Below are some resources to help you with your upcoming interview:
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 (although hopefully not like the above Monty Python video!)
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's a case or behavioral interview?
- What do I wear?
- What are common interview questions, and good strategies for answering them?
Practicing for Your Interview
Interviewing, like any skill, is something you can improve on with practice.
Recorded Mock Interview Appointments
Use our in-person mock interview appointments as a final dress rehearsal. Practice your interviewing skills while we record your responses, then receive immediate feedback during an in-person 40-minute session. Available to all students seeking a job, internship or applying to medical school. Schedule online, or call us at 764-7460.
Career Counseling and Advising
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 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.
Quintessential Career’s article on the STAR technique has a brief description and a sample of the typical questions encountered.
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!
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.
Instead of phone interviews, some companies have begun to move toward preliminary interviews using video chat tools like Skype. Much of the advice for in-person and phone interviews remains the same for video interviews, but extra preparation should be taken to ensure that things like the computer you will be using, and the chat software are operating properly. You don’t want to mess up or miss your interview simply because of a technology issue. It is also important to consider the placement of your webcam, and to look into the camera while you're speaking (easier said than done). A great tip is to position the video window with your interviewers directly beneath the webcam, in order to best simulate ‘normal’ conditions for good eye-contact. Below is a great article on video interviews. It was written from the perspective of someone seeking an academic job at a university, but much of the info is appropriate for any interviewee:
Prior to the Interview
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:
Questions to Ask the Employer
“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?
Common Interview Questions
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.