Interviewing

Now that you have landed the interview, it is important to prepare for a great interview. Employment interviewing is simply a focused, goal oriented exchange of information typically between two people. Impressive resumes and cover letters will get you employment interviews; however, the interview itself will typically be the most significant aspect of the employment process.

Know the Organization

Research, Research, Research! You should spend ample amounts of time reviewing an employer’s website, reading industry news, social media and networking with people already working in the field.

A great place to start is reading the organization’s Annual Report. You can gain valuable insights into what successes and challenges the organization has faced and what strategies they are focusing on for the future. You may also use websites such as Bloomberg BusinessWeek or even Google News to search for recent stories.

You can also gain invaluable insights from the VAULT Career Guides.

Practice Interviews Before You Interview: Mock Interview

Mock Interviews are a great way for you to prepare for real interviews. You will be interviewed and given feedback so you can improve your interview skills. You can learn more about Mock Interviews including sign-up information by visiting the Center for Career Exploration and Success Mock Interview page.

Know Yourself

Why do you want this position? Why do you want to work for this company? You need to be able to succinctly articulate these answers in an interview. You should consider why you have chosen your area of study, what goals you have for your immediate future and how those relate to this specific employer.

You may also be asked to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. After mentioning a strength, you should be able to back it up with a specific example proving that is true for you (see CAR Method below). A weakness should be something that you have recognized in the past and sought to improve upon, such as learning advanced Excel skills outside of class to become better at analyzing information. Don’t use canned answers such as, “I’m a perfectionist.” Recruiters consistently state that is a sure way to not move on to the next round of interviews.

Give a Great Answer: Be Specific, Not General

Behavioral Based Interviewing is one method employers use in interviewing. They want to hear about a past example from experience because past behavior may be predictive of future behavior. In essence, you need to tell a strong narrative about your strengths and past experiences. The most successful interviewees have carefully considered what their “story” is and how to best convey it to each potential employer. 

An effective tool in developing a strong narrative is using the CAR Method (Context, Action Taken, and Result). This method helps convey specific and relevant information to the interviewer. You should develop one or two CAR examples for each experience on your resume. In doing so, you will have up to ten well thought out answers that can be used regardless of the questions asked…you aren’t memorizing answers to questions, but developing your narrative.

A good exercise is to develop specific CAR examples for experiences on your resume. After finishing the CAR example, you can come up with a list of “tags” which would link to potential questions. Below is an example:

  • Context: I was in charge of our fundraiser this year for Habitat for Humanity. We've done the same thing the past three years and had some success, but it really was getting stale and our members weren’t very engaged.
  • Action: I wanted to change things up, so I created a new fundraiser where we held "X Factor" on campus. To help execute the event, I recruited four other members to help plan and promote the competition. We created a YouTube video to advertise to participants and also to generate attendance. Participants had to fundraise money to support, which went towards their total score. They also had to get a minimum of 50 "likes" on Twitter or Facebook to participate, which helped create awareness of the event.
  • Result: While we hadn't done anything like this before, it was great to create something new and think outside of the box. We ended up having 12 participants, 400 people in attendance, and increased our fundraising by 23 percent from the previous year.
  • Tags: I think this example really demonstrates my creativity, leadership, innovation and social media expertise.

Professionalism and Follow Up

As the interview concludes, it is important to reaffirm your interest in the position. Asking great questions can be an example of your interest. Read 25 questions you can ask in an interview. Follow through is the key to success for finding an internship or job. Whether at a networking event or an interview, make note of employers’ names and ask for their business cards. Follow up via Linked In or email and thank them for their time. Thank you notes, emails, or messages are one of the most important but underused methods of making a positive, lasting impression.

Make sure to dress professionally and conservatively for interviews unless explicitly instructed otherwise by the organization. Men - wear dark suits, a tie, dark socks, and polish your shoes. Women - clothing should not be tight or revealing. Skirts should be within two-inches of your knees and blouses should be very modest.

Additional Resources

Read more tips in the Interviewing Guide.

Gain foundational interviewing  knowledge through Center for Career Exploration and Success Basic Interviewing Workshop and other helpful programs.