Preparing for an Interview


Preparing for the job interview can be one of the most stressful parts of the job search. Luckily, there are a number of tools and techniques to make this task easier. The key to any interview is being well prepared. It is important to write down, in advance, the answer to questions you are likely to be asked. This will help you focus your thoughts.

Before the Interview: Dress to Impress

  • Know the typical dress-code of the company you’re interviewing for: Business Casual, Business Professional, Uniforms, etc.
  • First impressions are important; dress the part by wearing conservative, simple, and comfortable clothing.
  • *Avoid: Wrinkles and tags on clothing; heavy perfumes and colognes; denim pants of any sort; mismatching or overly flamboyant clothing and/or accessories; ill-fitting shirts, pants, or skirts; unruly hair or facial hair; long and bright fingernails; exposed tattoos and body piercings.
  • Example for Men (Business Causal): A crisp, solid-colored button-up shirt with a conservative neck tie, a dark tailored suit jacket, dark pants (Navy or Black; Khakis) with a belt, and dark socks and shoes. Always wear appropriate and neutral undergarments.
  • Example for Women (Business Casual): A dark suit; knee-length skirts and pant suits are acceptable, a simple and conservative blouse and/or cardigan, neutral or black hosiery (don’t wear skirts without them), and dark closed-toe shoes (flats or low-heel). Always wear appropriate and neutral undergarments and natural make-up.
  • Example Here (Image by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2015).

Before the Interview: Research the Company

  • This is a crucial step in the interviewing process. The interviewer will expect that you have taken the time to read about their company. Most likely, you will be asked questions relating to the company and its culture. BE PREPARED!
  •  Learn as much as possible about the particular position you are applying for. Familiarity with the job description is desirable.
  •  Be familiar with the corporate web page. Your knowledge of the company will come in handy during the interview.
  •  Research and compose a list of questions about the company’s services, products, and philosophies.
  • *Examples: What is unique about them? Who are their competitors? Who are the key people? What is the structure? What are the target markets? What is their mission and goals? Etc.
  • Write down several reasons you would like to work for that company.

Before the Interview: Practice and Prepare!

  • The interview atmosphere should be POSITIVE. Learn to articulate your strengths and weaknesses and emphasize the positive contributions you can make.
  • Be prepared to articulate your quantifiable strengths as determined by such things as skill, experience, and education. List specific examples and be able to tell brief stories.
  • Read and edit your cover letter and résumé. Be able to back them up. Bring multiple copies to distribute if needed during the interview.
  • Be prepared when they ask, "Do you have questions for me?" Your answer is, "Yes."
  • Check your schedule to be sure you have nothing important planned in the next few weeks. You do not want an employer to reconsider a position because you have a vacation planned.
  • Set up a mock-interview with friends, family, or Student Career Development Staff, if needed.
  • DO NOT arrive late! It is not acceptable to be late for an interview. Arrive early by accounting for traffic, weather, construction, loss in direction, etc.
  • Arrive with a smile on your face, good posture, and a firm handshake.
  • TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Even the “vibrate” setting can cause distractions.
  • Be kind and polite to EVERYONE you come in contact with. Employers could ask secretaries or other employees if certain applicants made a positive or negative impression on them.

During the Interview: What Makes You Stand Out?

  • Give the interviewer and firm handshake
  • Make good eye contact with the interviewer
  • Try not to fidget or touch your face or hair too often
  • Keep an upright posture
  • Be confident and energetic
  • Highlight your personality and sense of humor. Employers want to see if you will fit well with the company’s culture and team.
  • Be honest and listen carefully. Be attentive to the question being asked so that you answer the question to the best of your ability. Stay focused on the issue at hand rather than on issues that may arise later in the interview.
  • Believe it or not, it is alright to admit you are nervous. Some interviewer may find this to be a relatable quality

During the Interview: Prepare for Questions

The questions below are divided into two categories, traditional and behavior-based. You will recognize the difference between the two types of questions immediately. You will need to be prepared for both types of interview questions. The Student Career Development Office and the Library have several books containing additional interview questions.

