Prepare for Your Interviews

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."

Behavioral Interview Preparation

Prepare "STAR" examples for each of these competencies

Adaptable/Flexible

  • Describe how you are flexible in your dealings with co-workers or classmates.

Attention to detail

  • Describe a task or project you have worked on that demanded the most attention to detail.

Communication

  • Describe a recent miscommunication you had with someone. What did you do to correct or resolve the situation

Conflict resolution

  • What are some of your strengths in dealing with people? Describe the last time you used one of those strengths to resolve a conflict.

Customer relations

  • Describe the most frustrating time you had experience when trying to solve a customer’s problem.

Decision making

  • What was the most difficult work decision you have had to make in the last year? Why was it so difficult? How did you make it?

Dedication

  • Sometimes during a rush period people have to miss their break or lunch to get the job done. Describe the most recent time this happened to you.

Following procedures

  • Describe a time when you followed an organizational policy with which you didn’t agree.

Initiative

  • Give an example of a situation where you took on a task or duty at work that was not assigned to you.

Innovative/creative

  • Describe the most innovative or creative project you have worked on.

Leadership

  • Tell me about the most recent time you displayed leadership on the job.

Organization

  • Describe what you do to prepare for exams.

Problem solving

  • Describe how you use problem solving skills at work.

Stress management

  • Describe a high pressure situation you encountered in the past.

Teamwork

  • Tell me about a successful team you were on. What did you do to contribute to the team?