Interview Tips...

> Introduction

By its very nature, the interview is a stressful situation. But with a little preparation, you can leave your interviews feeling that you have been successful in communicating your most positive qualities to the potential employer. We all know that the interview is an important part of the hiring process. By following the guidelines presented on this page, you can increase your chances of landing that perfect job.

> Interesting facts about interviews

  • Interview factors have explained as much as 42% of the variance in hiring recommendations.
  • Resume factors explained only 1%.
  • Interviews are normally one of the worst predictors of job performance.(Explaining as little as 6% of the variance).

> What are interviewers looking for?

Research indicates that individuals who are perceived as interesting, relaxed, strong, successful in life, active, mature, enthusiastic, sensitive, pleasant, and dominant are the ones who excel in the interview.

  • Most of these characteristics are inferred through cues like facial expressions, eye contact, time spent talking, smiles, and gestures.
  • Research indicates that the interviewee can control non-verbal communication (particularly facial expressions). (In other words, interviewees are capable of controlling the impression that they make about their personality. One can learn and develop the skills that are crucial for making a good impression).

[Information take from Anderson & Shackleton (1990) Journal of Occupational Psychology]

> Before the Interview

  • Find out as much as you can about the field, the company, and the position for which your are interviewing. Some good sources are in the library and on the Internet.
    • What is the size and location of this organization?
    • Where does this organization fit in relation to its competitors?
    • What is the management philosophy of the organization?
    • How well does this organization pay compared to others?
  • Find out as much as possible about the type of interview you will have.
    • How many interviewers will there be?
    • Who will conduct the interview?
    • Is this a screening or selection interview?
  • Prepare a profile of yourself
    • Anticipate possible questions and write out responses to organize what you want to say.
    • Identify your strong points and develop stories from your past work or school experiences that demonstrate these points. Include specifics of the event in order to create a complete picture for the interviewer.

Do practice interviews. Mock interviews are offered by UCS and provide a chance for the interviewees to view themselves in action on videotape.

> During the Interview

  • Dress appropriately. Conservative business attire is recommended.
  • Avoid wearing excessive jewelry, make-up, cologne, or perfume.
  • Arrive early. 10-15 minutes before the scheduled time is usually recommended.
  • Know exactly where the interview will take place. Plan ahead and leave time for things such as heavy traffic.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume, references, and transcripts. It is also a good idea to bring any project from school or work that may serve as an appropriate example of the type of work you are capable of producing.
  • Stand to greet the interviewer(s).
    • Give a firm handshake.
    • Make eye contact.
    • Smile.
  • Do all you can to take control of the content of your interview.
    • Find ways to include stories that demonstrate your strong points.
    • Use specific examples.
  • Speak slowly and clearly and don’t be afraid to pause for a moment to collect your thoughts.
  • Be honest. Don’t try to cover up mistakes. Instead, show what you have learned from them.
  • Be assertive. The interview is a chance for you to see if the job is right for you.
  • Approximately every ten minutes during the interview perform an enthusiasm check to make sure you are sitting up straight, smiling, and making good eye contact.
  • Normally, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions at the close of the interview. It is always a good idea to have several questions in mind before reporting to the interview. This is your chance to get answers to questions you could not find in your research about the company. In other words, do not ask things such as what the company does or produces. Instead, inquire about:
    • Training programs
    • Opportunities for advancement
    • Relocation/traveling associated with the job
    • Benefits

> After the Interview

  • Take some notes. If you interview with several organizations, the details of each will soon run together.
  • Write a thank-you note and/or e-mail to the interviewer that day. This will help distinguish you from the rest of the applicants.
  • Evaluate the interview process. Think about how you might answer the difficult questions differently in future interviews.
  • Evaluate the company. Does it offer what you need and desire in a job?

> Strategies Used in Answering Questions

  • Be concise. Give direct and clear answers. Avoid rambling by preparing how you will answer particular questions.
  • Be specific and give good examples. This will help give your answer credibility.
  • Highlight your strengths. Keep in mind that every question an employer asks relates to one central concern: Why should they hire you? Help reveal your strongest points that relate to the position you are seeking.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest. Admit that you don’t have an answer and remain confident.

