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Interviewing

Successful interviewing is an essential skill for career development.  Practicing is an important strategy for a graduate school or job interview and staff are available to conduct mock interviews.  You can prepare for a specific interview or receive coaching on general interview techniques.  Career Development also offers resources about different interview formats, sample questions and suggestions to improve your interviewing style.

Practice is the best preparation, so contact us for a mock interview.  If you don't have time for either, feel free to browse the following sections for information.

Research and Preparation

  • Research the job duties, department structure, organization, its mission and goals, the market, and its competitors
  • The organization’s website, annual reports, and literature
  • Online search engines, such as Google or Wikipedia; verify information
  • Professional associations and publications
  • Organization contacts, such as employees, friends, neighbors, and relatives 
  • Libraries contain useful public information 
  • Business periodicals and trade journals 

Be sure to prepare examples.  Some ways to help you with the process:

  • Think about experiences from previous career-related jobs
  • Describe experiences with relevant transferrable skills for the job
  • Read the job description to find out what skills the organization desires
  • Try to use volunteer experiences as well
  • Have examples that can be used in more than one situation

Questions for the interviewer is one of the main factors that employers will use to eliminate potential candidates:

  • Focus on job duties, the organization or company, industry trends, and the interview timeline
  • Try to relate your questions to what was discussed in the interview
  • Avoid salary and benefits questions
  • Express enthusiasm and focus on their responses

Last step: practice, practice, practice!  Contact Career Development for a mock interview!

Interview Types


Phone:

  • Find a quiet place where you can focus
  • Choose a time when you won’t be disturbed
  • Have documentation in front of you
  • Be ready to take notes
  • Stand up and dress up in order to be in the mood of an interview
  • No eating or gum chewing
  • Be sure to smile because it will help you relax and that can be heard on the other end of the line
  • Be concise and offer concrete examples 

Traditional interview:

  • Prepare your elevator speech
  • Be specific with detailed examples rather than vague statements
  • Develop questions for the interviewer based on your research
  • Remember that it is a mutual process

Behavioral-based interview:

  • Focus on past behavior as a predictor of future behavior
  • Be specific; the interviewer is more interested in you and your behavior than the actual situation
  • The STAR technique is useful when describing experiences for this type of interview
    • Situation (what, when, and where)
    • Task (your role or expectation)
    • Action (actions, decisions, and why)
    • Result (your conclusions looking back)

    Panel:

    • Could include one single interview with multiple people or multiple individual interviews by different interviewers
    • Make eye contact with all interviewers, not just the person who asked the question 
    • Try to match the communication styles and organization of the interviewers
    • Try to be enthusiastic in all the interviews
    • Take a bathroom break to gather yourself if necessary

    Group:

    • Interview consisting of multiple interviewees
    • Be respectful and speak to other members of the group
    • Don’t solely focus on what you are going to say
    • Watch for nonverbal cues

     

    Lunch/dinner:

    • Maintain a professional demeanor
    • Follow the employer’s lead (wait to see where he or she sits)
    • Don’t order alcohol or smoke and maintain proper manners
    • Avoid the most expensive or least expensive item on the menu
    • Be prepared to talk about current events rather than simply work

    Case interview:

    • Favored by certain industries (consulting or computer science) and focused on problem-solving
    • Interviewers will often indicate ahead of time if there will be a case interview 
    • Talk through your answer and explain your conclusions
    • Listen carefully and ask questions if you need clarification 
    • There may not be a right answer, and your thought process is important 

    Interview Process


    Arrival:

    • Arrive 10-15 minutes early
    • Use the bathroom to check your appearance
    • Browse company literature and relax
    • Turn off your cell phone

    Introduction:

    • Smile, relax, make eye contact
    • Introduce yourself with a firm handshake; don't crush the person's hand
    • Be prepared to converse lightly before the actual interview begins.

