Interview Tips

Interview Tips

Before the Interview

  • Research the company thoroughly beforehand. Make sure you understand the position you are applying for, and how your qualifications and career goals match the position.
  • Call or visit the company website to obtain an extensive job description if available.
  • Think about your answers beforehand. Know how you would answer each of the sample questions, and be ready to share factual examples to support your answers.
  • Practice your interview with a friend. Practice answering and asking questions.
  • Pick out and try on the outfit you plan on wearing to the interview.
  • Make sure you know where you’re going. Give yourself plenty of time to drive to your destination, and double-check your directions via the company website, receptionist, and/or a city map.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume, your reference sheet, a pen and pad of paper. Carry these things in a briefcase or professional folder.
  • Bring a portfolio of items that document your abilities (i.e. writing samples, photos of you in action, relevant class projects, photos of past projects, letters of recommendation, etc.).

At the Interview

  • Eat something ahead of time. You should be doing the talking, not your stomach.
  • Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • Leave your cell phone in your car.
  • Be polite with everyone, including the receptionist.
  • Watch your wait. Magazines you select while waiting can reveal your personal preferences, information that may affect the hiring decision. Instead, quietly gather your thoughts, and review your answers.
  • Greet your interviewer(s) by name. Check with receptionist beforehand to make sure you know how to pronounce all names correctly.
  • Shake your interviewer’s hand firmly and smile.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Two-way traffic. The exchange should be a conversation. However, the interviewer is not your friend, so keep the interchange professional and watch what you divulge.
  • Communicate. Be clear about what you expect to gain if hired so that you can clearly articulate your goals and contributions to the company.
  • Listen carefully. If you feel the question is unclear, ask politely for clarification.
  • Pause before answering to consider all the facts that may substantiate your response.
  • Give and get attention by focusing on the interviewer’s needs and not your own.
    Back up your responses by also giving quantitative information. Give dates and examples to also support your points.
  • Be truthful, but try not to offer unsolicited information.
  • Try not to open yourself to areas of questioning that could pose difficulties for you.
  • Regardless of how things go, conclude with a sincere thank you, a firm handshake, and a gracious smile.

Types of Interviews

Panel Interview: a group of search committee members or future coworkers interview you.
Group/Team Interview: You are the member of a group of prospective employees who are interviewed all at the same time.
Behavioral/Situational Interviews: is a structured interview process that is commonly used for interviewing at many organizations. Candidates are asked to describe situations that they have experienced relative to the skill in question (like conflict or teamwork). All candidates are asked the same set of questions. When answering behavior/situational questions, it is important to give specific examples rather than a general answer. Use the SHARE model to frame your response:
S: Describe a specific situation
H: Identify hindrances or challenges
A: Explain the action that you took
R: Discuss the results or outcome
E: Evaluate or summarize what you learned
Practice answering behavioral/situational questions before the interview. Take time to think of a good example rather than giving the first response that comes to mind. Short silences are expected.
Phone Interview: These interviews are used by hiring managers as a tool for screening candidates for employment and determine which candidates to invite to interview in-person. They are also used at first and second round interviews by employers, in order to save in-person interview time and to reduce the applicant pool to the most qualified candidates for the job.

Interviewing Resources

For more information on practice interviews, sample interview questions, and sample answers to questions, visit job-interview.net.

Three top questions asked by employers

  1. Tell me something about yourself.
  2. Why do you want to work for this company?
  3. What is it about this job that interests you?

