidate to feel comfortable; questions from the employer (which take the majority of the time); and time for the interviewee to ask questions about the organization or position. 

Preparation

Know Yourself

What are your skills and accomplishments that qualify you as the best candidate for the job? Be prepared to answer the gener al question, “tell me about yourself” by preparing a one-minute “personal statement” or bio.

Personal Statement

Prepare a one-minute “personal statement” or bio explaining your background, skills, accomplishments, strengths and goals. Do not include information such as where you grew up or how many siblings you have.  Practice this until it rolls off your tongue easily in an unrehearsed fashion.

Keep in mind when answering the interviewer's questions that you want to relate your answers to the job at hand. Therefore, a s with preparing your cover letter and resume, find out the skills and requirements of the job.

Skills

f you have prepared a resume, you have already considered what your job-related and transferable skills are. Refer to the Resume Writing handout for tips.

Accomplishments

Prepare an array of accomplishment statements to use as needed during the interview and practice articulating these. There is a world of difference between thinking how you will say something and actually saying it. Also, take any documentation of accomplishments with you in a folder.

Relate your accomplishments in a story-like format by using STAR: 

  • Think about a Situation or Task you faced.  Describe this situation in two or three sentences.
  • Next, describe the Action you took.  Be very specific.  While you want to avoid appearing arrogant, you want to take credit for the role you played.
  • Conclude by describing the Result you achieved.  Discuss how your work helped an employer (a community service project,your church, child’s school, etc).  Whenever possible, discuss the result in measurable or quantifiable terms.

For example:  As an Account Rep I was expected to implement a new system process for invoices, but did not have the full supp ort of my manager.  To convince the manager to support the new process, I proposed an 8 a.m. meeting to discuss the project. Both the presentation and my willingness to meet so early convinced my manager to give approval. The new system process was quickly implemented and as a result decreased the processing time for invoices by 25 percent

Know the company

Learn as much as possible about the company and be prepared to answer questions in a relevant manor and ask intelligent quest ions. Sources of information include: past or current employees, the company’s public relations office, the company's Web site, a library or the Career Development Center. Areas to research include: Corporate culture Number of employees Reputation Age of company Services or products Competitors Organizational structure Types of positions available.  Finding out this information will not only help you be more articulate in the interview but also will help you be aware of what the employer will be listening for.

Practice

It is imperative you practice interviewing – either alone, with a friend or with a career counselor.  Fine-tune your interview style and become more comfortable answering questions about yourself.  However, do not memorize answers or practice excessively, as this

can adversely decrease your spontaneity during the interview. Above all, employers are listening to see if you have a good attitude, integrity, and would be loyal to the organization.

Remember the 50/50, two minute max rule. According to Richard Bolles (Author of What Color is your Parachute?) and

researchers at M.I.T., persons who get hired most frequently follow this conversation mix. Essentially, you talk 50 percent of the time

and listen 50 percent of the time during the interview. Talking too much gives the impression you are self-absorbed and oblivious to the needs of the company and speaking too little conveys that you have something to hide or are a poor communicator. When ask ed a question, try not to speak more than two minutes when delivering the answer. According to Bolles, “Peop le who ramble on and on don’t get hired.”

Dress for Success

Make sure you have a conservative, attractive interview suit or outfit and are properly groomed.

Interviewing

Interviewing Tips

  • Be on time! Arrive five to 10 minutes early to prepare yourself for the interview.
  • Check your appearance, if possible.
  • Bring an updated resume and a list of references.
  • Make eye contact with the interviewer and give a firm handshake. Relax, be confident and optimistic.
  • Stress your qualifications for the job opening.

Indicate your stability, attendance record and experience.

  • Recount experiences that relate to the current position (transferable skills). Demonstrate your knowledge of the company and its products.
  • Answer questions honestly and in a straightforward manner. Be careful not to ramble. Indicate your flexibility and readiness to learn.
  • Never criticize previous jobs or employers.
  • Do not discuss compensation until the final interview, after the employer initiates the conversation. Be yourself!
  • At the conclusion of the interview, be sure you understand what is expected of you and what is going to happen next. Always
  • ask for a hiring timeline if the information is not offered to you. Always thank the interviewer for their time and ask for their business card.  Be sure to express interest in the job if you feel there is a match.

Answering Interview Questions

Be prepared to answer the questions asked by your interviewer. Be honest, focused, enthusiastic and positive. Think of experiences in previous positions that support your answer. The following are sample interview questions. The list can fill a book and does in some cases! Essentially, the employer wants five questions answered. Just FIVE: Why are you here? What can you do for us? What kind of person are you? What distinguishes you from the other 20 people who have applied for this job? Can I afford you?

