Know How to Interview

Your resume and cover letter grabbed the attention of the employer and you have been asked to come in for an interview. Are you prepared to turn those interviews into job offers?

Interview Tips
Setting Up Job Interviews
  • Think about what you are going to say before you pick up the phone to call an employer.
  • You want the employer to think of you as a good future employee.
  • You will have about 20 seconds to make the employer want to meet you. Therefore, what you say has to be brief, to the point, and persuasive. 
Prepare for an Interview
  • The day before your interview, think about what types of questions the employer might ask you and prepare answers you can give in less than 2 minutes.
  • Plan your interview attire ahead of time. Map out the location and estimate travel. This will help you get organized and be less stressed the day of the interview.
  • On the day of the interview:
    • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You might need to fill out paperwork before the interview.
    • Go by yourself. If a friend or relative drives you, have them wait in the car.
    • Wear an outfit that is professional looking. It should fit the type of job for which you are interviewing.
    • Do not wear fragrances in case one of your interviewers has allergies.
What to Bring to an Interview
  • Extra copies of your resume, your reference list, and examples of your work (portfolio).
  • Papers needed to complete your application. This includes copies of work licenses, your driving record (if required), and your social security or immigration cards.
  • Questions for you to ask during the interview.  
During the Interview
  • Display confidence. Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Let the interviewer start the conversation.
  • Listen carefully. Give honest, direct answers.
  • Accept all questions with a smile, even the hard ones. Take your time when answering the hard questions.
  • Think about your answers in your head before you talk. If you don't understand a question, ask to hear it again, or for it to be reworded. You don't have to rush, but you don't want to appear indecisive. 

Interview Preparation Activities

Do these activities before every interview – if possible, go over the questions and answers with a friend (at the very least in the mirror!), and practice your answers until they sound polished and confident (but not rehearsed!).

Practice Activities

Ten reasons why you’re the perfect person for the job
These are the key facts from your experience, skills, accomplishments and/or personality that make you a good match for the job. Try to work one of them into every answer you give – and if at the end of the interview you realize one or more of them hasn’t come up, bring it up!

Ten questions they will ask you during the interview, and your answers
Include both standard and "situational" questions. Your answers should be brief, complete, and thoughtful.

Questions to ask them about the job or company
Show that you’re interested! Pretend you’re a reporter and you’re going to write a story about the company and/or job – what would you want to know? Use the Sample Questions below to start your list.

Ten things to avoid doing/saying during the interview
What mistakes have you made in past interviews? What bad habits do you want to avoid displaying, or issues you want to avoid disclosing?

Online Interviewing Resources

Sample Questions to Ask the Employer During the Interview
Below is a list of questions you may consider asking during your interview. If you already know the answer to the question; either from the job description, information provided during the interview, or from your research of the company online; do NOT ask the question. If you still need clarification about anything that can be found while researching the company, be clear about where you found the information and follow it up with the question.

  • How long has this company/organization been open? (Remember; never ask anything you can find out on the website!)
  • Is this a new position? Has it been open long? (Optional: Why did the previous person leave?)
  • What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
  • What is your definition of success for this position?
  • What are usually the most challenging aspects of the job?
  • What are the priorities for this position in the next 2-3 months? The next year?
  • Who will be my supervisor?
  • Could you describe the team I’ll be working with?
  • How would you describe the culture of the office?
  • How would you describe your perfect candidate for this job?
  • What’s the normal path and timeframe for advancement within the company?
  • At what point would you expect me to be “up to speed” with the duties of the job?
  • What are your company/organization’s goals for the next year?
  • How do you feel I fit with the qualifications you have defined for this position?
  • What is your timeline for hiring?
  • How is this position funded?
  • What is your favorite part about working here?
  • Can you clarify what ______ means in the job description?
  • What is the supervision style here?
  • What is a typical day like here?

The employer will want to know….

  1. Can you do the job?
    You must prove you have the skills and knowledge to achieve desired outcomes. For example, outcomes can be described as: to increase sales, to decrease errors, to satisfy customers, to perform up to standard.
  2. Will you do the job?
    You must convince them that you are motivated to work well and hard; that you have a good attitude and want to work for this particular organization.
  3. How will you fit in?
    You must illustrate that you are the kind of person whose personality and behavior will blend into the organizational culture.  

