Successful Interviewing

Interviews are critical to the hiring process. The impression you make in the first few minutes can determine if you will get an opportunity for a second interview or even an offer. There are basically three steps to the interview process, the before, during and after. Although there are no guarantees with interviewing, your actions can increase your chances of success.

Evaluate and Know Yourself. Interviewers use questions to measure your skills, experience, preparation and interests. Questions are used to determine how well you will “fit” with the employer.

  • List the skills and abilities you have that qualify you for the position.
  • Practice describing your accomplishments, experience, education and skills.
  • Write out answers to commonly asked questions.  Here are some questions most often asked by employers:
Personal and Motivational Factors
Please tell me about yourself.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your life?
What are some of the greatest personal challenges you have faced during your lifetime?
What are some of your personal goals, and have you achieved them?
If you could create a perfect job for yourself, what would you be doing?
What is special about you that you feel would make you an attractive candidate?
Skills and Abilities
Please discuss some of your past leadership roles and your accomplishments in them.
What are your major strengths and weaknesses?
Why should our organization hire you?
For you, what are some of the pros and cons of working on a team project?
How would you describe your supervisory style?
How do you organize your time in school/work/play?
In what organizational structure do you function best?
Describe your leadership style.
What skills and abilities do you bring to this job?
What do you see as your greatest challenge when starting a new career?
What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
Career Goals and Objectives
What are your goals and aspirations for the next three years? Five years? Ten years?
Why do you think you would be good at this profession?
Why are you interested in this company/industry/ profession/occupation?
What is your timetable for achievement of your current career goals?
Please tell me five things about yourself that would make you an asset to any organization that hires you.
Are you willing to relocate? Do you mind traveling?
Extracurricular Activities and College Experience
With what extracurricular activities have you been involved? What responsibilities/positions have you held?
Please cite examples of the challenges you experienced during your leadership positions with campus activities.
If you could relive your college experiences, what would you do differently?
Did you have an opportunity to work as a member of a team? If so, please explain.
Hypothetical Questions
What could you see as the major objectives of this job?
If you were hired by our organization, how would you identify the major roles and responsibilities of your new position?
What have you admired in people who have previously supervised your work?
In your opinion, what does it take to be effective in sales or marketing?
How would you resolve conflict in a group situation?
Academic Programs and Achievements
Why did you choose this major field of study?
Why did you choose the University of Illinois?
What is your grade point average (GPA)? How do you feel about this?
How would you relate your academic accomplishments to future career aspirations?
How satisfied are you with your accomplishments in this academic program?
What electives did you take outside of your major? Why did you choose these courses?
What courses gave you the most difficulty?
In addition to your educational and professional experiences, what else would you like us to know about you in order to make an appropriate decision?
Work Experiences
What were your accomplishments in prior work experiences?
What would your last two employers say about you as an employee, either good or bad?
What projects were accomplished during your time on the job? How were these done?
What can you tell me that you enjoyed most about your previous job experiences? Least?
Company Questions
Why did you select XYZ Company?
What are your expectations of the XYZ Company?
Why do you want to work in this position?
What attracts you to this industry?
What other employers are you interviewing with?
When comparing one company offer to another, what factors will be important to you besides starting salary?
How important is starting salary to you when considering our company’s job offer?
  • Practice answering questions out loud with someone else or in front of a mirror.
  • Schedule a mock interview with your advisor in order to make sure you are prepared with industry knowledge and interview questions.

Research the Employer. Researching employers will help you prepare to answer and ask questions during an interview. It is important to learn what an employer does, why they exist, how financially stable they are, what the work culture is like, and what jobs are available.

  • Meet with company representatives at career fairs on campus and in the community.
  • Study the job description thoroughly. What would you be doing? What skills are required?
  • Read annual reports and study the employer’s website.
  • Review industry and business publications for current information.
  • Consult our resources.

Dress Professionally. It is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed in an interview. A suit is recommended for campus interviews unless an employer specifies other attire. Dress conservatively and skip the nose rings, gum, smoking, sandals, spiked heels, cologne and perfume.

Impress everyone. Assume that everyone you meet will offer input used in hiring decisions. This includes participants in pre-night events, greeters you meet at on-campus interviews, and support staff involved in on-site interview days.

Listen attentively and be aware of your body language.

  • Arrive early, greet the interviewer using his/her name, shake hands and smile.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Use an open vs. closed seating position (unfold arms, uncross legs, lean slightly forward).
  • Avoid distracting mannerisms.
  • Be polite and don’t interrupt or contradict the interviewer.

Be concise and answer the question that is being asked. Be sure to follow the STAR method. Demonstrate your knowledge of yourself, interest in the employer, and skills for the job.

Close well.

  • Ask appropriate questions
Questions to Ask in Your Interview
How is the company dealing with current issues, trends, and concerns in the industry/company?
How are their clients responding with these issues and trends?
What are the key issues the employer sees facing the industry/company?
What is the employer’s management philosophy?
What is the nature of the training program and supervision given in the early years of employment?
Has the organization hired graduates from this school in the past? If so, what’s the success record?
What will be expected of me as a new employee?
What are the company’s future plans?
What has been the interviewer’s experience with the company?
What is the typical career path with this organization?
Tell me what your (the interviewer’s) perception would be of the “ideal” candidate.

Do not ask about salary. Once you recieve an offer there will be ample time to discuss salary and fringe benefits.

  • Ask about the next steps in the interviewing process. Find out the next steps and the decision-making timeline in the organization’s hiring process. Ask when and how should you follow up with the employer.
  • Thank the interviewer, ask for a business card, and reiterate interest in being hired.
Send a thank you letter or e-mail within 24 hours of each interview.  Follow up accordingly.

Sample thank you letter