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An interview is an opportunity for you to market yourself to the company and communicate what it is that you believe sets you apart from the competition. It is also a way to assess job fit by asking questions and getting more information about the position.

Major Functions of an Interview

  • Communicate genuine interest in and knowledge of the position and organization
  • Presentation of accomplishments and relevant qualifications to a prospective employer
  • Enable the employer to determine if you are the best candidate to fit within the company and fulfill the needs of the organization

Behavioral Based Interviews

The Behavioral Based Interview (BBI) is a common interview style in which the candidate is asked to give specific examples of when they demonstrated particular behaviors or skills. The premise behind the BBI is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation. It is important to anticipate and prepare for this type of interview beforehand by recalling specific examples where you have demonstrated favorable behaviors or actions. General answers about behavior are not acceptable.

Sample Behavioral Based Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about a situation in the past year in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  • Can you give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done?
  • Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.
  • (For more sample questions see the Interview Guide)

Interviewers may also ask follow-up questions to gain more detail:

  • What were you thinking at that point?
  • Lead me through your decision process.

Before the interview, be sure to recall specific examples and experiences to discuss. Use your resume to jog your memory and do not use examples that yielded negative results. Your answers should be specific and should include three parts:

  • Problem/Situation: Briefly but thoroughly describe the problem or situation that addresses the question.
  • Action: Clearly state the action that you took to resolve the issue.
  • Results: Identify the results that demonstrate you handled the problem appropriately.

Tips on Job Interviewing

  1. Don’t be late. You should arrive ten to fifteen minutes early for the interview. This will give you time to relax and catch your breath.
  2. Go alone to the interview. Do not bring friends or relatives with you to the interview.
  3. Bring the following with you in a briefcase or folder:
    • Pen and paper
    • Extra copies of resume printed on resume (bond) paper
    • List of references (Include full names, business titles, business addresses, and telephone numbers of at least three individuals who will serve as references for you. You must ask these individuals for permission, informing them that an employer may contact them. Use adults whose references would be of value to you– supervisors, professors, etc.)
  4. Consider your appearance in making a first impression. Usually, a dark conservative suit is most appropriate. If you are not sure, ask advice from Career Services, a professor, or a friend employed in a similar job. Look professional! (See additional details on attire in the Interview Guide)
  5. When you meet the interviewer, be prepared to shake hands and introduce yourself. Know the interviewer’s name and how to pronounce it, using "Mr." or "Ms." Stand up until asked by the interviewer to sit down. Do not slouch.
  6. Be aware of your nonverbal communication. Your posture, eye contact, hand gestures, and facial expressions are all very important.
    • Sit up straight in your chair, leaning forward slightly to indicate your interest
    • Maintain appropriate eye contact with the interviewer
    • Use hand gestures to emphasize a point but don’t gesture wildly or nervously; avoid tapping your fingers or other nervous habits
    • Be courteous and polite to everyone, not just the interviewer
    • SMILE!
  7. The interviewer will be interested in information such as:
    • Your education and previous work experience
    • Your attitude toward people and work– very few jobs do not deal with people either as co-workers or customers
    • Your future career plans as they relate to the job– your direction & motivation.
  8. Listen to the interviewer. The interviewer’s reflective questions will not only confirm your responses, but will also often give you information helpful to your presentation.
  9. Emphasize the positive. Be self-confident and honest, highlighting your accomplishments. However, don’t exaggerate or lie; it may come back to haunt you.
  10. Wait for an offer to discuss salary. Let the interviewer bring up the subject of money first.
  11. Emphasize what you can do for the organization. The employer is interested in the skills, knowledge, and abilities you will bring to the job.
  12. Be prepared. Think about how you will answer certain questions before the interview. Know your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and abilities and be prepared to discuss them. Have situations in mind to illustrate your points or to give examples of your experiences. However, don’t give "set" or "by-the-book" answers.
  13. Never speak badly of a former employer, colleague, teacher or institution. If there were problems with previous experiences, try to put your answers in positive terms.
  14. Watch your grammar. Speak up in interviews and use good voice and diction. Say, "yes" not "yeah."
  15. Don’t expect an offer on the spot. Offers usually follow the interview, sometimes two or three weeks later. If you are not offered the job during the interview, ask about the next step in the employment process.
  16. Be prepared to ask questions. Asking questions shows that you are interested and enthusiastic about the organization and the position. It also demonstrates that you are well-prepared and willing to work. Employers appreciate applicants who have done their homework in researching the organization.
  17. Attitude is most important. Your attitude is shown by your smile, enthusiasm, interest, appearance, punctuality, flexibility, dependability, and preparedness.

Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are an interactive way to learn about possible career paths, job opportunities, work environments, professionals in industry, and more pertaining to your personal career plans.

Informational Interviews Help Provide:

  • A realistic idea of a "typical" workday
  • Advice on how to find similar positions
  • Information on the types of employer organizations
  • Tips on future vacancies with the firm
  • Current starting salaries in the field you are researching
  • Information on advancement opportunities
  • Information about skills and credentials for entering the field
  • Overview of the organizational structure of the firm being researched
  • Advice about related occupations
  • Advice on getting starting in the field
  • Advice about career advancement
  • Referrals to other contacts in the profession

Informational Interview versus Job Interview

The informational interview is not a job interview. You are not interviewing for employment. You are interviewing for career information. Candidates who approach it as a "back-door" to getting a job may get into trouble by offending the individual who is giving up valuable time to meet with them. Make it clear when you set up the meeting what the purpose is and what you hope to gain from the interview.

Getting Started

  • Use your contacts to help you identify persons for your interviews
  • Develop a list of persons and organizations who are doing the type of work that interests you
  • Contact organizations that interest you by telephone -- try and determine names of individuals who are doing jobs that you might want to do or who supervise those people
  • Always try and speak directly to the person you want to interview

Your Interview:

  • Present a professional image in behavior and attire, as if it were an actual job interview
  • BE PREPARED -- make sure you have a list of questions you want answered, know something about the organization, know something about the occupation you are discussing
  • Ask open ended questions to obtain more than yes or no responses
  • Try to keep the conversation focused on the information you need
  • Keep an open mind but remember the person that you are speaking to only represents one perspective
  • Always express appreciation at the end of the interview and follow-up with a thank-you letter

Questions to Ask

  • How did you get into this line of work?
  • How did you get in this particular job?
  • What is the best thing about this job/field?
  • What is the worst thing about this job/field?
  • What is a typical day like?
  • Tell me about pitfalls along the job search?
  • What should I look for in an interview situation? What kinds of questions will they ask?
  • Are there some specific skills or experiences that you recommend to get me ready?
  • What are the possibilities or how do you advance in the field?
  • What skills and credentials are required?
  • If you were to start over what would you do differently?
  • Could you refer me to other people that I could talk with?

Acing the Informational Interview (Business Week, June 27, 2007)

  • Use Your Network
  • Be a "Translator:" Communicate your skills, experiences, and transferable talents, especially leadership, creativity, and productivity
  • Avoid Cliché Answers to Cliché Questions: Communicate your skills, interests, and experiences using examples
  • Be Specific: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your career plans?
  • Do Your Research: Read journals, industry reports, annual reports and any information you can about the industry, occupation, and organizations that interest you
  • Stay Organized
  • Get Out There: Get as much experience as you can; volunteer, join organizations, attend industry events
  • Have a Career Search "Buddy:" Someone who will keep you on track
  • Talk To Everyone You Know
  • Ask About Next Steps: Is there anyone else I can talk to? What information do I need? Where can I get related experience?

Multiple Mini-Interviews

Some professional schools have adapted a new process called Multiple Mini-interviews. If you are planning on applying for these programs it would be helpful to prepare for this possibility.

Online Interview Preparation Tool

Trinity University provides access to Big Interview, which is an online interview preparation tool. It helps to prepare you for job and graduate school interviews as well as practice being interviewed.