Interview Skills

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An interview is an opportunity for you to promote the skills, experiences and value you bring to a position or organization. It allows hiring managers to get to know you in a way that will help them determine not only if you are qualified for the job, but also if you are a good fit for the culture of an organization. As a job candidate, it is important to take the proper steps to prepare for an interview and ultimately assess if a potential opportunity is right for you.

Preparing for the Interview

Research the organization. Utilize the organization's website and search Google, LinkedIn, and field-specific websites such as The Giving Common, GuideStar, and Hoovers. Doing so allows you to learn more about an organization's: mission, populations served, programs, structure, staff, and recent news articles and events. This research will help you relate interview question answers to the needs of the organization as well indicate your interest in the position.

Review your resume. Be prepared to speak in-depth to anything you put on your resume or LinkedIn profile. Think about how your skills and experiences are relevant to the position and how you will communicate that relevance.

Understand the types of questions asked.

  • Traditional: These are questions that give the employer an introduction to you and open the conversation up to your experience and potential fit for the position.
  • Behavioral-based: These are questions where employers ask how you have handled challenging situations in the past to get a sense of your future behavior and problem-solving skills. Use the STAR Method to answer this type of question.
  • Situational: These are questions about specific situations you will encounter on the job to gain an understanding of your future performance if hired.

Identify questions that might be asked and prepare to answer them. Here's how:

  • Study the job description. Employers will ask you questions related to the job requirements and qualifications listed on the job advertisement. What skills and experiences do you have that connect with the job description?
  • Ask students and alumni who have worked at or completed an internship at the organization the types of questions they were asked during the interview process. They can also give you good insight into the organization's priorities and needs.
  • Search online for industry, organization or job related questions.
  • Review the Career Services sample list of general or major specific questions.

Know the logistics. Make sure you know:

  • Who will be interviewing you. It is okay to ask for the names and job titles of the people with whom you will be meeting on the day of the interview. Utilize LinkedIn and the organization's website to find out professional information about the interviewers and their positions.
  • The location of the interview including address, building and room.
  • The length of the interview including the interview schedule.
  • Any paperwork, presentations, etc. you may have to complete prior to arrival.

Prepare questions to ask the employer. At the end of the interview, employers will give you time to ask questions about expectations of the position, supervisory structure, professional development opportunities, organization culture, etc. Create a list of insightful questions and be sure to ask next steps in the hiring process. But remember: this is not the time to ask about salary or benefits.

Dress for Success. What you wear to the job interview is very important as your appearance will affect the hiring decision. Read this article for tips on how to dress professionally for any interview.

Practice Answering Questions

Once you have done your research, it is important to verbally practice how you will respond to potential interview questions. Here are some tips:

Conduct a mock interview. A mock interview provides the opportunity for you to practice answering interview questions as well as receive constructive feedback on the content of your answers and your body language. Practice interviewing with Career Services staff, classmates, family, internship supervisors, faculty, etc. When conducting a mock interview for a specific position, be sure to send Career Services your resume and the job/internship description so that the appointment can be tailored to the specific job.

Provide Examples. Whenever possible, give examples to support the information you provide during an interview. For example, don't just state that you have strong organizational skills; provide an example of when you applied that skill successfully in a job, practicum, or co-curricular experience.

Use the STAR Method. The STAR Method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a structured way to share examples from your experience or respond to behavioral-based questions.

  • Situation: What was the situation? Set some context for your approach.
  • Task: What was being asked/expected of you?
  • Action: How did you address it?
  • Result: What was the result of your action? What did you learn from it?

Day of Interview

Make a good first impression. Be sure to dress professionally, arrive on time, greet everyone with a firm handshake, make good eye contact and address interviewers formally by using title (Dr./Mr./Ms./Mx.) and last name until advised otherwise.

Carry a professional portfolio or folder. Use the portfolio to keep extra copies of your resume and the list of questions you have for the employer.

Listen to the questions asked. Pay close attention to what the interviewer is asking and make sure you thoroughly answer the question. It is okay to ask for clarification and pause a few seconds before beginning your answer. If you don't know the answer or don't have experience related to the question, you can answer a question with theories you have learned in class or a similar experience. If you absolutely don't know how to answer a question, it is okay to let the employer know that.

Ask for business cards. Be sure to get business cards from those who interview you. This will help in writing thank you notes—especially making sure you have correct titles and spelling of names.

Remember: be confident, maintain a positive attitude throughout the interview, and try to relax.

Follow-up and Thank You Notes

Reflect on the experience. Reflecting on the interview experience will better prepare you for the next interview as well as help you assess whether or not the position is a good fit. Think about what went well and what you would have done differently. Consider what you learned about the position/organization and how well it fits with your interests, skills or values. It is okay to come to the realization that the job is not the right fit for you even if you did well in the interview.

Send a thank you. The thank you note should be emailed or mailed within one to two days of your interview to every person with whom you interviewed. If there was an interview committee, you can write one letter to the entire committee. Review the Thank You Note Guide for more information and sample thank you notes.

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