An interview is a strategic conversation with a hiring manager that focuses on the interviewee's fit in the organization. The employer's goal is to hire the candidate that not only has the knowledge and skills required for the job, but also the personal attributes needed to succeed in the position and the organization's culture.
An interview has three phases:
- Preparation: Preparing for an interview is nearly as important as the interview itself. To prepare, research and practice your responses, organize your stories and materials to bring to the interview (e.g. list of questions for the interviewer).
- The interview: The interview starts the moment you walk through the door. Make a good first impression by wearing appropriate attire, arriving a few minutes early, and greeting everyone warmly and professionally. During the interview, persuade the interviewer that you are the best fit through stories that highlight your experiences and skills. Be sure to ask questions of the interviewer at the end of the interview.
- Follow-up: Send a thank you message to your interviewers. A handwritten note is preferred. If you haven't heard back by the date the interviewer told you, follow up with a phone call or email that reiterates your qualifications and interest in the position. Finally, keep in touch with the interviewer; even if you don't get the job, they may be looking for someone like you in the future.
For additional interview tips, download our interviewing guide (pdf).
More and more employers are using behavioral interviewing, which are those "tell me about a time when…." questions, because past performance is predictive of future performance. If you can demonstrate how you successfully used a skill in the past, chances are you will be able use that skill successfully in the future.
For behavior-based questions, use the Situation, Behavior, Outcome (SBO) method. For each question, prepare a story that:
- Describes the situation. (Who? What? When? Where?)
- Highlights your behavior. (What did you do, even if you were working with a team.)
- Recaps the outcome. (What happened? What were the results? What did you learn?)
How to Answer Difficult Questions
- Tell me about yourself: Describe your professional not personal life.
- Describe a weakness: State an actual weakness, but not one that will disqualify you from the job, and also describe how you manage that weakness.
- Why do you want to leave your current position? Don't say anything negative about your previous employer and don't focus only on salary.
- Think on your feet questions (e.g. Why are manhole covers round?): Keep a sense of humor. You don't have to give the correct answer, instead demonstrate your thinking process and ability to be flexible.
- Why should I hire you? While only some interviewers will ask this question directly, this is the question that you are answering with all of your responses. Be sure to have a concise answer for this question that directly states why you are qualified and the best fit.
There are countless questions that could be asked during an interview. Start practicing with this list of sample interview questions (pdf).
Ultimately, we want you to feel prepared for your interviews! The best way to prepare is to practice. So come on in for a mock interview with a Career Specialist. Contact our office to sign up for an appointment. Practice phone interviews are also available.