Interviewing

Video: As online interviews become more popular, keep these tips in mind.

The interview is all about communication! Communication is the means by which you as an applicant will be advertising who you are, the skills and assets you offer your potential employer, reasons why you are the right candidate. Your communication allows you to make a lasting impression.

Keep in mind that employers not only value knowledge and skills in your discipline, they place importance on written and oral communication skills as well. They expect you to know about the world of work and have the ability to communicate clearly about your field as well as the unique aspects of what you have to offer their company/industry.

The following topics are covered below:

Interview Preparation

Step 1: Preparation

A) Know Yourself

  • Be ready to explain why you are interested in this particular position.
  • What skills, abilities, values, strengths and accomplishments do you bring to the job? These can be transferable skills and strengths.
  • Share your enthusiasm for joining this profession and what you can contribute.
  • Review résumé (applicable/transferable skills used and knowledge gained from your educational training, work/internship/volunteer experience, community involvement, leadership experience, etc.)
  • Review your social media professional image.  What impressions would an employer draw if they googled your name?

B) Know the Position Requirements, the Company & the Field

  • Thoroughly review the job description and qualifications including duties and responsibilities as well as the required skills.
  • Research the company’s goals and mission, products and services, organizational structure and culture, clients, growth and future direction, and current challenges.
  • What are some of the hottest topics and trends in your field of interest?
  • Conduct employer research (internal link to employer research) and make a link between your academic preparation, interests, and work experience with the target position.

C) Know the STAR Method & Prepare for Some Potential Interview Questions

  • Review the list of 50 Questions Often Asked in Employment Interviews (see Interview Questions - Frequently Asked Interview Questions below) and generate possible questions for the particular position.
  • Develop sixty second personal stories related to skills, strengths, and accomplishments.
  • Use the Situation Task Action Results (STAR) (pdf) mnemonic to help you develop and deliver your answers to interview questions.

The STAR Method is a way of answering resume-based interview questions that provides interviewers with clear, concrete and concise answers.

Example: Please describe the most challenging team experience you have encountered?

Situation or Task: I was involved in a group project last quarter for a class where our team had to create a business plan. Group members varied appreciably in their skills and motivation to complete the project, and each member was delegated tasks and deadlines for completion, including progress updates every week. One group member had fallen far behind and our group’s success and grade were in jeopardy.

Action(s) Taken: Being the group leader and the one responsible for delegating the project components, I reached out to the group member who was no longer keeping pace. In talking with him, it became clear that he had an entirely different understanding of our objective and how it would be achieved. This realization, however, was important since his unique viewpoint actually helped better inform our group’s approach in creating the business plan.

Result(s) Achieved: As a result, our group became more cohesive, which helped us produce a successful business plan and made the group experience more enjoyable.

D) Develop a Brief List of Questions for You to Ask the Interviewer(s)

  • What are some typical career paths of employees in your organization?
  • What is a realistic time frame for advancement along these paths?
  • What characteristics best describe a successful person at your company?
  • Please describe the training and/or professional development opportunities offered by the company.
  • How are trainees evaluated?
  • What are some typical first-year assignments?

Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice...

Practice! Practice out loud with roommates, friends & family.

Step 3: Presentation - Day of the Interview

  • Prepare beforehand and Practice your responses to questions.
  • Be prepared for all types of questions.
  • Be professional and enthusiastic.
  • Be punctual and well dressed.        
  • Conclude strongly by asking meaningful questions and summarizing your positive points

Interview Preparation download with over "thank you" note sample & 65 interview questions.
Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California, All Rights Reserved.

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Types of Interviews

Screening Interview

The screening interview is typically a shorter 20-30 minute, structured interview conducted by someone with human resources to eliminate inappropriate candidates and narrow the field to a select list of candidates for future interviews by the hiring unit of the organization. Smaller businesses will sometimes utilize staffing or employment services for this purpose.

Behavioral Interview

Behavior based interviewing “asks questions which help determine how candidates actually performed in previous job.” Employers are looking for vivid, image-filled examples of how you have solved problems; handled conflict; and conducted yourself in your career as a UCSB student, as part of a team projects or student clubs or as a part-time, intern, or summer employee. Questions typically begin with “What if you…?” or “How would you handle…?”

