Preparing for an Interview

You did it! After all of your hard work on your resume, cover letter, and application, you have been invited to an interview. While your resume and cover letter help you get to the interview stage, you still need to impress your interviewers and prove that you are the right candidate for the job (or program).

Preparing for an interview will not only help ease your nerves, it will allow you to practice talking about yourself so that you are ready to demonstrate why you are the right candidate for the position during the actual interview. Don’t just wing it!

Keep in mind the employer is attempting to answer these 3 questions during an interview…

  • Can you do the job?
    • Do you have the necessary skills and experience?
  • Will you do the job?
    • Do you have the drive, work ethic, and passion for the field and company?
  • Do we want to work with you?
    • Will you be a good fit for the team and company culture?
    • The first two questions can typically be answered with your application materials so the interview is really focused on this question.

Preparing for an Interview

Six Steps to Prepare

  1. Research the Organization
    • Research the company’s size, location, organizational chart, product line, history, top clients, and top competitors. Use search engines, The Muse, Glassdoor, business articles, or magazines to find this information.
    • Conduct informational interviews and attend networking events to gain insight into the organization.
    • Research the individuals whom you will be interviewing using LinkedIn to learn about their work history and their role in the organization.
  2. Prepare Questions & Responses
    • Get comfortable talking about yourself and be prepared to provide stories and anecdotal evidence to support your qualifications and experiences (both professional or personal) that demonstrate your strengths and highlight how you are prepared and qualified for the position. Use the STAR method to structure your interview responses to common behavioral interview questions.
    • When preparing these examples, look to the job posting to guide you. What skills and qualifications are they looking for? Can you provide specific examples of when you have demonstrated those skills?
  3. Write Down Questions That You Want to Ask at the Interview
    • Your interviewers will typically reserve the last 10 to 15 minutes of the interview for you to ask them questions. Make sure that you have a handful of questions prepared ahead of time.
  4. Practice Interviewing
    • You can schedule a mock interview with a career advisor or ask a family member or friend to complete a practice interview with you.
  5. Dress Professionally
    • Different employers have different expectations for professional attire. It is better to dress more professionally than to be too casual.
  6. Arrive Early
    • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the interview actually begins.
    • Bring along any necessary additional materials (your list of questions, paper, a pen, copies of your resume, transcripts, references, additional samples of your work, etc.).

Commonly Asked Interview Questions

Common Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How did you hear about this position?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What type of work environment do you prefer?
  • What do you know about our company/organization?
  • How has what you learned in school prepared you for this position?
  • What are your top three strengths?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What is your greatest professional achievement?
  • How do you think a friend, classmate, or colleague who knows you well would describe you?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work.
  • How did you deal with it?
  • What qualifications do you have that make you think you will be successful in this job?
  • In what ways do you think you can contribute to our organization?
  • Tell me about a time that you exercised leadership.
  • What work environment are you most comfortable in?
  • How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations? Can you provide an example?
  • Tell me about two or three accomplishments that have given you the most satisfaction. Why?
  • Describe your ideal manager.
  • Why did you decide to seek a position with our organization?
  • What were the most important contributions you made in your last position?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Questions to Ask During an Interview

The interview is also your opportunity to interview the employer. It’s important to confirm if the role/company is a good fit for you and your career goals.

Questions to Ask About the Job

  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?
  • Can you show me examples of projects I’d be working on?
  • What are the skills and experiences you’re looking for in an ideal candidate?
  • What attributes does someone need to have in order to be really successful in this position?
  • What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
  • Is this a new role that has been created?
  • Do you expect the main responsibilities for this position to change in the next six months to a year?

Questions to Ask About Training and Professional Development

  • How will I be trained?
  • What training programs are available to your employees?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement or professional development?
  • Where is the last person who held this job moving on to?
  • Where have successful employees previously in this position progressed to?

Questions to Ask About Your Performance

  • What are the most important things you’d like to see someone accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job?
  • What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
  • What is the performance review process like here? How often would I be formally reviewed?

Questions to Ask About the Interviewer

  • How long have you been with the company?
  • How has your role changed since you joined the company?
  • What did you do before this role?
  • Why did you come to this company?
  • What’s your favorite part about working here?

Questions to Ask About the Company

  • Where do you see this company in the next few years?
  • What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?
  • What are the current goals that the company is focused on and how does this teamwork support those goals?
  • What gets you most excited about the company’s future?

Questions to Ask About the Team

  • Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  • Who will I work with most closely?
  • Who will I report to directly?
  • Can you tell me about my direct reports? What are their strengths and the team’s biggest challenges?
  • Which other departments work most closely with this one?

Questions to Ask About the Culture

  • What’s the company and team culture like?
  • What do you think is the goal/mission of your organization?
  • How would you describe the work environment here? Is the work typically collaborative or more independent?
  • Can you tell me about the last team event you did together?
  • What’s your favorite office tradition?
  • What do you and the team usually do for lunch?
  • Does anyone on the team hang out outside the office?
  • What’s different about working here than anywhere else you’ve worked?
  • How has the company changed since you joined?

