An interview is a chance for you to explain why you are qualified and also for you to assess if the organization is a fit for you. To be at your best, interviews take preparation. Most candidates will encounter a variety of interview methods including phone, video, and in-person during their interview process. Preparing for the different methods is key to success.
- Know what to expect. In addition to in-person interviews, there are three common remote interview formats being used:
- Pre-recorded interviews (also called “one-sided”) are when an interviewer isn’t present and you record and submit your answers to interview questions. Here’s a quick video about 4 Strategies for Nailing the (Pre-Recorded) Video Interview.
- Live virtual interviews more closely mirror an in-person interview with a live interviewer (in real time) on the other side of the screen. Check out this advice on nailing the live virtual interview.
- Telephone interviews are still popular, especially as a first step in the interview screening process. Read through these tips on successful phone interviews.
- Practice. Practicing for the different settings so you feel confident in your interview.
- Big Interview is a tool that lets you practice answering interview questions. By recording yourself ahead of time you can get used to being on camera and practicing your responses but also listen for your tone, filler words, and eye contact with the computer camera and body language.
- The UCC offers mock interviews to help you prepare. Appointments are made on Handshake.
- Set the stage. If you are interviewing virtually, you’re in charge of setting the scene. You will want to find a quiet spot with a simple, yet interesting, background. Read more about setting the scene below.
- Prepare, research, and attend to details: As with all interviews, researching organizations, preparing for commonly asked questions, dressing professionally, and incorporating interview strategies (for example the STAR method) is key. Read more about interview techniques and preparation suggestions below.
Below are some resources to help you with your upcoming interview:
- PRACTICING FOR YOUR INTERVIEW
- INTERVIEWING STRATEGY
- INTERVIEW SETTINGS - VIRTUAL, PHONE, IN-PERSON
- TYPES OF INTERVIEWS
- PRIOR TO THE INTERVIEW
- QUESTIONS TO ASK THE EMPLOYER
- COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Note: You may have questions about an organization's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. For tips and strategies around finding those answers please visit Assessing Organizational Culture.
Congratulations, you have an interview! Employers interview applicants for several reasons, which may include:
- To associate a face with an applicant’s resume
- To assess the applicant’s personality and how well it fits into the job environment
- To determine if there is a match between the applicant and the job
- To clarify experiences and skills on an applicant’s resume and cover letter
- To assess how well an applicant may respond to stress/challenges
Keep in mind: If you’ve received an interview, it most likely means the employer likes your resume and considers you qualified for the position. Otherwise, the interview will be a waste of time for both of you!
How you prepare can make a big difference in your performance. You may want to ask yourself these questions:
- How do I research employers?
- What type of interview is it? (Phone, Virtual, In-person)
- What's a case or behavioral interview?
- What do I wear?
- What are common interview questions, and good strategies for answering them?
Interviewing, like any skill, is something you can improve on with practice.
Big Interview is a tool to help you prepare for interviews, whether you’re interviewing for jobs or for graduate schools.
There are three ways to get started:
- Fast Track- Learn the basics of interviewing, how to prepare for common questions, and start practicing in this quick guide
- Mastery Track- Get a comprehensive guide to all things interviewing or pick and choose which lessons you need
- Launch right into practice- Get started quickly by jumping straight into practicing. Answer general questions or dive into interviews by industry, skillset, and more.
(Note: If you're a Michigan alum and would like to access Big Interview, use the following instructions for accessing the interview tool.)
Mock Interview Appointments
Use our mock interview appointments as a final dress rehearsal. Practice your interviewing skills, then receive immediate feedback during your session. Available to all students seeking a job, internship or applying to graduate/professional school. Schedule online, or call us at 734-764-7460.
Connect with our staff for call ahead advising or a scheduled appointment to get help preparing for your interview. Call 734-764-7460 or schedule an appointment online.
Employers can tell the difference between a candidate who enters an interview prepared and one who is just “winging it.” Below are a few points to help you prepare for your interviews including information on the STAR technique, one specific approach to interviewing. You may also want to learn more about the University Career Center resources that can help you practice your interviewing skills.
- Anticipate specific questions that you expect will be difficult for you. For many people, open-ended questions (e.g., “Tell me about yourself”) or negative questions (“Tell me about a supervisor you didn’t get along with”) can be especially challenging. Preparing for these questions and practicing your answers can help ensure that you won’t freeze up during the interview. You may also want to focus on areas that might be especially challenging for your unique situation.
- Prepare stories about yourself: your experiences, skills and personal qualities. You cannot anticipate every interview question, but if you’ve spent some time reflecting on your background and preparing stories that illustrate key points you’re less likely to be caught off-guard by unexpected questions.