Phone Interview

Phone interviews are easier than in-person interviews because you can have notes and documentation to remind you of your key points. They are more difficult than in-person interviews because both you and the interviewer lack the visual cues that communicate a great deal of information. It’s important for you to remember to smile throughout the interview: even though the employer can’t see you, they will hear the positive tone and enthusiasm that are generated by your smile. Standing up during the phone interview will help your inflection and energy. Make sure that you can give the interview your full attention, and not be distracted. Reminder: make sure your phone is fully charged and you’re in a quiet environment.

Group Interview

Preparing for the Group Interview:

  • Prepare for a group interview the same way you would for a regular interview, by doing research on the company and practicing your responses.
  • Have a short introduction prepared, as this is generally what employers will have candidates start their interview with.

During the Interview:

  • Be respectful to everyone in the interview. To the employer, how you respond to other candidates is indicative of how you will treat others in the company.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Have good posture even when you’re not speaking and use subtle gestures to show that you’re listening and attentive throughout the interview.
  • Don’t focus only on the employer. Make eye contact with everyone in the room and actively listen to what they are saying so that you don’t say exactly the same thing.

How to Stand Out:

  • Make it a point to arrive early, be well dressed, and follow-up with the employer
  • Answer questions with a purpose. Don’t apologize for cutting in, but also don’t interrupt other interviewees. Be confident without being aggressive.
  • Build off of other candidates’ answers if you have something similar to say and refer to them by name. For example, “I agree with what Josh said about X and I also think that…” This will make you seem attentive and personable

Skype Interview

Technology plays a large role in the hiring the recruiting process. So, don’t be surprised if you are asked to participate in an online virtual job interview. The same rules apply whether the interview is in person or online. You should conduct yourself in a professional manner while also considering these aspects when it comes to using technology: get your technology ready, dress for the camera, remove distractions, do a test run, and look directly at the camera when answering questions.

Tech Interview

If you say you know Java, can you prove it? If you say you have network administration experience, can you talk an interviewer through the process of setting up a mailbox and giving multiple users access to it? Be prepared to answer questions about how to build a particular application or tackle a specific problem. Never lie, exaggerate, or inflate what you know. Instead, state clearly what you do know.

Site Interview

You made the initial cut. Now, you get to meet the people you will be working with in the actual location of the job. Most employers will email, fax, or mail you an agenda of what will happen during the half or full day together. Travel, meals and accommodations are typically at the employer’s expense. Be sure to clarify and confirm these arrangements on how you will be reimbursed. If you drive, get clear directions in advance, especially parking options. You will need a second interview outfit combination. Stay positive and focused even during lunch or dinner if part of the program. Come prepared with extra resumes and a reference sheet. Get business cards when possible.

Case Interview

The case interviewing style is particularly common among management consulting firms, law firms, counseling and social work organizations, police departments, and other organizations that want to watch your analytical thinking in action. Most likely, the case will be the final part of a screening or hiring manager interview.

Grad School Interview

We cover this in our Graduate School section.

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Dress the Part

First Impressions

Given that first impressions can greatly influence a hiring decision, the manner in which you present yourself during an interview can make a big difference in your ability to advance further into the interviewing process.

Always present a neat, well-groomed, and professional appearance during interviews. Specifically how you dress may depend upon the job for which you are applying; however, don’t assume one setting is necessarily more casual than another. It is probably best to stick with a suit regardless of where you are going, UNLESS you have received specific information to the contrary.

Given the expense of a suit, if one were only to purchase one, a medium-weight suit would be most serviceable, less susceptible to wrinkling, and far more comfortable in warmer climates/rooms than heavy wool.

Interview Attire for Men

In a corporate setting, it is recommended that men wear dark or gray suits (solid or subtle pinstripes). In organizations that are less formal (possibly nonprofit, education), consider a blazer, shirt and tie rather than a full suit. Dress shirts should be solid, preferably white, cream, or pale blue. Be sure the shirt and suit are pressed/ironed. A variety of ties may be worn, keeping in mind that muted colors in solid, stripes, or small patterns are preferred. Make sure your shoes are polished.

