How to Ace an Interview
A resume and cover letter may land you an interview but it’s the interview that determines whether you get hired. The truth about interviewing is that most impressions about a job applicant are made in about fifteen minutes. An actual meeting with a hiring manager may take longer than that. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. Sometimes even an hour. But, the “real” interview is usually over in 30 minutes or less since an employer will begin forming impressions about you in the first seconds of meeting you. It can be hard to recover if those first impressions aren’t good. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You must be prepared.
If you are interested in scheduling a Mock Interview please contact our office at (219) 473-4253.
- Pre-Interview Tips
- Helpful Interview Tips
- 6 Types of Questions
- Standard Questions
- Employer Questions
- While many work environments have shifted to business casual as the work standard, business formal attire is still the interview standard
- Pay attention to your appearance. Dress for what you want to be, not necessarily for who you are
- Men and Women:
- Dress conservatively (solid business suit for men or a sports coat and tie; a suit, usually black, blue, navy, or gray; or solid dress/skirt/pants and jacket for women, with a neutral blouse or unadorned, non-sparkly sweater). An employer should notice you, not your clothes
- Clean, polished, well maintained, conservative shoes (low-moderate heel for women)
- Well-groomed hairstyle. No fad hairdo’s
- Minimal cologne or perfume, if any
- No gum, candy, or cigarette odor on breath
- No visible body piercing or tattoos
- Good general personal hygiene
- Minimum & conservative jewelry (watch, wedding band and/or one plain ring or bracelet; small sized earrings. Nothing bold or loud that would be distracting)
- Minimal use of makeup for women (no eye shadow or dramatic make-up)
- Know the location of the interview. Make a test drive if you’re unsure
- Research the company – become familiar with the organization with whom you are interviewing: their mission, history, products, etc. Visit their web site
- Know your resume – be prepared to discuss every aspect of it including giving examples of claims you make
- Prepare several unfolded copies of your resume to take to the interview
- Prepare your list of references and their contact information. Be sure you have permission in advance to use them as a reference. Notify them that you are job hunting and that they might be contacted
- Avoid excessive anxiety by anticipating questions you might be asked and practicing mock interviews with a friend, career counselor, or in front of a mirror
- Maintain your composure by planning to arrive at least 5 minutes early for the interview so you are not rushing. ALWAYS call if you think you might be late and/or if you need to reschedule your appointment. Be most apologetic.
- Be on time. Remember the impact of first impressions
- Be enthusiastic. Personality goes a long way. Smile and exude energy and enthusiasm
- Have a firm handshake (you too ladies) and maintain good eye contact
- Focus more on the interview, less on the job. Listen carefully to questions asked and take time to think before responding. Ask for clarification, if needed
- When asked questions, use opportunities to talk about your skills and how they relate to the job for which you are interviewing. Don’t dominate the discussion, however
- Discuss your contributions in your previous jobs or experiences. Be careful not to brag, but speak confidently about your interests and abilities. Be prepared to describe your strengths. Don’t overlook the types and range of activities you have been exposed to and the knowledge and skills you learned from them (e.g. school, work, volunteer, and life experiences)
- Be prepared with a few questions of your own--only 2 or 3 major ones are needed since the first interview is designed to help the employer get to know you. There will be time for your questions later, if invited for a second interview or if offered the job
- Never introduce the topic of salary or benefits in the first interview. If introduced by the employer, try to avoid being cornered into stating your minimum salary requirement by asking about other perks, expenses in the job, other trade-offs, etc. You should, however, have an idea or a range of your minimum salary requirements (salary ranges by profession can be found at www.bls.gov)
- At the end of the interview, ask about the next step(s) in the process
- Be sure to send a brief Thank You note within 24 hours following the interview expressing your thanks for the interview and noting your continued interest. Hand written notes are ideal but typed-written ones are acceptable. An electronic note can also be sent but it should be followed by a written note. Notes should be sent to everyone with whom you interviewed
- If offered, do not feel compelled to accept a job on the spot. Be sure your questions are also answered
- Prepare a list of questions you have for the employer if called for a second interview or, if offered the position.
- If offered the job, promptly call back to accept or decline.
Interviewing is not a science. Nor is it an art form. It is simply an imperfect form of human communication designed to increase the predictive validity of potential employer-employee relationships. And it is very imperfect.
There are basically six types of questions you may face during the course of an interview, although current job seekers should be prepared for the Behavioral Interview.
- Credential verification questions
This type of question includes “What was your GPA?” and “How long were you at…” Its purpose is to place objective measurements on features of your background.
- Experience verification questions
This type of question includes “What did you learn in that class?” and “what were your responsibilities in that position?” Its purpose is to verify experiential features of your background.
- Behavioral questions
This type of question involves asking you what would you do, or what did you do in a particular situation. An example of this type of question might be: “Can you give me a specific example of how you did that?” or “What were the steps you followed to accomplish that task?” Or, you may be given a scenario and asked what you would do in the situation. Its purpose is to analyze how you would respond to a scenario and it allows the interviewer to align your past behaviors and responses with specific competencies which are required for the position. A self-examination of your experiences, strengths, etc. along with an awareness of what kinds of things the interviewer is trying to find out, will help you be prepared for these questions.