Other popular questions asked by employers

  1. What are your long range career objectives?
  2. What do you expect to be earning in five years?
  3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  4. How did you hear about the position?
  5. Which is more important to you, the money or the type of job?
  6. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  7. Would you work 40+ hours a week? Explain.
  8. Why should I hire you?
  9. What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
  10. When you have been told, or discovered for yourself, a problem in your job performance, what have you typically done? Can you give me an example?
  11. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
  12. Can you think of a problem you have encountered when the old solutions didn’t work and when you came up with new solutions?
  13. How do you work under pressure?
  14. The last time you did not know what decision to make, what did you do?
  15. In your present job, what approach do you take to get your people together to establish a common approach to a problem?
  16. What qualities should a successful manager possess?
  17. Have you ever quit a job? Why?
  18. When did you leave your last job and why?
  19. At your last job, how much of the work did you perform independently?
  20. What prevented you from advancing in your former positions?
  21. What do you expect to experience in this job that you did not experience in your past jobs?
  22. How do you feel about evening work? Weekend work? Carrying a pager? Being on call?
  23. What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
  24. What do you do in your spare time?
  25. What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
  26. Are you willing to relocate?
  27. Are you willing to travel?
  28. What factors did you consider in choosing your major?
  29. What is your GPA? Do you feel it reflects your true abilities?
  30. How has your schooling (Internship) prepared you for this position?
  31. If you had it to do over again, would you choose the same major? Why?
  32. What was your favorite course in college and why?
  33. How did your college experience change you?
  34. Do you intend to further your education?
  35. Why didn’t you participate in internship programs while in school?
  36. Why are you applying for a job unrelated to your internship programs while in school?
  37. Why are you applying for a job not related to your degree?
  38. In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
  39. Is there anything you would like to tell us about yourself that we may have overlooked?
  40. How long do you expect to work for us if we offer you the position?
  41. What do you expect for a salary?
  42. Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
  43. Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and those reporting to him or her.
  44. What computer experience do you have?
  45. Are you willing to spend at least six months as a trainee?
  46. What 2 or 3 things are most important to you in your job?
  47. How has your military experience prepared you for this position?
  48. Which skills did you learn in the military that will contribute the most to your effective performance in this job?
  49. What was the single most important lesson that you have learned in the military?
  50. What do you think will be your greatest adjustment in moving from the military to this position?
  51. What makes you think your management experience in the military will transfer over as experience in the civilian workforce?
  52. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
  53. Have you ever done any public or group speaking? Recently? Why? How did it go?
  54. What in your last review did your supervisor suggest needed improvement?
  55. How would you apply your education to this job? What would you do and what would you expect to result from it?
  56. Tell me about the best supervisor and worst supervisor you had.
  57. Let’s role play. I’m going to pretend to be a customer with (a specific crisis situation). Show me what you would do in this situation by role-playing.
  58. What kind of people do you find it most difficult to work with? Why?
  59. Do you consider your progress on the job representative of your ability? Why?
  60. What special aspects of your education or training have prepared you for this job?
  61. What things frustrate you the most? How do you usually cope with them?
  62. What kind of problems have people recently called on you to solve? Tell me what you have devised.
  63. What was your most difficult decision in the last six months? What made it difficult?
  64. Why are you leaving your present position?
  65. Why did you change jobs so frequently?
  66. In this job, you may be asked to work weekends and some holidays. Are you willing to do that?
  67. How would you describe your personality?
  68. What are your standards of success in your job?
  69. What specifically do you do to set an example for your employees?
  70. How do you get people who do not want to work together to establish a common approach to a problem?
  71. Have you made any individual presentations recently? How did you prepare?
  72. Assuming we make you an offer, what do you see as your future here?
  73. What are some things you would like to avoid in a job? Why?
  74. Final question: What question did you think we would ask you today and we didn’t? Can you give us the question and please answer it?

Informational interviewing is a great way to learn about a career field that interests you. You can gain a lot of insight and also develop valuable contacts that may help you in the future. Here’s what you do:

  • Find someone who does something that sounds interesting to you. You can use the yellow pages, internet search engines, company websites, friends, and professional organizations to identify possible contacts. Your counselor or career services coordinator can help you brainstorm. TIP: Professionals from smaller, lesser-known organizations generally receive fewer requests for information and may be more willing to help.
  • Contact the person you’d like to interview. Let them know that you are a Kirkwood student researching careers. Ask if they would be willing to help you out by letting you interview them about their career path. Let them know it will take 20-30 minutes. NOTE: Make sure it only takes 20-30 minutes.
  • Prepare a list of questions, guided by what you would like to learn from the interview (see sample list below).
  • Dress appropriately and arrive 10-15 minutes early. Bring a copy of your resume in case it is requested. Remember that your purpose is gathering information, not searching for a job.
  • Keep a record of the information you gained from the experience. Reflect upon what you learned. Does it still seem like something you’d enjoy? Also, keep a record of the contact information for each person you interview because you may need it in the future.
  • Send a thank you note! The person you interviewed is probably a very busy person and generously gave you a half hour of time, free of charge. Show your appreciation with a short thank you note.

