An interview explores a candidate’s interests and qualifications beyond what is provided in a résumé, application, vitae, or cover letter. An interview is a two-way process– while the interviewer’s goal is to find the best candidate, the interview is also an opportunity for the candidate to gain insight into the position and organization to determine if it is, in fact, a good fit. Approach your interviews as a two-way conversation and you will be more successful! Here are some tips to help you prepare for (and ace!) you next interview!
The Interview Process
- The interview starts the moment you walk in the door. Be confident in your greeting and make a strong first impression.
- The middle of the interview focuses on the organization, position, and your qualifications. This is the longest part of the interview. The interviewer will most likely describe the organization and position, and ask questions.
- Near the end of the interview, you are typically invited to ask questions you have about the organization and position. The interview isn’t over until you have left the building, so it is important to remain courteous and enthusiastic.
- Follow up! Send a thank-you email or note within 24-48 hours of the interview
Preparing for the Interview
Research: Learn about the internship, scholarship, graduate program, or job for which you are interviewing, and make every effort to familiarize yourself with the field.
- Identify the skills, abilities, and attributes that are expected of candidates, which are outlined in the position description and on the organization’s website
- Research current trends and news in the field/industry
- Speak with alumni, current employees and/or past interns
Know why you’re a strong candidate: Interviewers expect candidates to know what they can offer. Identify your skills, abilities, and personal qualities and how you can apply them to the position. Be prepared to offer examples of when you acquired or demonstrated your skills through previous experiences.
When preparing for a specific interview, compare the job description to your résumé and note the skills, abilities, and attributes that support your candidacy.
Answering Interview Questions
Through an interview, employers are trying to learn the following:
- Why are you interested in the position?
- How can you contribute to our organization?
- How will your character/values fit into our organization?
- What distinguishes you from other people who have the same skills as you?
Behavioral Interview Questions
Behavioral interviewing is widely used by employers and is based on the premise that past behavior predicts future performances. Behavioral questions invite you to talk about an experience.
These questions may begin with the prompts: “Describe a situation when…” or “Tell me about a time when…”. The interviewer expects you to talk about a specific situation. One strategy to use when answering behavioral questions is to use the C-A-R method:
What was the situation? Provide a context. Briefly describe it. What were your tasks? Explain what skills were used. What was the result of your action? Share what you learned.
Behavioral Question Examples
- Tell me about a specific problem you solved for your employer or professor. How did you approach the problem?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake. What did you learn from it?
- Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?
- Describe a time when you successfully worked on a team. Why was it successful? What was your role?
Questions for the Employer
Interviewers expect you to ask questions as part of the interview. Be prepared with questions that demonstrate your interest in the position. Research the organization and review the job description in order to prepare 3-4 questions. Your questions should be specific and try to get at information about the organization that is important to you. Questions should enable you to dig deeper into the position, organization culture, values, and the work environment.
Tips for Remote Interviews
Many employers choose to interview candidates on the phone prior to inviting them for a face-to-face interview. Remote interviews include Skype/video interviews, phone interviews, as well as pre-recorded interviews (self-paced or timed). For the most part, you would prepare as you would for any interview, following the steps above, however there are things that make these interviews unique. Here are a few tips:
- Practice! Complete a practice interview using Big Interview.
- Be ready 10 minutes before the phone/video interview appointment.
- Have a pen and paper ready to take brief notes.
- Keep your résumé/CV and the job description in view, avoid shuffling papers.
- Conduct the interview in a space free from distractions.
- Enunciate and speak slowly, clearly, and directly into the phone/microphone.
- Smile so your friendliness can be heard and seen.
- Address the interviewer(s) by name. Know who asked the question and address that person.
- Sit at a desk or table or consider standing.
- Respond as you would in person. If something sounds interesting to you, say it!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a question to be repeated.
A Note about Skype/Video Interviews
- Do a test run of a Skype/video call with a friend the day before to make sure audio and video are working and appropriate.
- Try your best to make the background professional and not distracting.
- Dress in appropriate professional attire.
- Have the interviewer’s contact information (phone number) ready just in case the audio drops, screen freezes, or other technical hiccups occur. Stay calm and act professional and quickly if this happens.
For more tips and tricks on the interviewing and the interview process, check out our Career Guide!