Grooming

Avoid the use of cologne; many interviews take place in confined spaces, and if your interviewer is allergic it could be an unpleasantly short interview! If you happen to have long hair, consider putting it in a ponytail to keep it out of your face. If you don’t have a full beard or mustache, shave. Beards and mustaches should be well-groomed. Remove any earrings or other visible body piercings, and cover up any tattoos.

Interview Attire for Women

In a corporate setting, it is recommended that women wear suits in plain, neutral, or dark colors (black, navy, brown, gray). In organizations that are less formal (possibly nonprofit, education), consider a sweater set and skirt, or a dress, rather than a full suit. If you only have one suit simply wear different blouses for a different look. Pantsuits have become more and more acceptable, but always keep in mind the nature of your organization as you consider a pantsuit; in more conservative settings, skirts are traditionally preferable. Skirts should at least reach your knees. Blouses should not have excessive frills or plunging necklines; white and ivory are always safe bets, but any light tone that matches your suit is appropriate. Long- or short-sleeved blouses are preferred over sleeveless blouses. Basic pumps, polished, with medium or low heels are appropriate; they should be dark and match the interview suit (or be a shade darker). Wearing high heels or brand new shoes can put you in an uncomfortable position! At career fairs, shoe comfort is particularly important.

Accessories

If you are wearing a belt, choose a small, conservative, solid-colored leather style belt with a simple buckle. It should match your shoes and purse. Your purse should be small and plain, matching your shoes and belt. Do not wear dangling bracelets or large, clunky jewelry. Plain studs or small earrings are best; a single necklace is fine, as is a watch and a ring or two. Do not display body piercings (nose rings, tongue ring, eyebrow rings, etc.) or tattoos. Be conservative with makeup, and avoid using fragrance - when in a confined space, even a little perfume may be too much, particularly if someone is allergic. Nail polish should be a light shade or clear. Wear plain stockings that best match your skin tone. Keep a spare pair tucked away for emergencies.

If you have long hair, consider pulling it back or putting it up, to keep it out of your face. It is important to resist the urge to play with your hair during an interview. Jewelry in hair, while fashionable, is not a good idea for an interview.

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Interview Questions

Frequently Asked Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about your experience.
  3. What is your most important accomplishment to date?
  4. How would you describe your ideal job?
  5. Why did you choose this career?
  6. When did you decide on this career?
  7. What goals do you have in your career?
  8. How do you plan to achieve these goals?
  9. How do you personally define success?
  10. Describe a situation in which you were successful.
  11. What do you think it takes to be successful in this career?
  12. What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?
  13. If you had to live your life over again, what one thing would you change?
  14. Would you rather work with information or with people?
  15. Are you a team player?
  16. What motivates you?
  17. Why should I hire you?
  18. Are you a goal-oriented person?
  19. Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
  20. What are your short-term goals?
  21. What is your long-range objective?
  22. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  23. Where do you want to become ten years from now?
  24. Do you handle conflict well?
  25. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How did you resolve it?
  26. What major problem have you had to deal with recently?
  27. Do you handle pressure well?
  28. What is your greatest strength?
  29. What is your greatest weakness?
  30. If I were to ask one of your professors (or a boss) to describe you, what would he or she say?
  31. Why did you choose to attend your college?
  32. What changes would you make at your college?
  33. How has your education prepared you for your career?
  34. What were your favorite classes? Why?
  35. Do you enjoy doing independent research?
  36. Who were your favorite professors? Why?
  37. Why is your GPA not higher?
  38. Do you have any plans for further education?
  39. How much training do you think you’ll need to become a productive employee?
  40. What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
  41. Why do you want to work in the _____ industry?
  42. What do you know about our company?
  43. Why are you interested in our company?
  44. Do you have any location preferences?
  45. How familiar are you with the community that we’re located in?
  46. Are you willing to relocate? In the future?
  47. Are you willing to travel? How much?
  48. Is money important to you?
  49. How much money do you need to make to be happy?
  50. What kind of salary are you looking for?

