Prepare to Interview

An important element of preparing for your job or internship search is the interview process. It’s entirely possible that soon after you submit a resume, you’ll receive a phone call to come in for an interview (this happens more often than you may think!), so early preparation is the key. It is very normal to be nervous before or during a job interview, but with some groundwork and practice as outlined below, it will be much easier to control those interview nerves.

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Remember, if an employer has invited you to interview, he or she is already interested in you! The interview’s purposes are to confirm the qualifications you listed on your resume and see if you are a good fit for the position and company. Also, keep in mind that that you are also interviewing the employer to see if it’s the right fit for you, especially if you have interviews with multiple companies. You should be asking the employer questions to understand the company, the manager, the position and more.

  • Know the position. This will help you answer interview questions pertaining to the position’s duties.

      • Highlight aspects of the job or internship for which you have skills and/or experience.
      • Create a list of your skills and strengths that relate to the position.
      • Think of examples you could share from your experiences that demonstrate these skills.
  • Know the organization or company. This will help you answer questions about why you’re interested in working for this specific company as well as help you prepare questions to ask the employer.

      • Go to the company’s website and read through its mission, vision, values, etc.
      • Be familiar with the company’s products and services as well as recent news and trends.
  • Know yourself. This will help you feel more confident that you are the best person for this position.

      • o Review your resume and be prepared to discuss any part of it.
      • o Prepare brief stories about your past skills, strengths, and accomplishments that illustrate your experience and skills.


    Be prepared to respond to these two common interview questions:

    • “Tell me about yourself.”

      • This is often asked at the beginning of the interview to build rapport.
      • Response should only be one to three minutes in length, not your life story.
      • Start with your current situation of major, school and year in school.
      • Highlight a few key current/past experiences or skills and why they qualify you for this position.
      • Conclude with showing your interest and excitement for the position.

      “What is your greatest weakness?”

      • This helps the interviewer assess your level of self-awareness and check for “red flags.”
      • Choose a “professional” weakness that isn’t core to the position.
      • Conclude by how you are already addressing and improving it.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • Be respectful and courteous to every single person you interact with, from the person at the reception desk to the person who interviews you. You never know who has influence in the hiring decision.
  • Turn off and put away your cell phone.
  • Bring a padfolio or nice folder to carry a few copies of your resume, references, questions for the employer, and paper and pen to jot down notes and names of the interviewers.
  • Meet the interviewer(s) with a friendly smile, a firm handshake and a polite greeting.
  • Demonstrate confidence, enthusiasm and interest.
  • Maintain proper eye contact and don’t constantly fidget with your hands or other items.
  • Make sure you get a chance to ask a few questions
  • If the interviewer doesn’t tell you, make sure you ask about the next steps in the hiring process.
  • Initiate a strong close strong by thanking them, expressing interest in the position/company and shaking their hands again.
  • Watch this TED Talk on “power posing” and your nonverbal communication during the interview: Amy Cuddy’s “Your body language may shape who you are.”

What you wear to an interview depends on your industry, but the tips below apply across nearly all industries:

  • Determine the general dress code for where you are interviewing and then “dress it up” a notch, erring on the side of formality. For example, if the office staff wears jeans and t-shirts, you should aim for business casual. If the office staff wears business casual, you should aim for professional attire.
  • Wear clothes that fit and are neither too tight nor too loose. For women, wear pants or skirts that are knee length or longer.
  • Wear clean, professional shoes:

    • Men should wear dress shoes.
    • Women should wear closed-toe shoes and no sandals. If you decide to wear heels, make sure they are professional and that you can walk comfortably in them.
  • Make sure you are well-groomed, which includes showering, wearing clean clothes, getting a haircut if necessary, brushing your teeth, and wearing minimal make-up and minimal cologne/perfume.
  • Wear neutral colors such as black, blue, grey or brown.
  • Although it’s important to be authentic and express yourself, be cautious about revealing too many piercings, tattoos, hair colors and other styles that may be deemed “alternative.” It’s always a good idea to show a conservative side to make a good first impression. You can bring in your natural style once you get the job — depending on the industry, of course.

Most interviews will consist of “behavioral” interview questions, which are meant to see how you’ve behaved in past situations to predict your future behavior on the job. Unlike traditional job interview questions which ask you to simply explain what you’ve done in past jobs, behavioral interview questions seek concrete examples of skills and experiences that relate directly to the position. Following are several tips:

  • Use the STAR method to answer these questions:

    • Situation/Task – Describe the situation or task you were involved in to set up your story.
    • Action – Describe the actions you took to complete the task, focusing on skills the employer is probably looking for.
    • Results – Describe what happened because of your actions. What did you learn? What skill did you develop?
  • Example: “Tell me about a time you worked on a team.”

    • Situation/Task – “Since I am a History major, I was able to work on a research team last semester for the History Department. The professor leading the project was writing a book on the significance of fashion in ancient Rome. We were each assigned different sections to focus on.”
    • Action – “Since there was a lot of material and a lot of people on the team, I suggested that we meet independently before our weekly meeting with the professor to discuss our progress and support each other if we were running into any difficulties.”
    • Result – “The professor really appreciated how well we all worked together and how well prepared we were for our meetings with him, which streamlined his research. As a result of our teamwork, the professor was able to start his final copy months ahead of schedule.”
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • How do you handle a challenge? Give me an example.
  • Give me an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • Give me an example of a project you have completed and take me through the steps you used to complete it.
  • Describe a time you failed at something.
  • Share an example of how you were able to motivate other people.
  • Describe an experience involving a deadline.
  • Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to assert yourself.
  • Describe a specific time when you were very busy and how you prioritized your schedule.
  • How would you describe the general culture of the company?
  • What does a typical day or week look like?
  • What sort of training will be provided?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges or successes facing the department currently?
  • If hired, what types of projects might I expect to work on within the first six months?
  • What is your favorite part of working here?
  • Are there many opportunities for professional development within the company?
  • How would I be evaluated in this position?
  • What are the next steps in the hiring process? When can I expect to hear from you?
  • (Any other specific questions you may have from your company/position research)
  • After your interview, send a thank-you email to everyone who interviewed you within 24 hours. In your email:

    • Reiterate your interest in the position.
    • Remind them of key skills and qualifications you shared that align with the position.
    • Let them know they can contact you if they need any additional information.
  • Make sure you respond to emails and voicemails promptly

    • TIP: This is a good time to make sure your voicemail message is professional!
  • Follow up in two weeks

Big InterviewTM is an innovative online learning tool that you can use to enhance your job interviewing skills and develop an edge over the competition. Use Big Interview to learn and practice your interview skills, whether you are interviewing for a job or school admission.

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Need extra help to prepare for your interview? Schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor to review interview questions, discuss your attire, practice interviewing and more.

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