    Interview Format:

    • Every organization is different
    • Interview will consist of some type of question and answer format
    • May include several rounds of the interview. 
    • Be prepared with exact dates, addresses, and phone numbers if asked to complete application 

    Employers Want to Determine:

    • If you can do the job
    • Your level of interest and enthusiasm
    • Your work ethic
    • How well you will fit into the organizational culture

    Body Language: 

    • Sit up straight
    • Eye contact – not too intense
    • Use normal controlled gestures
    • Listen attentively
    • Take notes if necessary, but let them know

    What to Wear and Bring


    Men

    • Dark suits (Black or Navy) 
    • Polished dress shoes (solid heels, no scuffs) 
    • Matching or complementary socks
    • Conservative silk ties, small patterns or colors 
    • No earrings or piercings, no visible tattoos
    • Facial hair and nails, trimmed and clean cut 
    • No cologne, perfume
    • Bring breath mints

    Women

    • Neutral colored suits (black, navy, gray)
    • Skirt length around knee level
    • Low-heeled shoes (one to two inches), closed shoes
    • Simple makeup and hair neatly styled or pulled back away from  the face
    • Avoid flashy jewelry, cover visible tattoos
    • Clear or conservative nail polish, appropriate nail length
    • Small purse size or none at all, keep hands free  

    What to bring:

    • Leather or vinyl portfolio
    • Several copies of your resume and reference sheet
    • Reference letters
    • Notepad
    • Pens
    • Professional portfolio if applicable

    Portfolios and writing samples: Some employers may like to see examples of your work.  This is common in some fields and becoming more common in others.  You can include writing samples, awards and recognitions, letters, presentations, printed materials, or publications.  Make sure it is relevant before bringing the portfolio, otherwise it will simply be a hassle.

    Post-Interview Follow-Up


    Immediately:

    • Take notes and review your performance
    • Note the date that you can expect to hear from them
    • Write down the names of everyone who interviewed you

    Within 24 hours:

    • Follow up with a thank you letter/note/email to everyone who interviewed you
    • In the thank you, be brief and reiterate your interest in the position
    • Within the established timeframe, follow up with a phone call, letter or email if you haven’t heard

    Salary Negotiation and Offer


    Do not bring up salary during the interview process.  It may arise, but allow the employer to bring it up.  There are a few ways to handle the topic. 

    • You could provide a vague statement; “My salary expectations are flexible and open based on learning more about the position, its responsibilities, and other benefits.” 
    • You may want to ask a question; “What is the general salary range for the position?”
    • Provide a realistic range; “My salary expectation is in the fourties but is negotiable."
    • Do research on the organization and industry to learn the typical salary range for the position.   

    Salary negotiation after the offer:

    • Do research; find out what individuals in the industry, with your experience and education are being paid, and cite this research in your negotiation to provide support 
    • Be realistic; keep your expectations in check
    • Find out if negotiation is typical in your industry or position; some salary offers are non-negotiable
    • Location matters; determine the cost of living and account for it
    • Take into account the entire package, including salary and benefits
    • Prepare your case and make it a win/win situation; highlight what you bring to the position that makes you worth more than they offered
    • Negotiation is always a risk; you may end up with everything, something, or nothing of what you want, or you may lose the offer completely 
    • Determine what you are willing to risk in order to get what you want and what you are willing to give up if necessary
    • How you approach the negotiation is highly important; be professional and focus on their needs as well

    When the offer is made, ask any questions that you have at the time and thank them for the offer.  Let them know if you are interested, but it is okay to ask for a few days to think about it.  This is often expected, and you want to make sure if this is the right opportunity for you.  Make sure that you receive the offer in writing; they should send you an official package or email with the offer including salary and benefits information.  Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding if you should accept the offer:

    • Does the position fit into your overall career goals?
    • Will you be using the skills that you enjoy using?
    • Do you like the work environment?
    • Did you connect with your prospective colleagues?
    • Do you think that you will be successful working for your potential supervisor?
    • Does there seem to be adequate training?
    • Are there opportunities for professional development?
    • Is there opportunity for growth within the company?
    • Is the position compatible with your personal life and preferred schedule?
    • Do the pay and benefits fit your criteria?
    • Take the entire package into account because salary is not the only piece
    • The benefits, professional development, job fulfillment, environment, and commute are all parts of the package

    It could be beneficial to consider how the job fits into your overall value system:

    • How do your personal values play a role in your professional life?
    • How do you define social and environmental responsibility, and how does that fit into your career?
    • Will you be conflicted when working for your prospective organization?

    See the salary and negotiation section for links to various salary research websites.

    Common Questions


    Please feel free to download this list of common interview questions