Sample Questions for an Informational Interview

  1. Could you describe the career path you took to arrive in your current position?
  2. What is a typical day like for you? A typical week?
  3. What are your main responsibilities? How much time do you devote to each activity?
  4. What are some typical high pressure situations you deal with?
  5. What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
  6. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
  7. What would you most like to change about your position?
  8. How has this career field changed in the last several years?
  9. What changes do you foresee in the next few years?
  10. What character qualities/skills are important to have to be successful in this field? How can I obtain these skills/qualities?
  11. What educational experiences would be helpful to someone hoping to enter this field?
  12. What educational experiences did you find helpful in preparing for this job?
  13. What are some common entry-level positions in this field?
  14. How difficult would it be for you to change to a similar job in another industry or setting?
  15. What are your future career goals? Are these common goals for your field?
  16. What are the actual hours you put in during a given week?
  17. Would you be willing to look at my resume/portfolio and give me some tips or advice on how to improve it?
  18. Would you recommend anyone else in this field for me to talk to?

Attention to Detail

Please give me some examples of things you have done on previous jobs, which demonstrate your ability to pay attention to detail. Tell me what you did and what resulted from your actions?

Please give me an example of where you may have found an error in some aspect of work that others may have overlooked. What was the error, how did you find out, and what resulted from your actions?

How did you go about making the changes (step by step)? Answer in depth or detail such as "What were you thinking at that point?" or "Tell me more about meeting with that person," or "Lead me through your decision process."

Adaptability

Describe a major change that occurred in a job that you held. How did you adapt to this change? What resulted from your actions?

Tell us about a situation in which you had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it? What resulted from your actions?

What do you do when priorities change quickly? Give one example of when this happened. Explain in detail?

Ambition

Describe a project or idea that was implemented primarily because of your efforts. What was your role? What was the outcome?

Describe a time when you made a suggestion to improve the work in your organization. What resulted from your actions?

What is the most competitive work situation you have experienced? How did you handle it? What was the result?

Building Relationships

Give a specific example of a time when you had to address an angry customer. What was the problem and what was the outcome? How would you assess your role in diffusing the situation?

It is very important to build good relationships at work but sometimes it doesn't always work. If you can, tell about a time when you were not able to build a successful relationship with a difficult person.

Tell us about a time when you built rapport quickly with someone under difficult conditions.

What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients in guiding and maintaining successful business relationships? Give examples of how you made these work for you.

Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively "read" another person and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values.

How do you go about explaining a complex technical problem to a person who does not understand technical jargon? What approach do you take in communicating with people?

Initiative

Give me an example of when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done. Explain the situation and what resulted from your actions?

Give some instances in which you anticipated problems and were able to influence a new direction. Explain the situation in detail!

Integrity

Describe a time when you were asked to keep information confidential. Explain in detail of the situation!

Give examples of how you have acted with integrity in your job/work relationship. Explain in detail of the situation! What resulted from your actions?

If you can, tell about a time when your trustworthiness was challenged. How did you react/respond? What resulted from your actions?

On occasion we are confronted by dishonesty in the workplace. Tell about such an occurrence and how you handled it. What resulted from your actions?

Tell us about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem which challenged fairness or ethnical issues. What resulted from your actions?

Listening

Give an example of a time when you made a mistake because you did not listen well to what someone had to say. Explain the situation in detail! What resulted from your actions?

How often do you have to rely on information you have gathered from others when talking to them? Explain the situation in detail! What resulted from your actions?

Teamwork

Please give me some examples of where you have demonstrated the ability to be an effective member of a team. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Please give me an example of where you have made any team, which you were a member of more effective. Tell me what you did and how the team and the organization benefited from your actions.

Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or help others to compromise. What was your role? What steps did you take? What was the end result?