> Common Questions Asked During Interviews

  • Tell me about yourself. Expand on your resume.
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Describe your ideal job.
  • Why did you elect to interview with us?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What can you do for us now? What can I do for you?
  • What motivates you?
  • Surprise questions (such as, What is your favorite song and why? If you were an animal, which one would you be?)

> Behavioral Interview Questions

Many employers use behavioral interviews to predict the employment character of a prospective candidate. You may want to review the following information and prepare for this type of interview before you begin interviewing with employers.

  • What are behavioral-based interview questions?
    • Interview questions that focus on past behaviors in order to predict future job performance. Past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior.
  • Why are these types of questions used in interviews?
    • These types of questions can be formed to assess specific competencies (i.e. creativity, time management, decision making, and initiative).
    • Since behavioral questions focus on past behaviors, they can be used to predict future performance of the applicant.
    • Behavioral questions are harder for applicants to answer with the response they think the interviewer wants to hear.
  • How should I respond to these types of questions?
    • Be specific. Give examples.
    • Provide background information to the situation that you are describing (what you did to correct the situation, results/outcomes of your actions). Provide comments from your supervisors if any were given.
    • If you have never experienced the specific situation that the interviewer describes, state that you have never encountered that situation then given an example of what you would do.
    • Be honest with your answers.
  • How should I prepare for these types of questions?
    • Review your resume so that you are familiar with all of your past work experiences and duties.
    • Think of specific examples of behaviors / competencies that interviewers are likely to ask about as well as examples from past experiences.
    • Try to find example from recent work experiences and from a variety of jobs.
  • Sample behavior interview questions:
    • Being able to learn quickly on the job is important. Tell me about a time that you had to pick up an important skill quickly. What was the skill? What did you do to try to learn quickly?
    • Sometimes we all run into frustrating customers or clients. Tell mea bout the most frustrating person that you had to deal with recently. What did the person do that was frustrating? What did you do to resolve the difficulties this situation created?
    • Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn?
    • Describe a situation in which you recognized a potential problem as an opportunity. What did you do?

> Responding to Illegal Questions

Any questions relating to age, gender, marital status, birthplace, spouse’s occupation, or religion are illegal. In addition, inquiring about factors such as arrests, disabilities, or other health conditions are also considered to be illegal. If asked an illegal question, you may refuse to answer the question if you feel uncomfortable. Redirect the question and then ask a question that will get the interviewer to a more appropriate area of inquiry.

In some instances, you may choose to answer an illegal question. Interviewers do not always realize that they are asking illegal questions, and refusal to respond can possibly offend the interviewer and hinder your chances of being hired. For this reason, if the job interests you and you do not interpret the question as indicative of a hostile work environment, you may choose to look beyond the bias of the interviewer and answer the question.

> Interviewing Do’s and Don'ts

  • Do
    • Smile
    • Express confidence
    • Listen intently
    • Appear excited
    • Make eye contact
    • Ask for the job
    • Show decisiveness
    • Maintain professional poise
    • Project a positive attitude
    • Emphasize accomplishments
    • Sell your skills
    • Give thoughtful responses
    • Show enthusiasm
    • Appear positively assertive
    • Appear highly organized
    • Record notes later
  • Don't
    • Discuss past compensation
    • Press for a quick decision
    • Reveal disappointment
    • Request why rejected
    • Take notes in the interview
    • Show your nervousness
    • Chew gum in the interview
    • Discuss politics or religions
    • Bad-mouth others
    • Apologize for weaknesses
    • Discuss graduate study
    • Ask for career advice
    • Appear timid or shy
    • Get emotional
    • Rush through answers
    • Sound rehearsed

> In Closing...

It is important to remember that the interview process is a chance for you to talk about something that no one else knows quite as well - yourself. Therefore, be confident and remember that every interview is a learning experience. If you need any more assistance in this area or any other part of your job search, visit University Career Services. We offer mock interviews and have a variety of other services available to aid with your job search. If you have any questions or comments, please call 425-4184 or email

 Good Luck!