Questions to Ask About Next Steps

  • Is there anything that concerns you about my background being a fit for this role?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?
  • Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?

The STAR Method

Behavioral Questions

During an interview, it’s likely that you will be asked a few behavioral questions. When an employer asks these types of questions, they’re typically seeking concrete examples of how you responded to certain tasks, relationships, or situations. By asking these questions, the interviewers want to know how you have behaved in the past because it gives them an indication of how you will behave in similar situations in the future (perhaps working at their company). When you answer a behavioral question, the STAR method is a great way to structure your response. Similarly, people remember stories and examples more frequently than simple responses, so the STAR method can be used for other interview questions when you want to tell a story or provide a concrete example.

The STAR Method

  • Situation: Provide an overview of the situation, being specific and succinct.
  • Task: Describe the goal you (or your team) were working toward.
  • Action: Describe your actions, the steps you took in the situation/task.
  • Result: Describe the outcome. What did you learn? What went well? What didn’t go well? What would you do differently? Reflect on the experience.

STAR Interview Example

Question: Tell me about a time you had to manage multiple projects.

  • S: In my previous role, I ended up with three projects due on the same day.
  • T: I was assigned a research project and a presentation, as well as a deadline for my client in senior design.
  • A: I prioritized a list and consulted with my senior design team. I blocked off more time, set limits for each project, etc.
  • R: I ended up finishing the component for senior design ahead of schedule, which pleased both my team and our client. I was then able to turn my focus to the research project and presentation and complete those projects on time as well.

Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time you failed or made a mistake.
  • Describe a time when you experienced conflict on a team (or with a client/customer).
  • Tell me about this project on your resume.
  • Give me an example of when you had to go above and beyond to get the job done.
  • Describe a time when you experienced a challenging problem. What steps did you take to solve it?

STAR Method Article

After the Interview

Thank You Notes

It’s important to send a thank-you note within 24 hours of your interview. While a thank you email is the most common, you can also drop off a handwritten note.

  • What should you include in your thank-you note?
    • Thank your interviewer(s) for their time, reiterate why you are a good fit, address any concerns or hesitations that arose, and emphasize that you are still interested in the position.
  • Example thank you note:

Hi Jimmy,

Thank you so much for chatting with me today. It was such a pleasure to learn more about the marketing manager role, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to join ABC Company and help your team bring a new readership to your amazing content.

I look forward to hearing from you about next steps, but please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can provide any additional information.

All the best,

Virtual Interviews

Tips and Best Practices

Your interview goals are the same, but there are differences in how you achieve them in a virtual environment.

  • Dress Professionally
    • Even though the interviewer may never see below your chest, wearing your full interview attire will put you in the “interview mindset”. You also never know if you might have to stand up, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. No one wants to be caught in their pajama bottoms!
  • Lighting and Background
    • Make sure you’re well lit (natural lighting is best) with your light source behind your computer/camera so that it’s illuminating your face.
    • Find a quiet area with a neutral background, avoid distracting clutter or decoration.
  • Eye Contact
    • While actual eye contact isn’t possible, try and position your camera so that you look directly at it when answering questions during an interview.
  • Test Your Tech Before the Interview
    • Are your headphones and microphone working? Is your internet reliable?
  • Reduce Distractions.
    • Turn off notifications and silence your phone.
  • Show Up a Few Minutes Early
  • Nonverbal cues are different in a video setting – use your face to show you’re engaged
  • Practice!
    • Ask a family member or friend to complete a virtual practice interview with you.

Salary Negotiation

6 Quick Tips to Negotiate Salary

Even for experienced workers, salary negotiation is often a stressful time. Begin any salary negotiation by researching salaries in your field and your location. Be sure to check multiple sources to obtain a more accurate salary range. Above all, be prepared.

At any point in the job search or interview process, you can expect to get a salary question. It’s best to avoid salary discussions until you have been given a job offer, but in some cases you may be asked to include your salary on an application. You can leave the salary spot blank or put “flexible” in the box. If you feel the need to write something, include your requirements as a range, with the top of the employer’s range being the midpoint of your range.

  1. Let the interviewer bring up the discussion of salary. You can ask about salary if you have been offered a job without the salary being disclosed.
  2. After you receive an offer, share your appreciation. Tell them you need time to think about the offer. Don’t ever accept the offer without taking time to think about it. Don’t negotiate at this time.
  3. Begin any salary negotiation by researching salaries in your field and your location. Be sure to check multiple sources to obtain a more accurate salary range.
    • If you were strongly recommended, have significant relevant experience, have already demonstrated your value to the company, or have other solid options, you will have more leverage when negotiating your salary.
  4. Consider the full benefits package as you weigh your options. Oftentimes benefits can provide value apart from the base salary you are receiving. You should weigh paid vacation, sick time, matching retirement plans, health, dental, and vision insurance, etc.
  5. Determine your goals, trade-offs, and your walk-away point.
  6. Negotiate and obtain or make a counteroffer.
  7. Once you’ve reached an agreement, ask for a final offer in writing.

Salary Research

You can begin researching salaries with the following websites:

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