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Interviewing Made Easy

This comprehensive guide will help you ace the interview by covering the types of interviews, understanding the general process, answering common questions utilizing key strategies, what questions to ask at the end of the interview, and how to follow-up with an employer after the interview. When it comes down to it, employers are looking for your skills in the field, company culture fit, and if you are excited about the opportunity.

Research the Company

A good candidate knows that acing an interview takes reflection and research. Follow these steps to show how you are a good match for the company and vice-versa. For additional information, see How to Research Companies.

1: Reflect

  • Know your strengths and career interests, and be able to connect those to the position and company.
  • Make sure your resume shows how your skills and accomplishments are related to the position. Be sure to thoroughly read the job description.

2: Research the Field

  • Reach out to people in your network who have experience in this type of work and ask them about the industry, how to succeed, and what challenges may exist.
  • Utilize online resources and publications to get a broader perspective on similar companies within the field.

3: Research the Company

  • Read the company’s website, paying close attention their mission, history, vision and key elements that make up the company
  • Be thinking of unique questions that are not readily available on their website or job description.

4: Research the Staff

  • Read any staff bio’s on the company website and use LinkedIn to learn about their career journey, education background, and additional information.
  • Look for those who served in your role previously, specifically what did they accomplish, where did they work before, and what did they go on to do after this position.

Questions You Might Be Asked

While there seems to be a infinite array of questions that an employer may ask you, they tend to all fall within a few general categories:

General/Career

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you choose to interview with this organization?
  • What can you uniquely offer this position?
  • Describe your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Share an accomplishment in which you are most proud.
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Why did you choose to attend your college or university?
  • What campus activities were you involved with?
  • How would you describe yourself in three words?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Pick a color that represents your personality and share why you chose that color.
  • What unique skills will you contribute if hired?
  • What is your natural role in a group/team setting?
  • What other types of positions are you considering?
  • How do you feel about travel?
  • How do you feel about the commute or the possibility of relocating?
  • What was the last book that you read?
  • What qualities are you looking for in a boss?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?

Behavioral

  • Recall a time in which you had to oversee a project with minimal supervisory input.
  • Tell me about a time when failed and what was the result?
  • Give an example of a time you worked under deadline pressure for a major project?
  • Share an example of working with a team effort that led to a successful outcome?
  • Tell about a time in which you came up with an innovative solution that involved convincing others.
  • Give me an example of a time you managed unexpected events or new information without any formal training.
  • How have you persuaded someone who firmly disagrees with your idea/suggestion/plan of action?
  • How have you utilized time management skills?
  • Tell me about a time you have been disappointed in your performance.
  • How do you approach conflict resolution in difficult situations?
  • Tell me about your favorite job and why.

Technical/Case Questions

Case and technical interview questions are unique in that they present the applicant with a challenging scenario that they must evaluate and propose a solution. Case interviews are designed to test the candidate's analytical and communication skills within a realistic business context. Employers are watching your steps and how you think critically about the issue. Typically, the case presented is a situation that the company has worked on previously.

  • Practice multiple case studies before your interview. There are multiple books and online resources available, such as www.mbacase.com.
  • Most situations require a basic understanding of algebra, so be sure to brush up on this beforehand.
  • Interviewers want to see how you ended at a certain conclusion, so be sure to discuss each step present them concisely.
  • If you are in a team, make sure to be yourself and also act as a team player instead of dominating the conversation.

If you are interviewing at a major tech company, or even a startup, it is important to keep in mind the unique questions you might be asked. While they are looking for the coding or engineering skills that you might expect, they are equally hoping to see an interest in their product. You likely will be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of coding, or to solve a complex issue with a certain piece of code.

  • Use a website like hackerrank.com to practice problems similar to ones you would be asked in the interview.
  • Be prepared to write your code either on a whiteboard or computer, and explain why you included different parts of your code.

Using the S.T.A.R. Method

The questions listed above all require you to reflect on yourself and your experiences, but look closely at the Behavioral questions. Notice anything different? They all generally start with “Tell me about a time…” or “Give me an example of when…”. These questions are common in an interview because they require more than just reflection. Interviewers want to know how you acted in a previous situation, because the best predictor of future behavior is by looking at the past.  For these questions, you want to use the STAR method to tell a story about your experience. Each letter represents a section of that story, which makes tackling these questions quite easy.

S: SITUATION

  • Start your answer by describing the setting where your example takes place. Talk about the “who, what, when and where”.
    • Example answer: “As an Event Coordinator Intern last year, I oversaw a group of 8 volunteers in order to host monthly fundraiser events.”

T: TASK

  • Second, explain how the situation changed based on the context of your question and how you were expected to address that change. What was the goal you were striving to accomplish, or the problem you were trying to solve?
    • Example answer: “Upon reviewing annual reports, I noticed attendance had dropped 30% over the last 3 years and I wanted to find a solution to this problem."

A: ACTION

  • Next, describe each steps you took in order to address the task at hand and explain what skills you utilized in each of those steps. What did you do to solve the problem at hand or reach the goal?
    • Example answer: “I distributed surveys through social media and email to gather feedback on our events and used this research to design a new, more effective promotional package using Software X.”

R: RESULT

  • Finally, explain how your decisions and actions contributed to the overall end result. How did the situation end? (Include quantifiable data if possible.) What did you learn?
    • Example answer: “The company was able to utilize the promotional packet I created for future events. Using feedback I gathered from the surveys, we developed and implemented some new strategies which raised event attendance by 20% within the first year. I learned it’s important to continually analyze systems and adapt to strategies through marketing and research.”

Questions You Might Ask

Don’t be fooled, an employer asking “Do you have any questions for me?” is still part of the interview, and the answer should always be “Yes”. Here are some example questions, but remember that each industry and job type will allow for different questions.