- Share concrete examples to back up your assertions, rather than making unsubstantiated claims. Examples from past experiences will help convince an employer that you can do what they need done, because you demonstrate that you’ve done it in the past.
- Do your homework on the industry and the organization to ensure that your answers are relevant to the specific situation. See our section on researching employers for more on this topic.
The STAR Technique
The STAR technique (Situation or Task, Action and Result) offers one strategy to help you stay on track with your interviewing answers.
The Muse's article on the STAR technique has a brief description to help you learn how to use STAR.
In addition to the traditional in-person interview, you will likely experience other settings.
Because of time and cost, phone interviews are often your first conversation with employers. Find out how to make sure it’s not your last!
Video interviews are more popular than ever and come in diffrent forms:
- Pre-recorded (also called “one-sided” or “one-way”) interviews are when an interviewer isn’t present and the candidate records answers to pre-recorded interview questions to submit. These are usually the first step in a process. Sometimes these recordings are reviewed by people and sometimes artificial intelligence is used. Sometimes candidates are allowed to re-record their answers. Common platforms include: HireVue, Pymetrics, Montage, and Mya.
- Live virtual interviews more closely mirror an in-person interview with a live interviewer on the other side of the screen. These often use video chat tools like Zoom. Much of the advice for in-person and phone interviews remains the same, but extra preparation should be taken to minimize technology issues and to get comfortable interviewing through a camera.
For both types, setting up a no-budget, professional scene is crucial:
- Background: A simple background is most effective. If possible, sit a few feet in front of a single-colored wall so that you remain the focal point. Not possible? Consider a Zoom Background. ITS offers U-M specific ones.
- Clothing: If possible, wear colors that contrast your background. We recommend wearing simple, professional or business casual clothing (yes, even when you’re meeting online!)
- Lighting: You want your strongest light source in front of you. If possible, sit with a window or a lamp in front of you (directly behind your computer) so the light falls onto your face.
- Technology Placement: As much as possible you don't want to be looking down towards your device. Even a simple stack of books can be used to elevate your computer or phone.
- Sound: Mitigate noisy backgrounds when possible. If this is a challenge, acknowledge it to your interviewer.
- Distractions: Set your phone and computer to “Do Not Disturb” mode to avoid distracting pop-ups.
Virtual interviewing inherently means mitigating technology issues that may arise:
- Test your technology ahead of time. Test your internet connection, your audio, and your video. Make sure you are familiar with the platform being used.
- If your internet connection seems unstable, consider an alternate location.
- Log in early! Logging in can take time- give yourself some flexibility. If something doesn’t work, sometimes problems are solved by the simple act of logging out and logging back in. If you get stuck troubleshooting, logging in early gives you time to reach out to your interviewer via email.
- Remain calm! Technology issues happen all the time. How you handle them showcases your flexibility and ability to handle stress. If they share directions or alternative procedures, follow their lead and don’t assume that technology issues are “messing up” your interview. Showing that you can pivot calmly and excel with a plan b can actually help you show up well!
Artificial Intelligence in Interviews (One-Way Interviews)
Companies from J.P. Morgan to Unilever to IBM Watson are moving towards using Artificial Intelligence (AI) Interviewing, also called “one-way interviews” because there is no live person on the other end of the video.
While there are drawbacks to this approach (namely, the lack of personal connections at this stage), this style also allows more applicants to interview and companies suggest it can reduce discrimination in the process. As a plus on the applicant side, you also have the chance to re-record answers on most platforms!
What is it? In this process, applicants will record their answers to interview questions. A software system will then analyze word choice, tone, and facial expression. For a preview, watch this video from CNBC. Common platforms include: HireVue, Pymetrics, Montage, and Mya.
Tips for Success:
- Dress professionally.
- Practice recording yourself. It can feel strange to not have an interviewer giving you feedback, so practice recording answers so you’re comfortable for the real thing.
- Don’t memorize a script or read off written notes. Practice should help you sound prepared, not rehearsed.
- Maintain eye contact with the camera and use exaggerated facial expressions (smile, AI will pick up on this!)
- Take time to think about each question before responding, re-record if needed (and if it is available).
- Don’t use abbreviations or text speak.
- Speak clearly and slowly.
More tips can be found here.
Behavioral interviewing is a unique and increasingly common way of asking questions to assess your past performance in certain situations. The links below can help you prepare to be your best during behavioral interviews.
In consulting, and some other industries, you will be asked to participate in case interviews. Case interviewing requires a very different approach than traditional interviews. The links below can help you understand and prepare for case interviews.