This current list of 50 Questions printed with permission from CollegeGrad.com.

Behavioral Questions

Below are some behavioral interview questions you may encounter. We recommend that you use the STAR method to answer these questions. This method requires that you fully understand the job description, so prepare your answers to highlight the skills you will bring to the job.

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation. How did you handle this situation?
  2. Describe a situation in which you had to take a risk. What was the outcome?
  3. Describe the most creative work-related project, which you have carried out.
  4. Tell me about your role in a project team. What did you do to contribute toward a team environment? Be specific.
  5. Has anyone asked you to do something unethical? What did you do?
  6. Give me an example of a time in which you felt you were able to build motivation in your co-workers, or subordinates at work.
  7. Give me an example of a time you successfully calmed down an irate customer. Now tell me about a time in which you were unsuccessful.
  8. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a personality conflict with a boss or co-worker.
  9. Describe an unpopular decision you had to make, but made it any way.
  10. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal, and were able to meet or achieve it.
  11. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  12. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  13. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish failed.
  14. By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
  15. Give me an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
  16. Relate a personal story in which you persuaded someone to do something that initially did not appeal to him or her.
  17. Describe a time in which you took initiative rather than waiting to be told what to do.
  18. Tell me about a time when you made a mistake and learned from it.
  19. If I asked someone about your leadership style, what do you think they would say about you?
  20. Give me an example of a problem, issue or concern that you handled in a unique, creative way.

Handling Illegal Questions

  • What are illegal questions in an interview?
  • What is your marital status?
  • What is your religion?
  • What is your sexual orientation or living situation?
  • Do you have any children or plans to have children?
  • What is your age?
  • What country were you born in?
  • Do you have a disability?
  • Do you have a pre-existing health condition?

There are several effective ways to deal with illegal or prying questions. Decide in advance which strategy you want to use, and then practice it. Options include:

  • Answer the question without revealing that you're offended. This is the best approach for most situations. To respond this way, assume that the interviewer is simply curious, means no harm and is unaware that people might be put off by such queries.
  • Address the apparent underlying concern of the interviewer rather than his or her specific question. For example, employers who ask, "Do you have any children?" may not be concerned about kids, per se, but whether you're likely to miss work to care for a sick child. Your response could be, "I have three children in school, and they have excellent, full-time child care" or, "If you mean, 'Can I meet the demands of the job?,' Yes, I can."
  • Tactfully remind the interviewer that the question is illegal. You might say: "That's not a legal question. I'd rather cover other points." Or, "I'd prefer to only be asked legal and pertinent questions." Or, "I'd prefer to discuss my qualifications for this job, which are ..." If you respond in this way, continue the interview showing the same professional manner you displayed prior to the question. The interviewer may feel somewhat foolish for having asked such a question or perturbed at you for being so "sensitive." Either way, because you've demonstrated both your assertiveness and knowledge of the law, it's unlikely you'll be asked another improper question.
  • Typically, you're better off answering touchy questions without confronting the interviewer about their legality. At the same time, be on the lookout for a pattern of discrimination. One illegal question can be written off as a simple mistake, but several such questions could indicate a problem. If you want the position, continue answering the questions or tactfully decline, but make a mental note of each illegal query. Write them down immediately following the interview. If you don't get the job and feel you were discriminated against, your notes will be important to any action you take. For example, you could speak to the company's human resources director, and describe what happened. If you don't receive satisfaction there, you may wish to contact the appropriate government agency or hire an attorney.

There are many websites dedicated to help you review possible interview questions. One such site is Ready Prep Interview. You can get the most out of Ready Prep Interview by searching for the position you are interviewing for, then review the questions that are listed in the order of importance based on the skills and qualities needed to do the job. Print the interview questions that are most relevant or just print the top 10, 20, or 30 questions.