  •  Examples of Traditional Questions:

      • Tell me about yourself?
      • Why would you like to work for this company?
      • What are your short and long-range goals?
      • In what university activities have you participated?
      • What leadership roles have you held?
      • What courses did you like best in college? Least? Why?
      • How has your coursework prepared you for this position?
      • How has your previous work experience prepared you for this position?
      • Why did you choose this particular field of work?
      • What do you do in your spare time for enjoyment?
      • What do you know about our company?
      • Have you read our web page?
      • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
      • In what geographic area would you like to work?
      • How do you determine when you are successfully doing your job?
      • On what criteria do you wish to be evaluated?
      • In what areas of this job would you expect to be most successful? Least?
      • What can you do for us now? What can we do for you?
      • How did your former employer treat you? Why did you leave that job?
      • What are your plans regarding graduate school?
      • Why was your grade in XYZ course so low?
      • What would your co-workers say about you?
      • What would your former supervisor say about you?
      • Is there anything else I should ask about you? Is there any other information you wish to share?
  •  Examples of Behavioral Questions: 

      • Give me one example of something you did recently demonstrating that you "went the extra mile", doing more than what was expected to get the job done.
      • Tell me about a recent situation in which you functioned as the leader.
      • Tell me about a project you completed recently that made you feel particularly proud.
      • Give me an example of a recent failure, and what you learned from that failure.
      • Describe for me the system you use to keep track of your responsibilities both on an off the job?
      • Tell me about a time that you missed a deadline, and the steps you took to prevent that from happening again?
      • Describe for me a recent situation in which you functioned as a member of a team and successfully completed a project.
      • Give me three examples describing how the coursework you completed will assist your efforts in the position.
      • Give me two examples of how your previous work experience will assist your efforts in this position.
      • Tell me something about our company that you did not know until your read our web page.
      • Describe for me two contributions that you can make to our company immediately upon hire.
      • Describe a problem you encountered recently, and the steps you took to solve that problem.
      • Describe a situation you encountered recently that required research on your part. What were the steps you took to complete that research?
      • Describe an interpersonal conflict with a friend, fellow student, or colleague. What steps did you take to resolve that conflict?
  • It is expected that you will ask questions. Prepare several questions as some will be answered during the natural course of the interview. You should be able to ask 2-3 questions that were not answered during the interview and could not be found online.
  • Examples of Questions to ask:
    • How will I receive feed back about my performance, and how often?
    • What are some of the challenges this organization/department faces?
    • Can you describe the daily, office culture and environment of your department/organization?
    • How can I best contribute to the company?
  • Examples of Questions to Avoid:
    • Never ask about pay, time off, benefits, etc.
      • You can usually inquire about this information after a job offer has been made. (See the Job Offers &Negotiations tab for more information.)
    • Never ask many questions about the interviewer's background
    • Never ask how quickly you can be promoted
    • Never ask about gossip you've heard
    • Never ask for information you could have easily found with a quick search

After the interview : What to Do?

  • Thank you Notes:
        • It is important that you send an electronic (email) thank you note the same day of the interview to the person(s) with whom you interviewed. A handwritten thank you note using high-quality paper should also be sent within 24 -48 hours after the interview.
          • Most interviewees only send an electronic thank you note. Writting a hand-written thank you will help you to stand out.
      • Thank you notes should be brief and concise, but include the following:
        • Paragraph 1
          • Express gratitude toward the interviewer for taking the time to schedule the interview with you
          • Reiterate or restate your interest in the position and organization
        • Paragraph 2
          • Remind the interviewer of your qualifications and skills for the position. Keep this fairly brief.
        • Paragraph 3 (optional)
          • Include anything you forgot to mention in the interview
          • Follow up with any additional information requested in the interview
        • Paragraph 4
          • Express thanks again and state that you look forward to hearing from them soon in the near future.
          • See Example.(Example by University of Richmond, 2013)
  • Follow-up:
      • Allow a few weeks for the hiring process to unfold then give the hiring manager a nice nudge to keep yourself and your capabilities active in their considerations by leaving a professionalvoicemail.
      • Be sure to leave the following information in your voicemail:
        • Name (2x- Beginning of the message and the end)
        • Phone number(2x- slowly-beginning of the message and end)
        • Reminder that you recently interviewed and /or previously interacted 
        • An upbeat message
        • A pleasant reiteration of your interest
        • A graceful exit

General Facts and Statistics Regarding the Interview Process:

    • 70% of employers claim they do not wish their applicants to be overly fashionable or trendy
    • 35% of the employers indicate that the way an interviewee is dressed could be a deciding factor in the consideration of hiring two similar candidates
    • 33% of employers claim to know whether they will hire someone within the first 90 seconds of the interview
    • The average length of an interview is approximately 40 minutes
    • 60% of employers use video interviews for hiring
    • Click here to see the average amount of time it takes for an employer to make a job offer

Tips for Case Interviews

In a case interview, you are given a real-world situation to problem-solve using your professional skills during a meeting with the employer

Student Career Development

Contact Information

Nikki Karabinis
Phone: (740) 351-3027
Fax: (740) 351-3108

Peer Career Team 
Phone: (740) 351-3784

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8 am-5 pm Friday 
Administration Building, 036

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