Know How to Interview

Your resume and cover letter grabbed the attention of the employer and you have been asked to come in for an interview. Are you prepared to turn those interviews into job offers?

Interview Tips
Setting Up Job Interviews
  • Think about what you are going to say before you pick up the phone to call an employer.
  • You want the employer to think of you as a good future employee.
  • You will have about 20 seconds to make the employer want to meet you. Therefore, what you say has to be brief, to the point, and persuasive. 
Prepare for an Interview
  • The day before your interview, think about what types of questions the employer might ask you and prepare answers you can give in less than 2 minutes.
  • Plan your interview attire ahead of time. Map out the location and estimate travel. This will help you get organized and be less stressed the day of the interview.
  • On the day of the interview:
  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You might need to fill out paperwork before the interview.
  • Go by yourself. If a friend or relative drives you, have them wait in the car.
  • Wear an outfit that is professional looking. It should fit the type of job for which you are interviewing.
  • Be cautious of wearing cologne/perfume in case your interviewer has allergies.
What to Bring to an Interview
  • Extra copies of your resume, your reference list, and if necessary a portfolio or examples of your work.
  • Papers needed to complete your application. This includes copies of work licenses, your driving record (if required), and your social security or immigration cards.
  • Questions for you to ask during the interview.  
During the Interview
  • Display confidence. Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Let the interviewer start the conversation.
  • Listen carefully. Give honest, direct answers.
  • Accept all questions with a smile, even the hard ones. Take your time when answering the hard questions.
  • Think about your answers in your head before you talk. Make sure you stay on topic when responding to a question. If you don't understand a question, ask to hear it again or for it to be reworded. You don't have to rush, but you don't want to appear indecisive. 

Interview Preparation Activities

Do these activities before every interview – if possible, go over the questions and answers with a friend (at the very least in the mirror!), and practice your answers until they sound polished and confident (but not rehearsed!).

Practice Activities

Ten reasons why you’re the perfect person for the job
These are the key facts from your experience, skills, accomplishments and/or personality that make you a good match for the job. Try to work one of them into every answer you give – and if at the end of the interview you realize one or more of them hasn’t come up, bring it up!

Ten questions they will ask you during the interview, and your answers
Include both standard and ‘situational’ questions. Your answers should be brief, complete, and thoughtful.

Questions to ask them about the job or company
Show that you’re interested! Pretend you’re a reporter and you’re going to write a story about the company and/or job – what would you want to know? Use the Sample Questions on the next page to start your list.

Ten things to avoid doing/saying during the interview
What mistakes have you made in past interviews? What bad habits do you want to avoid displaying, or issues you want to avoid disclosing?

Online Interviewing Resources

Sample Questions to Ask the Employer During the Interview
Below is a list of questions you may consider asking during your interview. If you already know the answer to the question; either from the job description, information provided during the interview, or from your research of the company online; do NOT ask the question. If you still need clarification about anything that can be found while researching the company, be clear about where you found the information and follow it up with the question.

  • How long has this company/organization been open? (Remember; never ask anything you can find out on the website!)
  • Is this a new position? Has it been open long? (Optional: Why did the previous person leave?)
  • What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
  • What is your definition of success for this position?
  • What are usually the most challenging aspects of the job?
  • What are the priorities for this position in the next 2-3 months? The next year?
  • Who will be my supervisor?
  • Could you describe the team I’ll be working with?
  • How would you describe the culture of the office?
  • How would you describe your perfect candidate for this job?
  • What’s the normal path & timeframe for advancement within the company?
  • At what point would you expect me to be ‘up to speed’ with the duties of the job?
  • What are your company/organization’s goals for the next year?
  • How do you feel I fit with the qualifications you have defined for this position?
  • What is your timeline for hiring?
  • How is this position funded?
  • What is your favorite part about working here?
  • Can you clarify what ______ means in the job description?
  • What is the supervision style here?
  • What is a typical day like here?

Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions
(adapted from

Behavioral questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations, for example: ‘Tell me about a time where you had to resolve a customer complaint.’ The best way to prepare for behavioral questions is to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or -- better yet, those that had positive outcomes.

Here's a good way to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
  • Half your examples should be totally positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.
  • Vary your examples; don't take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples.
  • Use the STAR Method to answer your questions
Situation or
Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you
What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Use the STAR Interview Worksheet (pdf) to write down your scenarios.

Common mistakes made during the interview that significantly reduce your chances of being offered the position.
Application form or resume is incomplete or sloppy Nervousness or lack of confidence and poise
Arriving late for the interview No genuine interest in the company or job or overemphasis on money
Didn’t ask questions about the job Overly aggressive behavior
Failure to express appreciation for interviewers time Poor personal appearance
Lack of interest and enthusiasm Responding vaguely to questions
Lack of maturity Unwillingness to accept entry-level position
Lack of planning for career; no purpose and no goals Answering your cell phone while in the office
Negative attitude about past employers Being impolite to anybody at the employer’s site or office

Follow-up after the interview.

Send a thank-you letter or note (pdf) to each person who interviewed you. Your letter should cover these main points:

  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
  • Say you are interested in working for them.
  • Briefly state why you are qualified for the job and why you are interested in the position. You may want to mention something you didn’t get to discuss during your interview or you may want to remind the interviewer(s) of something you discussed during the interview that created a positive response.
  • You may want to take this opportunity to mention any information that you forgot to say during the interview.
  • Put anything that will help them remember who you are- did you have any personal connection or rapport building? Do you have any specialized work experience or training?
  • Add a final "thank you" for the opportunity to interview.
  • Say how you plan to follow up.

If you told the interviewers that you would give them added information, make sure that you do. Keep track of when you said you would contact this employer to find out if you were hired. Don't forget to make that contact.

Be sure to check the grammar, spelling, word use and punctuation before sending the thank you note or letter. If you choose to write your letter by hand, check with a friend to verify that your handwriting is legible.

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