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Closing the Interview & Follow-up

Position & Company Questions

  • What are the priorities of this position?
  • What is the departmental structure where I would work?
  • What procedures and timetable are used for review and promotion within this area?
  • What is the firm doing to stay ahead of its competition?
  • What are the company’s plans for future growth?
  • What attracted you to this company, and what has kept you there?
  • How would you describe your company’s organizational culture and management style?
  • Your web site mentions your plans for future expansion in several product areas. Can you say more… (Any type of question that shows you’ve been doing your homework.)

Hiring Process Questions

  • What is the next step?
  • When might I expect to hear from you?
  • May I check in with you at that time?
  • Questions regarding salary, benefits, & training are best left after an offer is made.

Close the Sale (Ask for the Job)

After you’ve asked all your questions, and they ask if you have more, thank them and deliver a strong final statement.              

“No, you’ve answered all my questions. I want to thank you for your time and information. I am excited about the (state the position title) with (state the company name), and am confident if selected that I could do an excellent job based on my academic preparation and strong work experience. I hope you give me serious consideration for this position and I look forward to hearing from you."

Business Card

Be sure to ask for business cards from interviewer(s).

Thank You Letter

Follow up with a thank you letter within 24 hours after your interview. For example...

Your Street Address
City, State and Zip Code
Your Phone Number

(Date of Letter)

ABC Corporation
1111 A Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

Dear (Recruiter’s Name):

I want to express my appreciation for the chance to visit with you regarding your opening for a Research Analyst. This sounds like an exciting and challenging opportunity, and I want to reaffirm my strong interest in the position.

I was particularly interested in our discussion of the customer surveys you are planning to develop over the next year. As we discussed, I recently completed a similar project where I designed a survey instrument that is now being used on a regular basis to measure customer satisfaction. The experience and expertise gained from this assignment would be especially beneficial in developing an effective tool to meet your needs.

Again, I am very interested in this position and believe that, with my overall qualifications and experience, I could make a significant contribution to your market research team and to ABC Corporation as a whole.

Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Your Signature

Your typed name

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where May I Get Assistance?

Have more questions? Want some specific help? Come by during our drop-in hours (11:00am- 4:00 pm, Monday- Friday) in the Career Resource Room and meet with a Career Counselor individually or make an appointment by calling (805) 893-4412.

Should I Check My Email?

YES! Check your email often. Our staff will notify you of schedule changes and cancelations. In addition, company representatives may use email to inform you of your selection as a pre-select candidate. Also, a number of employers rely on the GauchoLink system to communicate with candidates. Be sure to check your application status on GauchoLink.

What if I Don't Exactly Meet the Requirements?

If you don't exactly meet employer’s requirements, come to Career Services to discuss your situation with a career counselor. Such a situation might be: a company is seeking candidates with a B.A. in a specific major and you have an M.A. or you have a minor in the major being sought or you feel you are qualified for some other reason.

What Should I Do if I Accidently Send the Wrong Résumé or Cover Letter?

If it is before the submission deadline, you can delete your resume from your documents tab. If it is after the submission deadline, the employer will have already received your documents. You should send the employer a personalized email with the correct documents attached.

What Do I Do Once I Get An Interview?

Once you know that you have an interview: research, research, research! Click on the Company field in GauchoLink on the job listing and you'll be instantly connected to their website. Check to see if employers you are interested in are holding presentations and plan to attend. Some of the presentations are the only way that you can get on the interview schedule and thus attendance is mandatory. Get to know what the company is all about, so that you'll be better prepared to answer interview questions as well as to ask informed questions if given the chance.

Where Can I Get Help Preparing for an Interview?

Please visit our Career Resource Room and pick up an Interview Preparation Handout, Career Resource Manual, and browse a large selection of books, as well as this online interview information section. There are no excuses for you not interviewing like a pro.

What If I Need to Cancel/Miss an Interview?

Signing up for an interview and then failing to show up or cancel 24-hours in advance will suspend your eligibility for campus interviews. If you need to cancel an interview, you must do so at least one working day ahead of the engagement. You may end this suspension by writing a letter of apology or email to the interviewer and providing a copy to the On-Campus Interview (OCI) staff. Note that a second "no show" will disqualify you from participation in the On-Campus Interview program.

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