To answer those questions, you must know what the job requires.
What are the main tasks of the job? What outcomes does the employer expect?
You should list the tasks and duties of the position. Be as specific as possible. To find out more about the job, you can read typical job descriptions using the National Classification of Occupations and other career information.

How to Get Your Point Across

  • First, know your strengths.
  • Second, identify the skills, knowledge and experience you possess which are crucial for this job. 
  • Third, prepare examples to prove that you have these skills and knowledge. Drawing on your experience, develop brief stories which give the interviewer a vivid picture of how you work. Be sure to include the results you achieved in each situation.

BE PREPARED!  BE SPECIFIC!   BE POSITIVE!
You WILL be creating a first impression, what do YOU choose it to be?????

7 % Words
38% Tone of voice
55% Facial expression, body language

Storytelling Propels Careers

Concrete examples from your own experiences (work and/or life) demonstrate that you can do the things you say you can do. By revisiting a Situation, Task, And Result, you can develop stories illustrating your skills.

How STAR stories help you do well at interviews:

  1. Stories establish your identity and reveal your personality. Stories satisfy the basic human need to be known. This is a very important goal for job seekers!
  2. Stories help you know yourself and build confidence. Developing and telling your stories can become the underpinning for self-authentication. As you see common threads and patterns emerging in your stories, you will understand more about yourself, your goals, and your best career path. Understanding this can only help to improve your confidence.
  3. Stories make you memorable.  In Tom Washington’s book Interviewing Power; he states that “in less than three minutes, you can tell a powerful story that will make interviewers remember you favorably for days, weeks, or even months after the interview.” We remember people who tell us stories because stories form the basis of how we think, organize, and remember information.
  4. Stories establish an emotional connection between storyteller and listener and inspire the listener’s investment in the storyteller’s success. When stories convey moving content and are told with feeling, the listener feels an emotional bond with the storyteller. Often the listener can empathize or relate the story to an aspect of his or her own life. That bond instantly enables the listener to invest emotionally in your success.
  5. Stories make you stand out. Many other job seekers vying for the same position probably have similar qualifications to yours. However, they will most likely not be demonstrating those qualifications in story form, which gives you the advantage of selling yourself in a very engaging way.
  6. Stories illustrate skills, accomplishments, values, characteristics, qualifications, expertise, strengths and more.  You can showcase any skill with a story.
  7. Stories paint vivid pictures. When your parents told you a story as a child, you probably visualized it in your mind like a movie. Job seekers can use colorful and even entertaining stories to imprint lasting visual images onto employers’ minds.
  8. Stories explain key life/career decisions, choices, and changes. Especially revealing to employers are personal and career stories about coping strategies, risky moves, and choices made under pressure, imperfections, and lessons learned from mistakes and failures.
  9. Stories told well help you portray yourself as a good communicator.

Use the STAR (pdf) worksheet to develop your own stories.

Interview Formats

A job interview is a two-way conversation with a purpose.  The employer wants to find out whether you can do the job and what kind of a person you are. You want to tell the employer what you can do and how you can benefit the company. The more you know about the company and the job, the better you can explain why you should be hired.  

Do not expect the interviewer to ask you all the questions that would uncover your best qualities. Be prepared to use their questions to weave in your strengths.

Apply your transferable skills: What qualities have you demonstrated at work, school, recreation or volunteer situations that would be relevant to skills needed at a job?

Employers are trying to assess your attitude, level of confidence, maturity, and get a feel for your values and work ethic. Your past behavior is an excellent predictor of future behavior so the interviewer will ask you for examples of where you had to use specific skills in the past.