  • What kinds of work assignments might I expect the first six months of the job?
  • Does your company provide professional development opportunities?
  • What are your growth projections for next year?
  • What do you like most about your job/company?
  • How did you get started in this industry?
  • How is your company environmentally conscious?
  • Will I have the opportunity to work on special projects?
  • Is there a lot of team/project work?
  • Where does this position fit into the organizational structure?
  • What is the next course of action after the interview?
  • When should I expect to hear about next steps or should I contact you?

Don’t forget to ask for business cards or contact information so you can properly follow-up with them after the interview.

The Follow-Up

You ask your questions, shake their hands, and leave the interview with high hopes of hearing back soon. But should you do anything besides simply waiting for a reply? YES! One of the most impressive moves you can make after an interview is sending a thank-you note. Not only is it polite, but it also affirms your interest in the company and allows you to emphasize your strengths one last time. Write your note and send it within 24 hours while you are still fresh in the employers mind. The note can be either hand-written or emailed, and each have their place. For corporate businesses, an email may be more appropriate, while a handwritten note works better with service-oriented fields.

If you haven’t heard from a company within 2 weeks of your interview, consider reaching out with a short email inquiring about the hiring process and when you should expect to hear back. The point is to show appropriate follow-up, but not to be nagging or aggressive.

Handling Rejection

If you followed all of the tips in this guide, but still received the dreaded email that you were not chosen for the next interview round or position, do not take it to heart. You took the right steps, but sometimes the company is looking for a different candidate for a variety of reasons. Here are some tips:

Always Pursue Multiple Options

As amazing as the job opportunity may be, don’t put all of your hope in that position. Instead, keep your head up and push forward in your job search. Even when you think one opportunity will work out, don’t close the door on others until you get the official offer.

Ask for Feedback

You won’t always hear back, but some employers will give you constructive feedback if you ask. Be open to what they have to say and use the feedback to build your interview skills going forward. Make sure to thank them for the feedback as well, no matter how helpful it was.

Accept It and Don’t Blame Others

It just so happens that people are rejected from jobs everyday, and the best thing to do is accept it and move on. Even with all of your efforts and practice, you may not have been their best candidate. Try not to blame the company or speak poorly about them to others. You would be surprised how small many industries are and that word can get back to them, ruining any future opportunities or partnerships.

Remember Your Strengths

After a rejection, it's easy to blame yourself and find faults with your resume or even your personality. Don’t beat yourself up just because you've been rejected for one or multiple jobs. Try and focus on your strengths and identify opportunities that you are passionate about, and that passion will show through in interviews.

Be Positive

Instead of focusing on failure, try to focus on how you succeeded and what went well in the interview. Turn this rejection into a learning opportunity and stay focused on your ultimate goal. The day will come when your efforts and practice pay off at a great job.

Overview of the Interview Process

Week before the Interview

  • Review your resume with Career Development.
  • Research who will be conducting the interview on LinkedIn.
  • Spend time researching the company, position, and industry.
  • Plan your route, taking into consideration traffic and parking time.
  • Make sure interview clothes are clean, fit well and ironed the night before.
  • Schedule a mock interview through Handshake or use Big Interview to help you practice responses to common interview questions.
  • Prepare around 5-10 questions about the position/company and ask 4-5 of them.

Day of the Interview

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early to the check-in desk.
  • Be friendly and respectful to everyone you come in contact with.
  • Bring multiple copies of your resume and references in a portfolio with notepad and pen.

During the Interview

  • Greet everyone with a firm handshake, remembering to smile, show enthusiasm and make eye contact.
  • Be prepared with your 1-2 minute elevator pitch.
  • Limit responses to no more than 2-3 minutes per question.
  • Know how to speak about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Identify specific skills as they relate to the job.
  • Provide examples that illustrate or demonstrate a specific skill or function.
  • Answer situational questions using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method.
  • Ask a few of the informative questions you prepared at the end of the interview.
  • Ask about the next steps in the interview process.
  • Don’t forget to shake everyone's hand and thank them at the end of the interview.
  • Collect business cards of those who interviewed you.

After the Interview

  • Within a day of the interview, send a handwritten thank you note or email to all interviewers.
  • Follow up with the employer at an appropriate time (usually 10 business days).

Additional Interview Formats

In-person Interview

  • Try to find out if your interview will be a panel of staff members or if you will be with a group of other candidates. This may be noted in their initial email.
  • If you’re interviewed by a panel, make sure to have plenty of entra resume copies, make equal eye contact with each member, and ask questions that allows everyone to pitch in.
  • For group interviews, make sure to stay professional, be friendly, listen well, involve them in discussions and activities, and remember to be yourself.

Phone Interview

  • Unlike the traditional interview, you don’t have to dress up for a phone call, but it can help you keep a professional state-of-mind if you do!
  • Make sure you have a quiet space to talk with good cell service and few distractions
  • Utilize notes on the companies history, products, culture, and achievements for reference.
  • Keep your resume and list of questions handy

Video Interview

  • Well before the interview, comb through the video application you will use and clean up any unprofessional information, such as your username or personal bio.
  • Run a full test your video call application from login, finding a contact, and making a call to a family or friend.
  • Dress professionally and choose darker clothing, as they appear better on a video than bright colors
  • Similar to a phone interview, find a quiet space, but also make sure to have a good neutral background, such as a blank wall or bookshelf.
  • Eliminate any electronic distractions, such as social media notifications and sound from other websites. The only thing open on your computer should be the video interview.
  • Make sure the lighting in the room is adequate and your webcam is at eye-level. Instead of looking at the video screen, try to look at the webcam so you appear to be maintaining eye contact with the interviewers.