- Case questions
This type of question includes problem-solving questions ranging from: “How many gas stations are there in the U.S.?” to “What is your estimate of the U.S. online retail market for books?” Its purpose is to evaluate your problem-solving abilities and thought processes and demonstrates how you would analyze the situation and formulate an answer.
- “Dumb” questions
This type of question includes “What kind of animal would you like to be?” or “What is your favorite color and why?” Its purpose is to get past your pre-programmed answers to find out if you are capable of original thought. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer, since it is used primarily to observe your reaction and as a test of your ability to think on your feet.
- Math or Brain Teaser Questions
This type of question is less about giving a correct answer and more about the thinking process behind it. It includes questions like: “How Many Street Lamps are there in Manhattan?” to “How many ping pong balls could fit in a Volkswagon?”. Its purpose is to evaluate not only your mental math calculation skills, but also your creative and analytic ability and reasoning in formulating an answer.
Behavioral and competency interviewing is gaining greater acceptance by trained interviewers because past performance is the most reliable indicator of future results, especially when it is tied to the specific competencies for the position. Many companies have modified this approach with specific critical behavioral interviewing to target those behaviors which provide the highest correlation with the required competencies for highly predictive positive results.
You need to be prepared for the range of questions that may be presented by an employer. Don’t just read these questions--practice and rehearse the answers. Don’t let the company interview be the first time you have actually formulated an answer in spoken words. It is not enough to think about them in your head--Practice! Sit down with a career counselor, friend, a significant other, or your roommate and go through all of the questions. Make the most of every single interview opportunity by being fully prepared!
Following are some of the common questions that are asked.
- Tell me about yourself.*
- What do you want to do with your life?
- How would you describe your ideal job?*
- Why did you choose this career?
- When did you decide on this career?
- What goals do you have in your career?
- How do you plan to achieve these goals?
- How do you evaluate success?
- Describe a situation in which you were successful. What made it successful?
- Describe a situation where you failed. What did you learn from it?*
- What do you think it takes to be successful in a job?
- What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?
- If you had to live your life over again, what would you change?
- Would you rather work with information or with people?
- What kind of teams have you worked on? What makes a team successful/unsuccessful?*
- What motivates you?
- Why should I hire you?*
- How do you learn best (learning style)?*
- Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
- What are some of your short-term goals?
- What are your long-range goals?*
- What do you see yourself doing five years from now?*
- Have you ever had a conflict with a boss, co-worker, professor? How did you resolve it?
- How do you handle pressure?*
- What is your greatest talent?
- What kinds of things pose the greatest challenge for you?*
- If I were to ask one of your professors/supervisors to describe you, what would he or she say?
- Why did you choose to attend your college?
- What changes would you make at your college?
- How has your education prepared you for your career?
- What were your favorite classes? Why?
- Who were your favorite professors? Why?
- What is your GPA? (If low, why is it low?)
- Do you have any plans for further education?
- How much training do you think you’ll need to become a productive employee?
- What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
- Why do you think you want to work in the ______ industry?*
- What do you know about our company?
- Why are you interested in our company?*
- Do you have any location preferences?
- How familiar are you with the community that we’re located in?
- Will you be able to relocate if necessary in the future?
- Are you willing to travel? How much?
- What is most important to you in a job?*
- How much money do you need to make to be happy?
- What kind of salary are you looking for?
- What are your major strengths? What are your weaknesses, or areas that you don’t feel as comfortable with?*
*These questions are almost always asked in some form and you should be able to respond to all of them. Visit the Career Services office for a Mock Interview to sharpen your interviewing skills and to learn how to answer these questions.
- What are the most important skills and attributes you are looking for in filling this position?
- What would be a typical work day for this position?
- How many hours of work per week would be required to be successful?
- What is the organizational structure of your department?
- How would you describe your company culture?
- What are your organizational values? How do these values influence your decision-making?
- What is your vision for your department over the next two to three years?
- What major challenges are you currently facing as a manager?
- What is your competitive advantage in the marketplace?
- What makes your company better than your competitors?
- What are the areas that your competitors do better in than your company?
- Who do you consider your customers to be?
- What is your value to your customers?
- What business problems keep you awake at night?
- Can you tell me more about the other people in the organization I would be working with?Can I meet with any of them before accepting an offer of employment?
- What would you consider to be exceptional performance from someone performing in this position in the first 90 days?
- What is the internal perception of pursuing further education, such as a Master’s degree?
- What is your management style?
- How do you typically make decisions?
- What is your preferred method of communication with your team?
- How are you evaluated as a manager?
- What can I do to make you successful?
- How long have you been with the organization?
- What has been your career path within the organization?
- What will be the measurements of my success in this position?
- What are the organizational goals?
- What are the tools used to measure whether or not an employee is achieving his/her goals?
- Do you have a strategic planning process within your organization? How often is it done? Who participates? What is the typical planning time horizon?
- How are new strategic initiatives communicated to the organization?
- Is your department considered to be a profit center or a cost center? What are the financial expectations of the department?
- Do you have control over your own budget? How is the initial budget amount determined?
- How is technology used in the job?