Preparing for the Interview: Tips for Success


What is in an interview?

A mutual exchange of information between the employer and the applicant.


What is the purpose of an interview?

For Employers:

  • To determine if your education and experience are a good match with the specific job responsibilities.
  • To determine if you will "fit into" the organizational environment.

For the Applicant:

  • To have an opportunity to emphasize your abilities and interest in the job.
  • To learn more about the job and the organization to decide if you will be happy working there.

Types of Interview

  • Informational Interview - seek more information about the company or a career
  • Screening Interview - designed to eliminate less suitable candidates
  • Stress Interview - create situations to see how you might handle job-related stress
  • Series Interview - consecutive interviews with different people from the same company
  • Group Interview - involves the interviewing of several candidates at the same time
  • Board Interview - interview conducted by two or more people at the same time
  • Behavioral Interview - asks questions that determines how you handle challenges

Preparing for the Interview

  • Arrive fifteen minutes early.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Bring necessary information, recommended items:
    • Extra copies of your resume
    • Reference list with 3-5 individuals
    • Good quality pen and/or pencil
    • Work samples that demonstrate skills and abilities
    • Briefcase
    • Purse or wallet (hidden in briefcase)
    • Leather bonded portfolio/notebook
  • Have directions to the interview; understand needed park and travel time.
  • Know the name and title of the person you are meeting; get the interviewer's business card.
  • Research the company and position; understand what the employer is looking for.
  • Practice answering questions; be prepared for personal or inappropriate questions.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer.
  • Send follow-up thank you letter within 24 hours of the interview.

During the Interview

  • Greet the employer with a firm handshake and refer to the interviewer by name.
  • Watch your nonverbal communication.
  • Maintain good eye contact and smile appropriately.
  • Be alert and attentive. Show enthusiasm for the position and company.
  • If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification. Answer the question asked.
  • Emphasize your strong points, showing a match between yourself and the position.
  • Know your resume and be able to discuss every aspect.
  • Be prepared to answer tough questions.
  • Never criticize a former employer, teacher, colleague or school.
  • Follow the interviewer's lead. Avoid non sentences (um, uh, ya know, yeah).
  • Avoid discussing salary or benefits during the first interview unless a job offer is made.
  • Be yourself!

Appropriate Dress

  • Navy, black or charcoal suit
  • White or colored blouse
  • Polished shoes with low heels
  • Neutral skin tone pantyhose
  • Simple jewelry
  • Little or no perfume

Interview Knockdown Factors

  • Not prepared for the interview; no research has been conducted on the employer.
  • Unable to express self and ideas clearly; poor communication skills.
  • Poorly defined career goals; little or no sense of direction.
  • Lack of enthusiasm.
  • Unprofessional or inappropriately dressed.
  • No real interest in the employer.
  • Asks too few or poor questions about the job or employer.
  • Poor match for the position or organization.
  • Unhappy personality; disliked former jobs, supervisors, school, activities.
  • Makes excuses during the interview, evasive.
  • Only interested in best dollar offer.
  • Lack of confidence or poise - fails to look the interviewer in the eye; weak handshake.
  • Unwilling to relocate. Unrealistic expectations.
  • Did not market self well in the interview.

Common Questions

  • Tell me about yourself, - OR - How might a friend or co-worker describe you?
  • Why did you choose to interview with our company? - OR - What do you know about us?
  • Describe your ideal position, - OR - What is the most important to you in a job?
  • What can you offer us, - OR - Why should I hire you?
  • Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
  • What is a major weakness you have, and what are you doing to correct it?
  • Would you be successful working on a team?
  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
  • Do your grades accurately reflect your abilities?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • What sets you apart from other qualified candidates? What motivates you to do well?
  • Tell me about your work habits, - OR - How do you work under pressure?

Questions to Ask Employers

(if not readily answered through company literature)

  • Why is this position open now?
  • What specific responsibilities are required of this position?
  • Would you describe a typical day's activities?
  • What personal qualities or characteristics are important for success in this position?
  • To whom would I report?
  • What are some of the organization's short-term goals? Long-term goals?
  • When do you expect to make a hiring decision?
  • What challenges might I face in this position?
  • What is the next step in the search to fill this position?