Some people work best as part of a group - others prefer the role of individual contributor. How would you describe yourself? Give an example of a situation where you felt you were most effective.

Tell us about the most difficult challenge you faced in trying to work cooperatively with someone who did not share the same ideas? What was your role in achieving the work objective? What steps did you take? What was the end result?

Quality of Work

Please give me some examples of things you have done which demonstrate the quality of the work you do. What did you do and how did your organization benefit from your actions?

Please give me some examples of your accomplishments, which would demonstrate your ability to perform this job. What did you do and how did it benefit your organization?

Please give me an example of why your previous organization was better off by you working there. What did you do and how did the organization benefit?

Application of Education

Please give me some examples of how you have applied your education to previous jobs. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

How would you apply your education to this job? What would you do and what results would you expect?

Personal Development

Please give me your most recent example of something you did to improve your job performance. What did you do, why did you do it, and what resulted from it?

Please give me an example of where you failed (or received some very negative feedback) in some aspect of your job performance. What did you do to try to correct this failure and what resulted from your actions?

Resolving Conflict Effectively

Please give me an example of where you had a conflict with a peer. What was it over and how did you handle it? What resulted from it? Would you handle it in a different manner now? Why?

Please give me an example of where you had a conflict with a customer. What was it over and how did you handle it? What resulted from it? Would you handle it in a different manner now? Why?

Describe a time in which you were faced with problems or stresses which tested your coping skills. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Give an example of when you "went to the source" to address a conflict. Do you feel trust levels were improved as a result? What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Sales Ability

Please give me some examples of how you generated new business from a client. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Describe a major sale you lost. Why did you think you lost it and what did you do differently as a result of that experience?

Describe your most creative sale. How did you create that sale and describe how you’d be creative in selling our products?

Describe your most difficult client. What did you do to maintain that client?

Give me some examples of where you have been able to anticipate complaints/problems and correct them before they became an issue. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Managing People

Have you ever had a difficult subordinate? If yes, tell me how you dealt with him/her and what resulted from your actions. If no, tell me what you would do and what you would expect to happen from your actions.

Give me some examples of things you have done which demonstrate your ability to manage people effectively. What did you do and how did the organization benefit from your actions?

Please give me some examples of things you have done to obtain maximum performance from your subordinates. What did you do and what resulted from your actions? How would you apply those techniques in this job?

Give an example of a time when you helped a staff member accept change and make the necessary adjustments to move forward. What were the change/transition skills that you used? Explain in detail!

Tell us about a specific development plan that you created and carried out with one or more of your employees. What was the specific situation? What were the components of the development plan? What was the outcome?

Managing Costs

Please give me some examples of things you have done which demonstrate your ability to manage a budget effectively and would demonstrate your ability to perform this job.

Please give me some examples of how you have demonstrated the ability to control costs and still achieve organizational objectives.

Motivation

Please give me some examples of things you have done which demonstrate your level of motivation. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Please give me some examples of where you took extraordinary efforts to achieve a deadline. What did you do and what resulted from it?

Response to Deadlines

Give me some examples of things you have done in the past which demonstrate your ability to respond to tight deadlines. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Please give me some examples of things you have done which demonstrate your ability to handle multiple priorities. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Creativity

Please give me some examples of things you have done on previous jobs, which demonstrate your creativity on the job. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Stress Management

How did you react when faced with constant time pressure? Give an example in detail! What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

People react differently when job demands are constantly changing; how do you react? Give an example in detail! What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Organization

Please describe some things you have done on previous jobs or in school that would demonstrate your organizational skills. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Describe a recent project you were in charge of. Indicate how you organized that project and the impact of your organization on the outcome of the project.

How do you schedule your time? Set priorities? How do you handle doing twenty things at once? Explain the situation in detail!

What do you do when your time schedule or project plan is upset by unforeseen circumstances? Give an example in detail. What did you do and what resulted from your actions?

Mesh with Corporate Culture/Job

When you’ve held previous jobs, how did you determine what were the appropriate and inappropriate things to do? Cite some specific examples.

