Interview Preparation

Why bother to prepare? Employers are impressed by candidates who have researched their organization, analyzed the job description and express positive energy and enthusiasm for the job.

How to Prepare

Steps to increase your Interview IQ

Research the Individual(s) You’re Meeting With

Companies will often give you the names of the individual(s) you’re meeting with, but if they don’t, it’s completely appropriate to ask “with whom will I be meeting?” Look at the company bio and LinkedIn profile, as well as Google, anyone you’re meeting with so that you know their background and can ask questions that show you’re well informed.

Research the Organization

Learn as much as you can before the interview. Visit their website to understand their products/services, the volume of business, competitors, culture, and other key information. Search for news articles or other publications about the organization. Use Google News, LexisNexis, Hoovers, Glassdoor, Wetfeet, and Business Week, as well as LinkedIn and Twitter. Of course, if anyone at your network works at the organization, you’ll want to speak to them to get first-hand information.

Research the Job

In addition to researching the individual(s) you’re meeting with and the company, you need to understand as much as you can about the job itself. Analyze the job description and match your experiences, skills, and interests to the job.

Tip - Research Salary Ranges

It’s also important to have a good idea of a salary range for the position in case that comes up during your interview, but also so that you can better negotiate when you have an offer. Check out our resources on Salary Negotiation, and also consider speaking to professionals in the field to find out what the typical entry-level salary for the field is (see Informational Interviewing handout).

Know Yourself

Now that you have completed your research on the interviewer(s), company, job, and salary, you need to focus on yourself. Why are you interested in this position? How do your experiences and qualifications fit the requirements of the job? Be able to discuss your strengths and weaknesses, your educational background and work experiences, and your goals and values. Write down your competencies and accomplishments and think about concrete examples as evidence.

Prepare at least 4-7 stories using the S-T-A-R method:

S – situation (give an example of a situation you were involved in that resulted in a positive outcome);
T – task (describe the tasks involved in that situation);
A – action ( what did you do/what actions did you take to complete the tasks effectively);
R – result (what was the outcome? what happened?)

See some examples of S-T-A-R responses in Behavioral Interview Questions.

Know the Interview Format Ahead of Time

Employers, depending on the type of role they are interviewing for, may Structure the Format to highlight job-seekers’ strengths and abilities to think on their feet.  It is completely appropriate to ask “how long should I plan to be at your office?” so you can prepare appropriately and pace yourself once you are there.

Practice, Practice, Practice

And then practice some more!

  • Read the job description thoroughly.
  • Prepare answers to potential questions in advance. Be sure to connect your skills with their specific requirements.
  • Practice your answers with a friend or counselor in the Department of Employer Engagement Career Design.
  • Polish your S-T-A-R stories!
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of Big Interview – an online interview practice tool that can be used from home if you have a webcam on your computer, or from the designated computer in the Department of Employer Engagement and Career Design.

Make a List of Questions to Ask

The questions you ask indicate your level of interest in the organization and your preparation for the interview. If you don’t have any questions to ask, most employers will think you’re not interested in the job. Don’t ask questions that could easily be answered through your research. Instead, ask questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in, and understanding of, the organization and the position. You should have at least 10 questions prepared.

Examples:

  • What are some of the qualities that will make the person in this position successful?
  • Can you describe a typical day or week for the person in this position?
  • What will the biggest challenges be for the person in this job?
  • Could you tell me about the people with whom I will be working directly?
  • What are the challenges currently facing the department/organization?
  • How will the person in this position be evaluated?
  • What are the opportunities for professional development?
  • How has this job evolved over time?
  • What are the advancement opportunities?
  • How will this position have an impact?
  • Does this position offer any flexibility?
  • What are the next steps in this process?
  • When may I expect to hear from you regarding my candidacy?

References

You will need a list of three or four references to take with you to interviews. Use the same header as your resume.

List 3 references that can speak about your qualifications:

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Company Name
  • Relationship to you
  • Phone Number
  • E-mail