Congratulations! You have a job interview, which means you have the skills to do the job and the company wants to get to know you. Don’t forget that you are interviewing the company, too. Because you have more experience, either because of your graduate degree and/or years in the workforce, you are assessing if this role and company is right for you and your career path. Don’t forget each job interview is different. Be sure to answer the questions with the job in mind, tailoring your answers to the employer’s needs.
- Research and prepare as early as possible: Do a few hours a day for multiple days leading up to the interview to allow plenty of time to process the information you learn.
- Research the company: How do they talk about themselves, their programs, and what they offer customers?
- Research the interviewers: What is their career path? What are their roles? Get to know them to tailor your responses to what might interest them.
- Get comfortable knowing your personal brand: Your brand is connected to your reputation and can help you be a strong candidate for jobs. It’s the approach, style, and work ethic you bring to the work you do. This is conveyed online through your social media, your application materials, and how you present yourself in an interview.
- Prepare for all interview questions: Practice typical interview questions below, behavior questions focusing on “soft skills,” like communication and teamwork skills. Review your resume and be prepared to speak to each bullet point.
- Use your network: Research to see if any alumni work at, have worked at, or know someone who works at the company you’ll be interviewing with. The more insights you can gain, the better.
- Tip: When talking about your experience, use similar language on the job description and company website. When you use similar language, they will start to see you already embedded into their team.
- Send a thank you email the same day (no more than 24 hours) after the interview.
- In the thank you note, include the following:
- Thank them for their time
- Identify three things you learned about the organization or role
- Reiterate 2–3 reasons why you’re a good fit for the role and company
- Provide them with another opportunity to reach out with any questions they have for you and you look forward to talking with them again soon
- Follow up again the day before their decision to reiterate your interest in the role. If you don’t hear back, send another email a week later. Don’t send more than three emails following up with the interviewer. While you wait, keep searching for other roles.
- Tip: Ask for feedback from the interviewers. It shows you’re open to feedback and it can help hone your skills for the next interview.
Typical Stages of Interviewing
Screening Telephone Interview
- Often conducted by a human resources professional or the hiring manager. Purpose: screen out inappropriate candidates. This interview is often 20–30 minutes on the phone or via Zoom.
- The most popular and efficient way for employers to conduct interviews. Act confidently and it’s OK to ask the interviewer to repeat the question or ask for some time to think about your answer.
- Different companies have different interviewing processes so you might have a few video interviews in one day or throughout the process. Ensure you have the link over 24 hours in advance so you’re not late.
- Depending on the stage of the interview process, these interviews can be anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
In-Person Interview (For In-Person Roles)
- If the role is in person and if you made it to an in-person interview, you’re likely in one of the final stages of the interview process, congratulations! Because many jobs are remote or hybrid, all of your interviews may be virtual.
- Be sure to dress appropriately for the company, arrive ~10 minutes early, and bring any items you might want or need during the interview, including water. It’s OK to bring a backpack!
- You may be meeting with a team of people in various positions. Be sure to research everyone’s role and ask different questions based on people’s roles.
- For some roles, you may have to give a presentation. This is an opportunity for the staff to see how you think and what you consider when building a project. Spend time on this and think critically. Do your research and meet with your career advisor to discuss more.
Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
Use the STAR Method to answer interview questions: STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Additionally, you could add a T, for takeaway after the STAR. This method can support how you answer behavioral interview questions that prompt you to tell a story. In total, each STAR story should not be more than two minutes.
Situation: Describe the context with enough information for the interviewer to understand what is happening.
Task: Describe what your responsibilities were in the situation. It can be helpful here to include the goal of the task.
Action: Describe what you did to achieve the goal, whether or not you successfully completed the task.
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions. What worked and what didn’t work? What was the impact of your work?