Give a realistic job preview then ask the following question – Please give me specific examples of things you have done on previous jobs or in your education, which would demonstrate that you would perform effectively and enjoy this position.

Common Closing Question

Is there any question I didn’t ask, that you wish I had asked? (Use this time to mention anything you want to add that would demonstrate your ability to perform the job.)

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your interview process? Is there just this one interview here today? Do strong candidates go on to a second or third interview?
  2. You’ve heard all about me, would you mind telling me a little about yourself?
  3. Describe what my responsibilities would be on this job?
  4. Is this a newly created job? If yes, what results are you hoping to see? If not, what is the last person who held this job doing now? If resign, why? If promoted, what contributed to his/her advancement?
  5. What do you consider to be the most difficult task on this job?
  6. How would I be trained for this position?
  7. What are the strengths of the department and what do you see for improvements in the department?
  8. Upon what criteria are employees in this department evaluated?
  9. What types of people succeed in your organization?
  10. What did you like most about the person who previously held this position?
  11. How will I get feedback on my job performance?
  12. Does your company believe in and support continuing education?
  13. What is your company’s policy on providing seminars, workshops and training so employees can develop their skills?
  14. What particular computer equipment and software do you use here? When was your last upgrade?
  15. Are your sales up or down over last year?
  16. Why do you enjoy working here?
  17. If you were to offer me the position, where could I expect to be five years from today?
  18. What are the department goals for the year?
  19. Could you describe your style of supervision?
  20. What is the company’s management style?
  21. What are the opportunities for advancement within this organization?
  22. (Formulate questions that show you've done your research. For example:) I've noticed your stock has increased by five percent in the last quarter. To what do you attribute this success?
  23. Do you think I'll find this job to be challenging and stimulating?
  24. I want this position! Could I have a 30 day trial period to prove myself?
  25. What is a realistic time frame for advancement?
  26. How much travel is expected?
  27. Is relocation a possibility?
  28. How has your career progressed here? Are similar opportunities available today?
  29. Can you describe what a work week is like as a (fill in position you’re seeking) here?
  30. What is the length and structure of the training program?
  31. Does the position offer exposure to other facets of your organization?
  32. What other positions and/or departments will I interact with most?
  33. To whom does this position report?
  34. Are there any restraints or cutbacks planned that would decrease the budget here?
  35. What’s the makeup of the team as far as experience? Am I going to be a mentor or will I be mentored?
  36. What does this company value the most and how do you think my work for you will further these values?
  37. What kinds of processes are in place to help me work collaboratively?
  38. What can I bring to Company XYZ to round out the team?
  39. What’s the most important thing I can do to help within the first 90 days of my employment?
  40. Do you have any questions or concerns about my ability to perform this job?
  41. When top performers leave the company why do they leave and where do they usually go?
  42. What do you see in me? What are my strongest assets and possible weakness? Do you have any concerns that I need to clear up in order to be the top candidate?
  43. Could you describe to me your typical management style and the type of employee that works well with you?
  44. What are some examples of the achievements of others who have been in this position?
  45. How many people have held this job in the last five years? Where are they now?
  46. If this position is offered to me, why should I accept it?
  47. Where are your major concerns that need to be immediately addressed in this job?
  48. What do you see in my personality, work history or skill set that attracts you to me?
  49. How soon do you expect to make a decision?
  50. If I am offered the position, how soon will you need my response?
  51. May I see an organizational chart?
  52. What can you tell me about your new product or plans for growth?
  53. What is this company’s culture? (Ex: Is it rigid and formal or relaxed and flexible?)
  54. Describe the work environment?
  55. How much decision making authority is given to new employees?
  56. What makes your organization different from its competitors?
  57. Are there any other questions I can answer for you?
  58. When can I start?
  59. What is the next step that I need to do to be a part of your team?
  60. Have I said anything to lead you to believe that I would not be the best person for the job? 

A mock interview is a great way to practice your interviewing skills! Call the Dean of Students office at 319-398-5540 to schedule an individual appointment for a mock interview.


We would love to meet with you!

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Career Services
2092 Cedar Hall
319-398-5540
careerservices@kirkwood.edu