Career Services for Alumni
Congratulations! Getting an interview means that the employer saw something on your resume and wants to get to know you better through an interview. It has been said that your cover letter and resume get you in the door but the interview gets you the job. The more you know about interviewing and the better you prepare, the better you will do.
Before the Interview
What to Expect
Keep in mind throughout the interview that employers want to know four things:
- Why you want the opportunity?
- Can you do the job?
- Will you do the job?
- Will you fit the company culture?
Do Your Research
You want to be well prepared for your interview, research: the company, the opportunity, and how your experience and skills align with the opportunity.
Prepare and Practice
Pre-interview preparation also includes: preparing questions to ask in advance, your apparel and grooming, practice answering questions aloud, and going through a practice interview to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Use Big Interview to watch videos and learn about interviewing. Also, record videos and practice interviewing.
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During the Interview
Incorporate Your Research
Don’t wait until the interviewer asks about your knowledge of the company. Incorporate your knowledge throughout the interview as you answer questions and ask your questions of the interviewer.
Questions for Interviewer
You are interviewing the employer as much as the interviewer is assessing you! Asking strategic questions about the job, its training, advancement opportunities, its priorities, and the culture could all help you determine your fit in the organization.
Closing the Interview
Use this opportunity to reinforce your interest, your skills and qualifications, and your sense of fit in their organization. In addition, ask what happens next in their process.
After the Interview
Follow Up/Thank You
As you wrap up the interview, ask your interviewer(s) for their business card(s) to send them a follow-up thank-you email or handwritten note within 24-48 hours. Not many people do, so it will help you stand out amongst the other candidates. The thank you letter shows your appreciation, and is an excellent opportunity to market your skills and interest in the position.
- Thank you letters should be sent as soon as possible after the interview, preferably within 24 hours.
- It is best to send thank you notes by e-mail for quick receipt, although you may send a card or letter through the mail. Keep in mind it may take longer for the employer to receive.
- If you are interviewed by a committee, you may opt to send each committee member a thank you letter, or one letter to the committee chairperson asking that they share it with the other members.
- State that you remain interested in the job, and are interested in taking the next steps.
Make sure to let your references know to expect a call or email after your interview. Provide details of the position, names of interviewer(s), and any other information that may be helpful to your references.
Interviews take on several different forms and it is important to be prepared for all types. There are different strategies applied to in-person interviews, phone interviews, and Skype interviews.
- Understand the position for which you are interviewing. Study the job description and connect your experiences to the skills the employer is looking for.
- Know your resume inside and out. Be able to draw upon your experiences and have relevant examples to answer the interviewer’s questions.
- Research the company. Check out the company’s website, social media accounts, database of articles, and talk to professionals in the industry.
- Formulate questions to ask at the end of the interview. The interviewer will ask you if you have any questions, so be prepared with at least five questions to ask.
- Keep your materials handy. Have your resume, the job description, and any other documents in front of you.
In-Person Interviewing Tips
- Dress for success. Wear clean, neat, business-appropriate attire. Make sure your shirt, pants, and/or dress is ironed and your shoes are clean. Maintain a groomed appearance.
- Make eye contact and shake hands confidently with your interviewer. This makes a good first impression.
- Power off your mobile devices. Answering a call or text mid-interview is never okay.
Phone Interviewing Tips
- Choose a distraction-free, quiet location.
- Get dressed. Although sweatpants seem relaxing, you’ll be in the mindset to have a better interview if you dress the part.
- Remember the three S’s: Speak, Sit, Smile. Speak clearly, sit up straight, and smile when you’re speaking. This will help project confidence to your interviewer.
Skype Interviewing Tips
- Choose a background that’s clean and neat, like a clean blank wall.
- Practice makes perfect! Familiarize yourself with Skype beforehand; make some practice calls to family and friends.
- Keep the webcam at eye level. This ensures that the camera is at a flattering angle.
- Look at the webcam—not yourself. Yes, you look great but keep your eyes on the camera.
- Consider your field. When interviewing at an engineering firm, for example, formal dress will most often be appropriate. However, if your work is in the field and labor intensive, business casual may be more appropriate. This may be khaki pants and polo shirt, versus a suit. Each situation may vary and speaking with a career advisor or faculty member may be appropriate in this situation.
- Fuss over your outfit. Iron your clothes prior to your interview. Tuck in your shirt. You want to demonstrate your attention to detail in your own appearance. Also ensure your clothes are well-fitting and all new tags are removed. Consider polishing your shoes.
- Clean up nicely. Take a shower. Comb your hair. Showing that you care about your appearance tells the employer you care about how you, and hopefully their organization, are represented. Dress conservatively. A well-ironed button down shirt and dress pants are always appropriate. Also consider a business suit and tie, depending on your field. Ensure everything fits properly and is tailored if necessary.
- Make a fashion statement. An interview is not the time to experiment with fashion. Formal and traditional attire is a safe and classic way to dress for business. This speaks for accessories as well. Simple and plain jewelry is preferable to eccentric accessories. You want to be remembered for what you say, not what you wear.
- Overdo your fragrance. If you wear perfume, cologne, or a scented product, be aware of how powerful the aroma is. You may want to consider no fragrance on the day of an interview to avoid being remembered in a negative way.
