Interview Essentials

Get ready for interview success

Your resume and cover letter will lead to an interview. Prepare and relax! An interview is simply a strategic conversation. Career Services recommends that you attend a workshop on interviewing and schedule mock interviews for practice. Please also review some helpful Tips for Digital Interviews

Interview basics - Interviews can take place in a variety of ways, such as individual interviews, group or panel interviews, and even AI (artificial intelligence platforms e.g. HireVue) interviews. You may have a screening interview leading to subsequent interviews, and often a screening interview will take place via phone or an online video conference platform. You might have an on-site interview (or two), and you might even be interviewed over a meal.

Be prepared - Whatever the format for your interview, you will want to take time to prepare for both traditional and behavioral questions. You will want to know yourself and research the employer, reading the job description and required qualifications carefully. Develop your career “story” and talking points to give examples of your skills and how your qualifications line up with what the employer seeks.

Who, what, when, where - Attire for interviews varies by industry. Plan what to wear, confirm the location of the interview, and know how to get their on time and even a few minutes early – whether in person or via video conference. Keep all communication with all organizational parties professional, respectful, and friendly.

Before the interview

  • Check out the employer website, print materials, and staff profiles to get to know stated mission and values.
  • Carefully study the job ad and make a list of the job requirements.
  • Understand where the position fits in the organization.
  • Develop a list of references that will be needed for reference checks (and send them your resume in advance).
  • Anticipate possible questions and create “talking points” for each job requirement.
  • Be ready for versions of “tell me about yourself” and “why do you want this position?”
  • Be ready with at least five stories that demonstrate examples of your most relevant skills/competencies.
  • Prepare some questions to ask your interviewer(s) at the end of the interview.
  • Research and set your salary range (typically not discussed during an interview, but rather during an offer).

During the interview

  • Arrive early (5-10 minutes early is ideal).
  • Have something to write on (padfolio) and copies of resume or other portfolio materials.
  • Greet each person professionally.
  • Practice your digital or in-person handshake.
  • Keep it positive, diplomatic, and never badmouth a previous employer!
  • Display relaxed and confident body language, maintain good eye contact and show active listening.
  • Be alert, calm, and enthusiastic.
  • Participate in the conversation – don’t dominate.
  • Communicate thoughtfully, honestly, and be confident (but not cocky).
  • It’s OK to use “the pause” and it is OK to ask for a question to be repeated to be sure you understand it.
  • Demonstrate an appropriate sense of humor.
  • Know how to close, reiterate interest in the position, and offer to provide any needed follow up.
  • Make a good first, middle, and last impression.

Types of interview questions

  • Traditional questions are straightforward about experience, background or personal qualities.
  • Behavioral questions are based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.
  • You may be asked to share examples of the following skills or experiences:
    • Interpersonal
    • Leadership
    • Communication skills
    • Planning and organization
    • Initiative
    • Flexibility
    • Decision-making
    • Creativity
    • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    • Technical or situational questions – discipline specific and shows you would solve/approach problem

Sample interview questions

  • Tell me what you know about our organization.
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor.
  • Tell me about a time when you were swamped with work and how you handled it.
  • Describe a difficult decision you had to make.
  • What is an accomplishment you are proud of?
  • Tell me about an area you are currently growing in.
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Give me an example of a time you learned something new.
  • What are your long and short-team goals?
  • How has your college experience prepared you for your career?

Questions you might ask

  • What does success look like for this role?
  • What might the first 30/60/90 days look like for this role?
  • Can you describe an average day in this role?
  • Why do you like working for this organization?
  • What challenges might you see for this role?
  • The company’s mission statement emphasizes [fill in the blank]. Can you tell me how that comes across in daily life working here?
  • What is the performance review process like and how do you measure performance?
  • What is your timeline for the hiring process/next steps?

After the interview

  • Send a thank you note. Email is acceptable, and written notes stand out.
  • Keep thanks professional and positive.
  • Be patient. Stay in pursuit – follow up, but don’t haunt.
  • If you haven’t heard back in two weeks (or by the follow up time they shared), follow up to see if they need any additional information from you to make their decision.
  • Keep job searching – multiple offers lend to more choice and may lend to negotiation.

In need of professional clothing?

Check out the SGA Clothing Closet to find donated clothing in many sizes and styles to add to your confidence.

To set up an individual appointment for a practice interview tailored to your industry of interest, call 607-753-4715, or request an appointment on Handshake.