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral based interviewing is centered on the assumption that past behavior predicts future performance. Interviewers determine what the competencies are for the job and then conduct the interview by probing for examples that demonstrate those skills or characteristics. Your prepared accomplishment statements are especially helpful when answering these types of questions.  Sample behavioral questions include:

  • Tell me about a time when you … displayed leadership skills, solved a problem, dealt with a difficult customer, went “above and beyond,” displayed teamwork skills, etc.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed.  How did you deal with it?
  • Describe a time when your workload was heavy.  How did you respond?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What are your greatest strengths or assets?
  • What is your greatest success or accomplishment?
  • What decisions have you most regretted and why?
  • Why dyou want twork here? What makes you think you will dthis job well?
  • Where would you like tbe in twtfive years? / What are your career goals?
  • How would your friends/past coworkers/supervisors describe you?
  • How important is money tyou?
  • Tell me about your most recent work experience.
  • How are you at working under pressure and deadlines?
  •  What are some things that are important tyou in your job?
  • What dyou think this job requires and how dyou meet the requirements?
  • Why did you switch from a different field?
  • What have you been doing since your last job?
  • How did you get along with your former boss and coworkers?
  • What did you like least about your previous supervisor?
  • What was your least favorite position that you have ever held and why?
  • How dyou set and achieve your goals?
  • How dyou set priorities and manage your time?
  • How have you influenced others in your previous jobs?
  • Tell me about your most challenging and least challenging jobs?
  • What type of supervision dyou prefer?
  • Describe a time when your workload was heavy.  How did you respond?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What are your greatest strengths or assets?
  • What is your greatest success or accomplishment?
  • What decisions have you most regretted and why?
  • Why dyou want twork here? What makes you think you will dthis job well?
  • Where would you like tbe in twtfive years? / What are your career goals?
  • How would your friends/past coworkers/supervisors describe you?
  • How important is money tyou?
  • Tell me about your most recent work experience.
  • How are you at working under pressure and deadlines?
  • What are some things that are important tyou in your job?
  • What dyou think this job requires and how dyou meet the requirements?
  • Why did you switch from a different field?
  • What have you been doing since your last job?
  • How did you get along with your former boss and coworkers?
  • What did you like least about your previous supervisor?
  • What was your least favorite position that you have ever held and why?
  • How dyou set and achieve your goals?
  • How dyou set priorities and manage your time?
  • How have you influenced others in your previous jobs?
  • Tell me about your most challenging and least challenging jobs?
  • What type of supervision dyou prefer?

Be prepared for interviewers to use the “layering” technique to dig deeper into your stories: 

  • What exactly did you do?
  • Why did you respond that way?
  • What was your specific role?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • What problems or successes resulted from your decisions/actions?

Questions to ask Interviewers

It is important to ask questions since this shows interest and ent husiasm.  Questions also will help you further decide if the job is right for you. (Remember, you are interviewing the company as well).  Ask those questions you could nohave found answers to by researching the company.

  •  Ask about further details of the job.
  •  What kind of decision making responsibilities will I have?
  •  Is this a newly created position?
  •  Will I mostly be working individually or in a team?
  •  What kind of training would I receive?
  •  How much client contact will I have?
  •  How many employees are in this department?
  •  How much travel is typically required?
  •  What is the typical career path of someone who starts in this position?
  •  Do people often move into different departments?
  •  How would you describe the firm’s culture?
  •  What do you see as the firm’s greatest assets/weaknesses?
  • What makes this firm different from its competition?

Interview Questions: Work History

  • Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment. - Best Answers
  • What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met? - Best Answers
  • What were your starting and final levels of compensation? - Best Answers
  • What were your responsibilities? - Best Answers
  • What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them? - Best Answers
  • What did you like or dislike about your previous job? - Best Answers
  • Which was most / least rewarding? - Best Answers
  • What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position? - Best Answers
  • Questions about your supervisors and co-workers. - Best Answers
  • What was it like working for your supervisor? - Best Answers
  • What do you expect from a supervisor? - Best Answers
  • Who was your best boss and who was the worst? - Best Answers
  • Why are you leaving your job? - Best Answers
  • What have you been doing since your last job? - Best Answers
  • Why were you fired? - Best Answers