“Tell Me About Yourself”
A common opener, this is a “sell me” invitation. Develop a brief summary of your background in relation to the job; emphasize your desire to work for the organization, as well as your qualifications for the position. This is your opportunity to share your professional story, which leads you to why you are a good fit for this role. This arc includes your professional past, present, and future and within those moments, according to The Job Closer, the arc of your answer should include your favorite part, insight gained and transition made. Share what motivates you, why you made certain professional decisions, and why this role and company make sense as a next step for you. No answer should be more than two minutes. Practice this answer to keep it short, sweet, and simple. Make an appointment with your career counselor to draft, edit, and practice your answer.
“What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?”
We all have things we’re good at and areas where we can improve. Here are a few tips on how to answer this difficult question. Make an appointment with your career counselor to draft, edit, and practice your answer.
- You can use this question as an opportunity to focus on how you work. Maybe you’re a really good people-person whose strengths focus on leadership, communication, and big-picture thinking. The opposite of these skills might be that you work best with others, so you have a harder time self-starting, or you really value a thought partner when you’re working. If you're great at strategic thinking, you might have a harder time thinking about the details or process of getting a project done. This is a time to share how people can work with you because your “weaknesses” are growth opportunities and to provide different ways of thinking.
- One effective way to answer this question is to think of a weakness you have overcome and share the process with the interviewer. “I used to be very shy and afraid to speak to groups of people. I decided I needed to overcome my fear to pursue a career in _____. So, if there was a choice between a paper and a presentation in class, I always chose the presentation.” It is also a good strategy to talk about a weakness you are currently working on.
For Career Changers
When preparing for an interview as a career changer, it is crucial to thoroughly research the new industry and the specific role you're applying for. Highlight transferable skills including critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, communication, taking initiative, project or people management skills, etc. Share relevant experiences from your previous career that align with the new field, and be prepared to articulate how your unique perspective and adaptability can bring value to the prospective employer. Additionally, practice answering potential interview questions, like why did you decide to shift careers, showcasing your passion for the new career path and demonstrating a genuine eagerness to learn and grow in the new role.
Behavioral Interview Questions
- Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle that?
- Describe a time when you had to step up and demonstrate leadership skills.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake and wish you’d handled a situation with a colleague differently.
Customer or Client Service Questions
- Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you go about doing so?
- Give me an example of a time when you didn’t meet a client’s expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?
- Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client or customer. What was the situation, and how did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure at work or at school. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to think on your feet.
- Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?
Time Management Questions
- Describe a long-term project that you kept on track. How did you keep everything moving?
- Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself. How did you go about ensuring that you would meet your objective?
- Tell me about a time an unexpected problem derailed your planning. How did you recover?
- Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone at work to see things your way.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to have a difficult conversation with a frustrated client or colleague. How did you handle the situation?
- Tell me about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it was a hit.
Motivation and Values Questions
- Describe a time when you saw a problem and took the initiative to correct it.
- Give me an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it?
- Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied in your role. What could have been done to make it better?
Questions to Ask Employers
In most interviews, you will have an opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer at the end. This is a great opportunity to showcase your critical thinking skills and get to know the job and company better. Take this time to ask questions! Here are some questions to ask; adjust based on the role and industry:
- What are the challenging aspects of the position?
- How would you describe the atmosphere here?
- What qualities are you looking for in your new hires?
- To whom would I report? What is their supervisory style?
- Can you describe typical first-year assignments on the job?
- How and when will my performance be evaluated on this job?
- What do you value most about my experience and application? Where do you see areas of improvement or extra training, if I were to be hired?
Tip: When asking specific questions about the industry and role, consider a two part question that shares your knowledge or research in the field from a reputable source, following up with a question about if/how they use that information in their role or company.
Other Questions to Ask in All Positions
- Can you tell me about the benefits (ie. health insurance, 401(k), paid time off)?
- What are the in-person, hybrid, and work-from-home protocols?
- When you get to the final interviewing stage: Can you tell me about the pay structure?
- What parts of my application and experience are a good fit for this role and company and where do you see the need for growth?
Make an appointment with your career counselor to practice interviewing!