- Reveal too much. Be aware of how much skin is exposed in you interview attire. Short skirts, low-cut tops, and shirts unbuttoned low are not appropriate. Even open-toed shoes may not be considered appropriate by some.
Professional Dress Specifics
- A well-ironed button down shirt and dress pants are always appropriate.
- Consider a business suit and tie, depending on your field.
- Ensure everything fits properly and is tailored if necessary.
- May include a knee-length skirt or pants, and a combination of a top, button down, sweater, or blazer.
- Avoid heels that are too high. While high heels are appropriate, a lower heel appears more professional.
Types of Interview Questions
Most interviews consist of different types of interview questions that will depend on the position and the organization. Types of interview questions include:
These are straight-forward questions about your experience, background, and personal
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Tell me about yourself.
Why should I hire you?
These very popular questions are based on the premise that past behavior best predicts
future behavior. For example, if you have shown initiative in a club or class project,
you are likely to show initiative when you are working. Before an interview, each
position is assessed by the employer for the skills and traits that relate to job
success and related interview questions are developed. Examples:
Describe a situation where you used persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
Tell me about a time when you had to take on a leadership role.
You should respond to these questions with a specific example where you have demonstrated the skill the interviewer is seeking. It’s helpful to remember “CAR” to compose a thoughtful response. Here’s how it works:
CONTEXT: What was the problem, need, or concern? Include obstacles you had to overcome.
ACTIONS you took: This does not mean what the group did, but what you did. Practice saying “I” instead of “We.” Assume ownership of your accomplishments.
RESULTS you achieved: Quantify the results and relate them, your skills, and your actions to the employer’s needs.
How will you know what skills are important for a particular position so you can prepare targeted examples?
- Read the job/internship description and highlight skills, qualifications, and what you will do on the job.
- Read occupational information that describes which skills are used in jobs/internships like the ones you want.
- Ask questions at employer information sessions or career and internship fairs.
- Contact alumni or current students working in the same position or company.
Depending on the industry you want to enter, you may receive questions related to concepts that you learned from your coursework, industry knowledge (e.g., familiarity with environmental trends) or specific skills (e.g., laboratory techniques). Technical/case questions are especially common in business fields such as finance, consulting, and accounting and also in engineering, physical science, and computer science fields.
In order to prepare for these types of questions, it can be helpful to ask employee representatives, alumni, or peers who have had interviews in that field about the types of questions you can expect.
Sample Interview Questions
Beginning of the Interview
- Tell me about yourself.
- Tell me about your most rewarding college experience.
- Tell me what you know about our organization.
- What do you consider to be your strengths/weaknesses?
- How do you think others would describe you?
- How has your education prepared you for this job?
- In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
- Describe to me your ideal job.
- Give me an example of a time when you felt under pressure.
- Tell me about a challenge you have faced and how you overcame it.
- Tell me about your work experience.
- What two accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
- What have you learned from your mistakes?
- What kind of reference do you think your last employer will give you?
- What have you done that shows initiative and willingness to work?
- What makes a good employee?
- What factors are most important to you in a job?
- What qualities would a successful supervisor/manager possess?
- What kind of boss do you prefer? Tell me about your best/worst boss.
- Do you prefer to work in groups or alone?
- Give me your definition of success.
- How do you react to criticism?
- What frustrates you? How do you handle stress?
Future and Goals
- Do you have plans for further education?
- What are your long-term goals? Your short-term ones?
- What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? 10 years?
Conclusion of Interview
- In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
- How do you feel about relocating, traveling, working overtime, and spending weekends in the office?
- What are your salary expectations/requirements? What do you expect to be making in 5 years?
- Why do you want to join our organization?
- Why should I hire you?
- When could you start work?
- Is there anything else you would like to tell me?
- Do you have any questions for us?
Illegal Interviewing Questions
Asking questions about race, gender, religion, marital status, age, ability, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and other factors is discriminatory and against the law. An employer cannot legally base their decision to hire you or not on such things.
Examples of Illegal Questions
- Are you married, divorced, separated, or single? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- How old are you?
- Do you have any children? How many do you have? What child care arrangements have you made?
- Do you go to church?
- Do you have any debts?
- Do you own or rent your home?
- What social and political groups do you belong to?
- Are you living with anyone?
- Have you been arrested?
- How much do you weigh? How tall are you?
- Where were you born?
- Do you have any handicaps or disabilities?
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
It is important to demonstrate your interest and knowledge about the position you are interviewing for. Having questions to ask the interviewer is one way to do this. Preparing some specific questions for the interviewer ahead of time is a good idea. Here are some examples:
- What might a typical workday in this job be like?
- What are some typical first-year assignments?
- How does this position relate to other positions within the organization?
- What kind of supervision will I receive? How will my performance be evaluated?
- What opportunities exist for continued training or advancement?
- What do you think will be some of the challenges entering this position?
- What are the organization’s short-range and long-range plans for the future?
- I was reading about _________ in your organization’s literature, and I am interested in learning more about it. Can you tell me more?
- How would you describe the work environment and culture of your organization?
- If I became the successful candidate and you could offer me one piece of advice, what would that be?
Inspired in part by: Syracuse University Career Services, Cornell Career Services, UC Berkeley Career Center, and RIT Career Services