Prepare for Your Interviews

Before the interview  |  Company research  |  Position analysis  |  Prepare questions  |  Behavioral questions

Different employers interview in different ways. You may interview face-to-face with one person or several people (alone or in a group), over the phone or via Webcam (video online interviews). A first interview with a human resources representative is often used to pre-screen candidates to determine if they are qualified for the position. A second interview often takes place with a hiring manager and sometimes coworkers or supervisors for the position. This interview may include the same questions asked during pre-screening or more in-depth questions to define your fit for the position. You may also be asked to participate in a simulation or case study that allows you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, or to make a presentation about yourself or a topic relevant to the job.

Before the Interview

  • Review the job description for clues about the questions you might be asked.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate examples of your strengths, weaknesses, skills, and personal qualities as they relate to the position.
  • Research the employer to better understand the culture and how you might fit in.
  • Practice answering interview questions with Big Interview.
  • Prepare your professional interview attire, copies of your resume, and references.
  • Obtain details about the interview including location, directions, parking, and the names and job titles of interviewers.

Company Research

Collect the following information about the employer prior to your interview. It is acceptable to bring brief notes to the interview regarding some of your findings.

  • Industry, products, and services.
  • Company mission, values, and goals (company culture).
  • Client base (who does the company sell to or provide services to).
  • Company size and locations.
  • Recent history of expansions and/or mergers (including downsizing or restructuring).
  • Year founded.
  • Major competitors.

Position Analysis

Review the job description for main requirements of the position. Determine what experiences and achievements make you qualified for the position by matching them to the stated requirements. Use the STAR method to describe your competency. Think about transferable skills from previous experiences that relate in skill (but perhaps not content) to the job you are applying. For example, maybe the company requires experience with a particular database. Although you have not had experience with that database, maybe you have experience with a different product and could therefore easily learn the new product based on your skills and knowledge.

Bring a few good questions

It is a great idea to have a short list of relevant questions for the interviewers prepared ahead of time (feel free to bring the list with you to the interview). Use this opportunity to learn more about the position, company culture, or other pieces of information that is not easily accessible on the website.

behavioral questions - STAR Method

Past performance predicts future performance. Behavioral questions probe for specific examples (stories) about your experiences. They often start with “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of when you…”  Formula to answer: STAR

Situation

Describe the situation.

Task

Describe the task associated with the situation.

Action

Describe what you did.  What steps or actions did you take?

Result

Describe the result.  How did it turn out?  What did you learn?

Be careful not to slip into storytelling mode. Most of your response should be spent discussing your action and the result, not setting up the story background. Analyze the job description to determine key skills and personality attributes that the job will require.

Example:  Tell me about a time when you took on a task that was not assigned to you.

Situation / Task Example

"Last month I noticed that the employee bulletin board where I work had outdated notices posted. Employees had stopped reading it and began missing important announcements."

Action Example

"I worked with two of my coworkers and we set up a calendar and recruited everyone in the office to sign up for a month to keep the board cleared of old announcements and posted with current event and benefit information. We then sent an email to all employees letting them know what kinds of updated information they could find there."

Result Example

"Because of the up-to-date information, communication within the office improved and we saw an increase in productivity."

 Use the Behavioral Interview Preparation Worksheet