Visit our Consulting Career Track page for case interview tips and resources
Preparing for interviews typically involves:
- Assessing self and personal strengths
- Researching the employer
- Deciding what to wear
Use the following links to learn more about how to better prepare for interviews:
“What questions do you have for me?” The perfect time in an interview to continue to assess if this job is a good fit for you — if you’re ready to take advantage of it. You should always have questions prepared to ask the interviewer, based on what you need to know to assess the opportunity.
Below are some questions you may want to ask.
- Why is this position open?
- Could you please describe what my typical work day may be like?
- How would you describe the organization’s culture?
- What is the training schedule and process for this position?
- What are the department’s goals for this year?
- How is feedback on my job performance given?
- What do you think is the greatest opportunity facing the organization in the near future? the biggest threat?
- What do you enjoy about working for this organization? What attracted you to it?
- How are new ideas and feedback solicited from staff?
- What kind of professional development opportunities would be available to me?
- When do you expect to make a decision?
The questions below are typical in many interviews. Preparing for them and developing your own framework can help you approach the interview with confidence.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Open-ended questions like this require a plan on your part so that you don’t just ramble. Early in the interview, take the opportunity to lay out the most important things you want an interviewer to know about you. Use this question to highlight those core things about you that are relevant to this job, for example, your academics, extracurriculars, and other experiences or relevant skill sets. This is also a good opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the position and the organization.
2. Why should we hire you?
Another open-ended question, another chance for you to summarize your strengths as they relate to the specific position. If this comes at the end of an interview, it’s a time to summarize those core things that you want the interviewer to remember most about you. This answer can also show how much you understand the skills required for the job. Use this question to demonstrate clearly and concretely why you will be successful in the job if hired.
3. Why are you interested in our organization?
Here is an occasion to demonstrate the research you’ve done, and show why this particular job with this organization is a good fit for you. Be specific, stay away from simple generalizations or obvious content taken from the employer’s website. Personalize your response: talk about what you can bring to their organization, and how they will benefit from your skills and experiences.
4. What are your greatest strengths?
Be sure that the strengths you identify are relevant for job success. These strengths may be skills or personal qualities. Most importantly, give specific examples of times that you have demonstrated these strengths. Stories drawn from past experiences that offer concrete examples of your strengths are much more believable than broad generalizations.
5. What is your greatest weakness?
Everyone has at least one liability. This question might be asked to identify which areas are in need of improvement, as well as your ability to take and use feedback. Talking about your weaknesses shows self-awareness, maturity, responsibility and integrity. It’s okay to share a weakness with an employer, as long as it’s not one critical to the job. Think about following a weakness with a positive statement about what you have done or plan to do to overcome the liability. Avoid mentioning any unresolved weaknesses.
6. Tell me about a time you were faced with failure, and how you handled that situation.
Just like weaknesses, everyone has experienced failure. The key here is whether you learned from the situation, and if you can demonstrate how you grew as a result. Much like with the weakness question, the recruiter will also be gauging your ability to self-reflect on past experiences. This is an example of a behavioral interviewing question. You can learn more about this type of question and helpful behavioral interviewing strategies on this website.
7. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
A good answer to this question demonstrates that you are thinking about your long term career goals in addition to the short term. You’ll want to find ways to connect your answer to the job at hand, demonstrating an understanding of how this job fits your long term goals. The interviewer may be assessing whether their organization fits with your goals. A solid answer demonstrates an understanding and passion for your target industry and how you envision yourself fitting in.
8. How has your educational background prepared you for this job?
Your answer should give insight into the educational choices you made, as well as specific experiences that will help you impact the organization. Just like with work experiences, develop some stories about your educational experiences that demonstrate the skills, qualities and experiences your target employers value.
9. What kind of work environment are you looking for?
This answer can provide another opportunity for you to demonstrate your self-awareness and maturity in talking about the kinds of work environments that allow you to thrive, and also reinforcing some of your strengths (e.g., ability to work under pressure, ability to work autonomously). Be sure to communicate how your preferences would accord/coalesce/harmonize with the environment of the organization.
10. Tell me about a time you influenced the outcome of a project by taking a leadership role.
Like all behavioral questions, this requires that you talk about a specific situation, your role in it, and concrete outcomes as a result of your actions. A complete answer could focus on the components of a good leader and reflections on your specific leadership style. Focusing on concrete results will demonstrate to the interviewer that you understand the impact that good leadership skills have on a team.
11. What questions do you have for me?
ALWAYS have questions prepared for the interviewer; failure to do so suggests a lack of interest in the job and the organization. Focus on areas that are legitimate for you as a potential new hire, for example, how employees are evaluated and promoted, or the expectations for new hires. Personal opinion questions are safe and can be asked of numerous people, for example, asking about the work environment of the organization or the organization’s greatest strengths and weaknesses.