Employers use a variety of interview formats to elicit information:

Situational
Goal: Employers want examples of how you handled situations.
Example: Tell me how you handled the situation in school when you did most of the work on a team project, but had to share the grade?
Behavioral
Goal: What can the employer learn about you from your actions?
Example: How do you handle stress?
Conversational/Psychological
Goal: To see what your values and attitudes are and how you might handle yourself in the workplace.
Example: By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
OR
A co-worker tells you in confidence that she plans to call in sick while actually taking a week's vacation. What would you do and why?
Forward-Thinking
Goal: Can you think out-of-the-box and apply general principles to the employer’s company?
Example: If you had an unlimited budget to apply to our company, what would you do with it?
Off the wall
Goal: How well do you think on the spot? Employers may ask you a question that seems completely bizarre to see who you are underneath your mask. 
Example: If a music video were made of you, who would star in it?

What are they really asking? (pdf) Some questions behind the questions.

Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions
(adapted from www.quintcareers.com)

Behavioral questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations, for example: ‘Tell me about a time where you had to resolve a customer complaint.’ The best way to prepare for behavioral questions is to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or -- better yet, those that had positive outcomes.

Here's a good way to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
  • Half your examples should be totally positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.
  • Vary your examples; don't take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples.
  • Use the STAR Method to answer your questions
Situation or
Task
Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you
achieved
What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Use the STAR Interview Worksheet (pdf) to write down your scenarios.

Common mistakes made during the interview that significantly reduce your chances of being offered the position.
Application form or resume is incomplete or sloppy Nervousness or lack of confidence and poise
Arriving late for the interview No genuine interest in the company or job or overemphasis on money
Didn’t ask questions about the job Overly aggressive behavior
Failure to express appreciation for interviewers time Poor personal appearance
Lack of interest and enthusiasm Responding vaguely to questions
Lack of maturity Unwillingness to accept entry-level position
Lack of planning for career; no purpose and no goals Answering your cell phone while in the office
Negative attitude about past employers Being impolite to anybody at the employer’s site or office

Follow-up after the interview.

The job interview is not over when you leave the meeting. You have one more chance to impress the employer. Follow up the interview with a thank-you letter.

Send a thank-you letter or note (pdf)  to each person who interviewed you. Your letter should cover these main points:

  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
  • Say you are interested in working for them.
  • Briefly state why you are qualified for the job and why you are interested in the position. You may want to mention something you didn’t get to discuss during your interview or you may want to remind the interviewer(s) of something you discussed during the interview that created a positive response.
  • You may want to take this opportunity to mention any information that you forgot to say during the interview.
  • Put anything that will help them remember who you are- did you have any personal connection or rapport-building? Do you have any specialized work experience or training?
  • Add a final "thank you" for the opportunity to interview.
  • Say how you plan to follow-up.

If you told the interviewers that you would give them added information, make sure that you do. Keep track of when you said you would contact this employer to find out if you were hired. Don't forget to make that contact.

Be sure to check the grammar, spelling, word use and punctuation before sending the thank-you note or letter. If you choose to write your letter by hand, check with a friend to verify that your handwriting is legible.

Follow-up

  • After you have sent a resume to an organization.
  • After you have been interviewed for a job.

It shows interest, organization, and that you are on top of things.

The person who lands the job is not necessarily the only who is the best qualified, but rather the one who knows the most about how to get hired!

It is not what you know, but who you know!
There are jobs out there. If you can’t find one:

  • Re-think your job search style. Are you searching in six different ways?
  • Re-think your objective.
  • Re-polish your skills.
  • Get results!

Cut Yourself Some Slack

  • Do your best.
  • Don’t take things personally.
  • Interviews are a learning experience.
  • Practice makes perfect.
Reasons Why People Don't Get Hired After an Interview
  • Application form or resume is incomplete or sloppy
  • Arriving late for the interview
  • Didn’t ask questions about the job
  • Failure to express appreciation for interviewer's time
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm
  • Lack of maturity
  • Lack of planning for career; no purpose and no goals
  • Negative attitude about past employers
  • Nervousness or lack of confidence and poise
  • No genuine interest in the company or job
  • Overemphasis on money
  • Overly aggressive behavior
  • Poor personal appearance
  • Responding vaguely to questions

 

Career Planning ModelManage Your Career Create A Plan & Set Goals Expand Skills Explore Careers Assess Yourself Find A Job