Career Engagement

You have worked hard during your college career by focusing on your studies, internships, student teaching, and other activities. You have developed a great résumé that cleanly summarizes your accomplishments and delivers a clear message about you to your potential employers.

As a result, you have an interview!

Interview Process

What is an interview?

A job interview is a two-way exchange of information. It provides a way to learn more about the organization and the position, and to sell yourself to the interviewee. It provides the interviewer a means to learn about what you have to offer. In other words, they are assessing you as a potential employee and you are assessing them as a potential employer.

Interview Stages

Interviewing is often a multistage process consisting of one or more screening interviews and decision interviews. All stages of the process are equally important because you can be cut at any point.

Screening Interview: The purpose of a screening interview it to verify facts stated on the résumé and to screen out inappropriate/unqualified applicants. Screening interviews often occur via telephone, at career fairs, and on campus. These interviews are often conducted by recruiters or other human resources representatives.

Decision Interviews: The decision interview is conducted by the hiring manager; that is, the person with the authority to make the hiring decision. This person is trying to determine whether you possess the qualifications, characteristics, and skills to do the job, and how well you will fit into the organization.

Interview Structure

There is no single format or interview structure. Therefore, when an organization invites you to interview, you should gather as much information as possible about the interview structure. For example:

  • Will you have a one-on-one or a group interview?
  • If a team interview, how many people are in the group?
  • What is the name and title of your interviewer?
  • Is it an in-person, telephone, or video interview?
  • What is the address?
  • Once on-site, how do you reach the interview room or building?
  • What is the name and title of your interviewer(s)?

You should also be prepared for different interview climates. Your interviewer may or may not engage you in casual conversation before the interview. Some organizations are more formal while others are relaxed. Also, be prepared to greet other interviewers as they arrive.


Preparation speaks volumes about your interest level in an organization and your work ethic. You cannot over-prepare. Preparation:

  • makes you more confident,
  • helps you to speak intelligently about yourself, the position, and the organization,
  • reduces the variables that can go wrong, like arriving late to an interview, and
  • increases your knowledge of the interview process, and, as a result, reduces “fear of the unknown.”

Positive First Impressions

With a quick glance, maybe three seconds, most people make an evaluation of you based on your appearance, body language, demeanor, mannerisms, and how you are dressed. That first impression is hard to change, so make the most of an opportunity to impress. Although much of what you need to do to make a good impression is common sense, with a little extra thought and preparation, you can make a good first impression a great first impression.

  • Be early.
  • Smile.
  • Dress (and groom) for success.
  • Practice and use a firm handshake.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • If you’re a coffee drinker or smoker, use a breath mint a few minutes before your interview.
  • Be courteous and attentive. This includes turning off your mobile devices.

Before the Interview

  • Research the organization.
  • Know yourself (hobbies, interests, talents, abilities, goals, past experiences).
  • Practice.
  • Develop upbeat and positive responses to common questions.
  • Select your interview apparel. Play it safe and conservative and dress for success.
  • Prepare copies of your résumé for the interviewer(s).
  • Map out where you’re going and do a practice run to the site so you know how long it takes to get there.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early to give youself time to relax and review your résumé and key points you want to convey about yourself.
  • Turn off your cell phone, PDA alarms, watch alarms, etc.

During the Interview

  • Speak clearly and have a firm and confident handshake.
  • Prepare three or four points you want to get across. Think about what you want them to know and remember about you after the interview.
  • Link yourself and your background to the position.
  • Develop several short stories that emphasize your skills.
  • Be positive, enthusiasm counts. End “negative” stories or experiences on a positive note.
  • Be your self. Don’t be something you’re not, but be the best of what you are.
  • Be sure you communicate proactively. It’s not the interviewer’s job to drag information out of you.
  • Develop two-three questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Even if you are not offered the opportunity, be assertive and ask them. Remember, you are assessing them also.
  • Ask about current issues, current events, etc., as they apply to the industry or position.
  • Ask about potential career paths.

After the Interview

  • Send a thank you letter or e-mail within 24 hours.

Telephone and Webcam Interviews

Many employers conduct interviews via telephone or webcam and the trend is expected to increase in the future. Electronic interviewing saves the employer time and expense as well as permits them to assess your preparation and attention to detail.

Don’t overlook the fact that this is a professional activity and you are being critiqued just as you would be during an in-person interview. Be prepared by using these tips:


  • Check your telephone, computer, or webcam. Ensure that you have good reception and your equipment is up to the task. It is best to avoid using your smartphone for video interviews. A shaky camera is likely to turn off your interviewer.
  • Find a quiet place. Sit at a desk or table and not in a common area if you have roommates.
  • Do not use the speaker function on your phone. You are completely depending on your ability to hear and be heard.
  • