Research the Interviewer
Prior to an interview, determine the criteria you have for evaluating employers so you
know what you are looking for and can rank what is most important to you in a job. Do
you want to work in a particular industry? How important is training to you? What
management style do you prefer? Where do you want to live? What is the reputation of
the employer you are evaluating? Would the job you are considering give you the kind
of challenges you want? What are the job requirements?
Use the section to learn how to conduct employer research. Develop questions to ask
during your interviews so you will be able to evaluate each employer thoroughly. Assess
each job offer with how well the job and employer match your career needs.
Evaluate Your Skills and Accomplishments
What are your most significant skills and accomplishments that can support your
qualifications for the job you seek? Review your resume and evaluate your work
experience, volunteer work, internships, courses, class projects, and involvement with
student and professional organizations to determine your skills and accomplishments.
An accomplishment is something you enjoyed doing, did well, gained satisfaction from,
and are proud of. Can you describe situations in which you initiated an idea, created a
solution to a problem, handled a crisis, achieved a goal, demonstrated leadership, or
used your communication skills?
Learn to tell stories about your experiences, accomplishments, and successes. Practice
describing specific situations in which you demonstrated your skills. Create strong
images with vivid words and your body language. Emphasize your role in each
situation, focus on the skills you used, and describe the results of your experience.
Highlight what you achieved, what you learned, and the difference you made for
yourself or the organization.
Know your top five to ten skills and have at least two examples of situations in which you
demonstrated each of your skills. Be prepared to describe your technical and
professional skills that relate to the job you’re seeking, in addition to your personal
characteristics. Examples are: C++ programming, lean manufacturing, writing news
releases, creating marketing plans, working in teams, providing quality customer
service, and being flexible, decisive, creative, and task-oriented.
Read the books and view the videotapes about interviewing available in the Career
Library. Predict potential questions based on the information in your resume and the
employer’s description of the job requirements. Practice answering typical interview
questions out loud in front of a mirror or role play an interview with a friend. With a video
camera, record yourself responding to questions.
You may schedule a videotaped practice interview with a Career Center counselor by
calling 257-2746. Practice will make you feel more confident and your preparation can
help make it easier for an interviewer to recognize your abilities and remember you.
Practice Answering Questions
Keep in mind the skills and qualifications that the employer is looking for in a candidate.
Every time you talk in an interview, you are selling yourself. It is important to
communicate why you believe you are the best match for the available position.
Practice talking about yourself so you will be able to articulate your skills,
accomplishments, and career goals concisely and effectively in an interview.
The following list of questions is provided to help you practice and prepare for your
interviews. These are only typical questions and you certainly may be asked other types
of questions. Predict other questions you might be asked. Practice telling memorable
stories about your accomplishments to demonstrate your skills.
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you apply for this job? What can you add to this company?
- What special qualifications make you the ideal candidate?
- Describe your greatest accomplishments in college.
- Why do you want to work for us? What do you know about this company?
- What activities have you been actively involved in during college?
- Describe leadership roles you have held.
- How did you decide to attend the University of Kentucky?
- What did you contribute in your last job or internship?
- Do you have plans for further education? an advanced degree?
- What goals have you set for yourself?
- What do you consider your greatest strengths?
- Describe what you are doing to improve one of your weaknesses.
- Was there ever a time when you had to circumvent standard procedures?
- What resources do you use to keep current on the trends in your field?
- Describe a time when you disagreed with a supervisor’s decision.
- What do you think your responsibilities would be in this job?
- What is the biggest mistake you ever made? What did you learn from it?
- Does your GPA reflect your ability?
- What are you looking for in a manager?
- What criteria are you using to evaluate your potential employers?
- What other employers are you interviewing with?
- What salary are you expecting now? three years from now?
- Is there anything else I should know about you?
- Why should I hire you?
Prepare for Behavioural Interviewing
Behavioural based interviews are very popular with employers. These involve questions
where you will be asked for examples of past situations which demonstrate you have
the job skills and work behaviours the employer wants. The questions are unpredictable.
It is easier to answer behavioural based questions if you analyze the job description and
know what skills are required. Then you can identify situations where you have
demonstrated the required skills and work behaviours. Give specific examples in three
part story-like form, describing the situation/challenge, your actions/behaviour, and the
results or outcome.
The types of behaviours and skills evaluated in behavioural interviews include:
teambuilding, solving problems, flexibility, resolving conflicts, time management,
accepting feedback, communication, learning from mistakes, showing initiative,
learning new things quickly, leadership, learning from successes, decision-making,
working under stress, achievement orientation, and analytical reasoning.
Examples of behavioral interview questions:
- Describe a time when you put a lot of effort into a project. What did you learn?
- Tell me about a time when you performed well in a crisis. What did you do?
- Would you approach that problem in the same way today?
- Describe a time when you did not get along with a co-worker. What did you learn?
- Describe a time when you had to think on your feet to solve a difficult problem.
- Tell me about a time when you were not satisfied with your performance.
- Provide a recent example of when you exceeded expectations.
- Describe an accomplishment. What did you do to make that happen? Be specific.
- Describe a situation when you dealt with rapid changes. How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time when you were responsible for directing other people.
- Describe a time when you were really motivated to do your best.
Present Yourself Well
Your appearance influences the interviewer’s first impression of you! A suit is standard
attire for an interview, regardless of what you might wear once you have the job. Be safe with a conservative style. It is better to be overdressed. Business suits in dark gray or
navy blue wool gabardine are common for interviewing.
Men should have pressed shirts, conservative ties, dark socks and polished shoes.
Women may wear low heels or flats, but should avoid sheer blouses, low cut necklines,
and really short skirts. Perfume, cologne, scruffy shoes, white socks with a dark suit, too
much makeup, excessive jewelry, dirty fingernails, scraggly beards, wild hairdos, and
garlic breath are likely to be unfavorably noticed. Carry a leather portfolio or folder (9″ x
12″), with a nice pen and a pad of paper. Organize extra copies of your resume,
university transcripts, and a list of references inside your portfolio.
Much of what you communicate during an interview is through your body language.
Offer a firm handshake. Face the interviewer in your chair and sit up straight. Actively
listen to the employer when he or she is speaking. Don’t interrupt. Speak clearly and
concisely, with a positive tone of voice and enthusiasm. Maintain eye contact to
convey your self confidence. Use facial expressions and smile!
Make a Good First Impression: The Screening Interview
The initial screening interview is used to determine which candidates are most qualified
and interested in an available position. This interview is also conducted to screen out
applicants who are not a good match for the employer’s needs. Qualified candidates
who are not prepared for interviews may be screened out.
Interviewees are selected on the basis of the information provided in their resumes,
cover letters, and/or applications. The first interview is usually brief, about 30 to 60
minutes, and quite broad in scope, covering questions about educational preparation,
work experience, activities and skills. In on-campus screening interviews, an employer
will see twelve students in one day in order to select maybe two to four candidates to
invite for second interviews.
An interview will generally begin with introductions and casual conversation. The heart
of the interview involves the interviewer asking a series of questions about your
background, and possibly taking notes while you answer questions. Interviews often end
with an opportunity for you to ask the employer questions, providing a chance to
display your interest.
Close each interview by briefly summarizing your strongest qualifications and continuing
interest in the position. Ask about the next step in the interview process. Shake the
interviewer’s hand as you express your thanks for the interview. Send a thank-you letter
within 24 to 48 hours after the interview. Keep a written record of what was discussed in each interview, the questions you were asked, the name and address of the
interviewer, and note what the expected follow-up will be.
Evaluate yourself after each interview.
Land The Job with A Second Interview
You successfully presented yourself in your initial interview, and you receive a phone
call or a letter inviting you to a second interview (also known as the office visit, on-site
interview, or plant interview). You now know that an employer is very interested in you
and you are one of the finalists in the selection process!
You may ask what the structure of the second interview will be when you call to confirm
your interview. During your second interview, a variety of things may happen. You could
be answering and asking questions for two hours or all day. You might interview on a
one-to-one basis with three or more different individuals. You could have a panel of
interviewers, two interviewers at once, aptitude testing, role-playing, a plant or office
tour, reception, and a meal.
When invited to a second interview, verify the time, date, and location of the interview,
along with the name and titles of the people who will interview you. Be sure you know
where you are going if the interview is in town. Verify travel arrangements, hotel
accommodations, and how expenses will be covered for interviews held out of town.
Review what you researched about the employer prior to your first interview, and see if
you need to conduct more in-depth research. Also, review what was discussed about
you and the job in the first interview. Practice describing situations in which you
demonstrated your strongest skills and best accomplishments. (Don’t use all of the same
examples from your first interview.) Practice answering questions you expect to be
asked. Prepare questions you will ask about the job and the employer.
The people conducting the interviews could be human resources representatives,
department managers, potential supervisors, and partners or owners of the business.
Whether you interview with one person or ten, you must “sell yourself” to every person
you meet. Maintain your enthusiasm as you answer some of the same questions
If lunch or dinner is included, remember that you are still in an interview situation and
the employer may be evaluating your social graces and etiquette. Practice your best
table manners: order something easy to eat, keep your elbows off the table, pass to the
right, cut one bite at a time, keep your napkin in your lap until you leave the table, and
avoid controversial topics in your conversation.
The second interview provides an opportunity for you to present your qualifications and
evaluate the employer. What do you need to know to decide if you want to work for
this employer? Does the employer meet your criteria? Make it easy for each interviewer
to see why you are the best match for the job.
It is common for an employer to interview all the finalists before extending job offers. If
offered a job during the final interview, ask when the employer needs to know your decision. If a job is not offered at the time of the interview, ask when they will make their
decision, and when you can expect to hear from them.
Close each interview well by summarizing your qualifications, stating your desire for the
job, and thanking the interviewer. Send a thank-you letter to everyone you interviewed
with, or to the one person who seemed to be most in charge of hiring.
Congratulations! You’re ready to interview successfully.