Interview Tips & Techniques

Your resume and cover letter have gotten you this far, now you’ve landed the interview. The most important advice for a successful interview is to be prepared.

So what is an interview? An interview is simply an exchange of information between a candidate and someone(s) who can make a hiring decision. While interviews are usually formal; you are interviewing any time you meet someone who can influence whether you can advance in the search process.

Interviewing is typically one of the last stages of a job search. It is also one of the most important. All the other steps of your search process lead up to the interview.

Before the interview you will want to prepare by reviewing the research you gathered, the job description, your resume and cover letter, and any information the organization may have provided to determine the type of questions that the interviewer may ask. You can use the Interview Worksheet to help you organize the organization information. Pay close attention to the skills and experience they are seeking and match it to your experiences that demonstrate these abilities in a positive way. Take some time to reflect on skills, experience, successes, strengths and weakness, and most importantly why you want their specific opportunity and how you can help them meet their needs.

The following documents will help with the Interview Preparation:

Interview Preparation
Interview Checklist
Sample Interview Questions 
Elevator Speech
Know Your Legal Rights When Job Searching – Illegal Topics
Interview Do’s
Interview Don’ts
Dress for Success

We have all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect?” This is certainly the case for interviewing. You can practice interviewing by having a friend or family member role play an interview, or scheduling an appointment with a coach.

The day/week before the interview make sure you select the appropriate attire, make sure your shirt is clean and pressed, and that you have comfortable shoes in good shape.

The day of the interview can be stressful, so make sure the day before, you have written down the interviewer(s)’s name(s) and title(s), as well as directions to the interview site. Have all the materials ready you will be bringing with you: portfolio with copies of your resume, questions for the interviewers, transcript, copies of your work, pen and notepad and application materials the organization may have asked you to complete. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before your interview.

The day of your interview, arrive 10-15 minutes before your interview. Relax!!! Your preparation is about to pay off. You have spent the time researching the organization, reviewing your skills and experiences and how they fit with the organization’s needs, and practicing interviewing. Remember the interviewer wants you to be successful; they are investing time in you!

After the interview, make sure you take a few minutes to debrief yourself. How did the interview go? Were there questions that you stumbled over or surprised you? Did you learn new information? What kind of feel did you get, is it an opportunity in which you are still interested? Do you have new questions?

After the interview, make sure you send a thank you note to each of the individuals who interviewed you. Personalize the thank you notes with information specific to each interviewer.

Types of Interviews
Interviewing styles vary from employer to employer and interviewer to interviewer. To better prepare for an interview, you should be familiar with the different types of interviews that you may encounter.

Screening Interview
The goal of this type of interview is to get the facts from you by identifying relevant skills and abilities, while verifying the resume and looking for a solid potential employee. It usually lasts less than one hour and depending on the employer and location, can take the form of a campus, site visit, video, or telephone interview.

Behavioral Interview
This interview is based on the idea that your past behavior is useful in predicting future performance. Typical questions center on how you have handled past situations where skills, abilities, and teamwork have been demonstrated. Areas could include project work, relevant work experiences, difficult situations, accomplishments, and leadership roles. The questions usually begin with, “Tell me about a time when you… ?”

Video Interview
Video conferencing equipment is used by employers to conduct screening, behavioral, and other types of interviews. The following are tips to help you prepare for this type of interview:

  • Treat a video interview as seriously as any other type of interview.
  • Dark clothing is best suited to a video interview.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, as the sound system is powerful enough to pick up regular conversations.
  • Allow the interviewer to finish speaking before beginning a response.
  • Smile and follow basic rules of interviewing etiquette.

Telephone Interview
This interview is sometimes used as a screening interview if you are located a long distance away from the employer. These interviews are often used to decide whether you should be considered for an on-site interview. Occasionally, students seeking internships and summer jobs have been interviewed and hired using this method alone.

Meal/Lunch Interview
This is the scariest of all interviews, with many pitfalls for the unwary! Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a social occasion for you to delve into your personal life. You are not being taken to eat because the interviewer wants to become better acquainted; he or she is testing you to see if you listened when your mama taught you social graces and table manners. Have a snack before the meal since you will be busy answering questions and promoting your accomplishments.

Group Interview
A group interview could involve several people taking turns asking questions or presenting scenarios for you to answer or solve. It may be used as a group discussion that can help determine how you interact with potential colleagues.

Case Interview
This interview is the favorite of strategic consulting firms. Typically, you will be given a scenario and asked to identify the problem and a resolution in order to assess your mental acuity. Take your time and be creative – but if you realize your first solution won’t work, back out of it and try again.

Types of Questions

Commonly Asked Interview Questions can be found by clicking on the link: Sample Interview Questions

Questions to Ask During an Interview
Prepare a list of well-researched questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Keep in mind that your questions should reflect the amount of research you have done, rather than your lack of research. The questions below are guidelines. Create and adapt the questions to meet your individual needs and interview situation.

Questions that are common to ask the Employer can be found by clicking on the link: Sample Questions to ask the Employer

By going over these items, you should be better prepared for the interview. Take as much time as you can and start early. The longer you practice your answers to these questions, the more polished your answers will become.

Behavioral Interview Questions
Interviewers ask for specific examples of specific events in order to draw a conclusion as to how you would perform in a similar situation. The questions are more probing than those in traditional interviews and discourage vague, canned, or hypothetical answers. The interviewer determines the capabilities and traits that are necessary for success in a position and then asks questions that are designated to determine whether or not the candidate has the ability based on specific past experiences.

Common Behavioral Interview questions can be found by clicking on the link below: Behavioral Interview Questions

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions
Using the “CAR” method provides you with a framework to use when responding to behavioral interview questions.

CAR Method

  • Challenge: Give an example of a situation in which you were involved that resulted in a positive outcome.
  • Action: Talk about the various actions involved in achieving the outcome.
  • Results: What results directly followed because of your actions?
    Before the interview process, identify two or three of your top selling points and determine how you will convey these points (with demonstrated CAR stories) during the interview.
    It is helpful to frame your answer as a story that you can tell. Typically, the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behavior(s) they seek. They refer to this as “digging a well.” The interviewer will sometimes ask you open-ended questions to allow you to choose which examples you wish to use. When a part of your story relates to a skill or experience the interviewer wishes to explore further, he/she will then ask you very specific follow-up questions regarding your behavior. These can include “What were you thinking at that point?” or “Tell me more about your meeting with that person.” or “Lead me through your decision process.”
    Be prepared to provide examples of when results didn’t turn out as you planned. What did you do then? What did you learn? Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering these questions. Refresh your memory regarding your achievements in the past couple of years. Use examples from past internships, classes, activities, team involvements, community service, and work experience to demonstrate desired behaviors.

Example of a CAR Answer

  • Challenge: During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing various student activity events. I noticed that attendance at these events had dropped by thirty percent over the past three years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.
  • Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go out to students, which included an assessment form to collect student feedback and suggestions for future events.
  • Result: We used some of the wonderful ideas we received from students and raised attendance back up to previous levels.

Improper or Illegal Interview Questions

If you believe you have been asked an improper or illegal question at any time in the interview process, do not accuse the interviewer to their face as this will typically exclude you from the job offer.

Illegal interview questions include the following:

  1. Age
  2. Sexual Orientation
  3. Disabilities
  4. Marital/family status
  5. National origin

If you are asked an illegal question, you have three options:

  1. You can answer the question.
  2. You can refuse to answer the question; unfortunately, this may harm your chances of getting the job.
  3. You can ask the intent of the question and answer as you see fit.
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