In the context of applying for opportunities (jobs, internships, graduate programs, etc.), an interview is a meeting focused on determining if you are the best candidate for the opportunity and if the opportunity is the best option for you. Meaning, the interview is not just for convincing the interviewer that you are the best candidate. The interviewer is also seeking to convince you that you would be happy with this opportunity with their organization. With this in mind, as a candidate, an interview has a two purposes, 1) to sell your qualifications and enthusiasm and 2) to gather information to help discern whether the opportunity is a good fit for your abilities, interests, and aspirations.
The information below is a quick introduction to interviewing. For more information see our Interviewing Guide.
General Interviewing Guidelines
What should the interviewer know about you and your skills?
Practice in advance and be prepared to answer questions like these:
- What skills sets have you developed from your coursework, student activities, and internships? (Take into account skills from all aspects of your lifework, including community service/ volunteer work.)
- What interests you? What are your passions? What issues are important to you?
- Why you want to work for the organization
- How would you describe your ideal job?
- What are your short and long term career goals?
- What type of work environment do you prefer?
Know the Employer
- Research the organization through the web, library or by using Social Media sites like LinkedIn.
- Learn about the position’s job responsibilities
- Brainstorm some questions to ask the employer about their organization’s environment
Know What Questions to Ask the Employer
Prepare questions beforehand to ask the employer at the end of your interview. These questions will convey your interest and enthusiasm.
Some example questions include:
- Can you describe a typical work day?
- What do you enjoy about working for this organization?
- How would you describe the work environment?
- What is the retention rate of the department/company to which I am applying?
- What opportunities are available for professional development?
- What path led you to your current position?
The Actual Interview
Reminders and Helpful Tips
Dress in a professional, conservative and neat manner
- Men: a well-tailored suit, conservative tie, polished shoes
- Women: a well-tailored suit with minimal makeup and jewelry and closed toe shoes
- Keep cologne to a minimum or don’t wear it at all--it can distract the interviewer.
- Review your resume and work history so you are ready to speak about both
- Arrive 15 minutes before the interview
- Bring extra copies of your resume
- Smile, take a deep breath and relax. It helps you to be comfortable so you can focus on the interview and be yourself
- Maintain good eye contact and posture, but avoid too many gestures or hand movements
- Avoid using slang expressions or improper grammar
Examples of Standard Interview Questions
- What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about your internship/job at “X” organization?
- What do you know about our company and the position for which you are applying?
- Tell me about your major and coursework and how they would relate to this position?
- How did you prepare for this interview?
- What made you interested in this company and position?
- Describe some past leadership experience
What Is Behavioral Interviewing?
The Behavioral Interview is one of the most popular ways to interview potential employees. In this style of interviewing, the interviewer will ask you to reflect upon your previous school and work experiences, and take you through a detailed and thorough account as to how a specific situation was handled.
The key to the successful behavioral interview is in your ability to describe detailed work situations that are directly related to the possible job position.
To keep you focused and on track for your behavioral interview, conduct a STAR analysis:
- S = name a SITUATION facing you
- T = a TASK you had to complete
- A = describe what ACTION you took
- R = tell the RESULTS of your actions
- (202) 319-6262
Don't have an immediate answer or response?
- Never be afraid of silence, always take a few moments to gather your thoughts before answering a question
- If you’re uncertain of how to answer a question, ask to have it repeated or the opportunity to answer it at the end.
Examples of Behavioral Style Questions
- Describe the biggest challenge you had in your last job or internship and how you handled it.
- Can you describe how you solved a work or school problem?
- Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult person (boss, professor or team member.) and describe what you did to create a successful relationship with that person.
- Describe a period when you had many projects due at the same time. What steps did you take to ensure they were all completed on time?
After the Interview
Immediately following the interview, write a short summary of what was discussed. Review your performance at the interview and think of anything you can do in order to improve in the future.
Within 24-48 hours send a thank you letter to the interviewer(s) to:
- Express your appreciation for the interview
- State that you enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the company
- Reaffirm your interest and enthusiasm about the position and re-state your qualifications
- Email is appropriate if there is a quick turnaround time to fill the position
- A written thank you is always preferred
- If you receive an offer, inform and thank everyone who helped you in the process
- If you do not receive an offer, follow up with the interviewer(s) express your thanks and ask for feedback regarding your performance in the interview