Job Interview Questions About You

  • What is your greatest weakness? - Best Answers
  • What is your greatest strength? - Best Answers
  • Describe a typical work week. - Best Answers
  • Do you take work home with you? - Best Answers
  • How many hours do you normally work? - Best Answers
  • How would you describe the pace at which you work? - Best Answers
  • How do you handle stress and pressure? - Best Answers
  • What motivates you? - Best Answers
  • What are your salary expectations? - Best Answers
  • What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? - Best Answers
  • Tell me about yourself. - Best Answers
  • What has been the greatest disappointment in your life? - Best Answers
  • What are you passionate about? - Best Answers
  • What are your pet peeves? - Best Answers
  • What do people most often criticize about you? - Best Answers
  • When was the last time you were angry? What happened? - Best Answers
  • If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently? - Best Answers
  • If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say? Best Answers
  • Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? - Best Answers
  • Give some examples of teamwork. - Best Answers
  • What type of work environment do you prefer? - Best Answers
  • How do you evaluate success? - Best Answers
  • If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you handle it? - Best Answers
  • Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it. - Best Answers
  • Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it. - Best Answers
  • More job interview questions about your abilities. - Best Answers
  • More job interview questions about you. - Best Answers

Job Interview Questions About the New Job and the Company

Interview Questions: The Future

  • What are you looking for in your next job? What is important to you? - Best Answers
  • What are your goals for the next five years / ten years? - Best Answers
  • How do you plan to achieve those goals? - Best Answers
  • What are your salary requirements - both short-term and long-term? - Best Answers
  • Questions about your career goals. - Best Answers
  • What will you do if you don't get this position? - Best Answers

Candidate Specific Interview Questions

Behavior Based Interview Questions  In addition to being ready to answer these standard questions, prepare for behavior based interview questions. This is based on the premise that a candidate's past performance is the best predictor of future performance. You will you need to be prepared to provide detailed responses including specific examples of your work experiences.

Tough Interview Questions These are some of the more difficult interview questions that you may be asked on a job interview.

Interview Questions to Ask The last job interview question you may be asked is "What can I answer for you?" Have an

interview question or two of your own ready to ask. You aren't simply trying to get this job - you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.

Compile Responses to Interview Questions Take the time to compile a list of responses to both types of interview questions and to itemize your skills, values, and interests as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Emphasize what you can do to benefit the company rather than just what you are interested in.

Job Interview Thank You and Phone Calls

Always write a thank you letter or note immediately expressing interest in the job and highlighting one or two of your best qualifications. Saying “thank you” can be a powerful statement. Every time you send a thank you letter or note it is an opportunity to sell your qualifications and to leave a fresh impression in the mind of the reader. Send a thank you letter to anyone who has extended themselves in any way on behalf of your job search. Minimally, a written thank you should be sent after all interviews. Below you will find a sample of what a thank you letter might entail. A handwritten thank you note is also acceptable and even favored in some circumstances. Follow-up with a phone call one to two weeks after the interview regardless of which you choose.

If you are not sending a “thank you” following each job interview then you’re committing a faux pas in job search etiquette. Here are three reasons to send that post-interview thank you note: 

  1. You demonstrate professionalism.
  2. You’ll stand out since most candidates never take the time to send a “thank you”.
  3. You have the opportunity to add a comment or insight that was missed in the interview. 

The post-interview thank you note should be written immediately following the interview and mailed within 24 hours. Be absolutely certain you have the correct spelling and title of the interviewer (be sure to get their business card at the end of the interview).

LETTERS

Letters can be appropriate if you interviewed with a panel of interviewers (easily copied to all members) or if the interview was for a scholarship or entrance into a school program (can be placed in your file and weighed in decision-making). Ensure they are in business letter format.

What should the letter include?

  • First, be sure to let the interviewer know that you appreciate the time he or she spent in the interview process.
  • Second, add a positive statement about something you learned about the position or the company.
  • Third, add a comment concerning something that was discussed during the interview. For example, if the employer made a passing comment about the company’s need to upgrade their software then you might add a note about how you’re ready to help the company employees through the transition.
  • Fourth, be sure to re-state your interest and availability.

 Saying “thank you” will leave a strong and positive impression with any potential employer. And you may be surprised to find that good manners can lead to a good job! Here is a sample of content:

“Thank you again for meeting with me on Tuesday to discuss the Marketing Representative position. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, and the information you shared with me about MarketingInternational, Inc. was excellent.  As we discussed, I am excited about the possibility of applying my education and experience to the position. I am confident that my personality, marketing skills and knowledge of the industry will allow me to achieve success with Marketing International, Inc. If I can provide you with any additional information, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

HANDWRITTEN NOTES

Handwritten notes are appropriate for job interviews with one to three persons or with anyone who has given you personal and

individual consideration. Notes should be on nice stationary or card stock, in black or blue ink, and written as neatly as possible. They may be shorter or less formal than the letter version but are a very effective, personal touch. Here is a sample of content: “Thank you so much for meeting with me on Tuesday regarding the Marketing Management position. I am really looking forward to hearing from you; my education and qualifications make me an excellent candidate for the position. Please contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule a second interview.”

FOLLOW–UP CALL

Follow-up with a phone call one to two weeks after the interview regardless of which you choose.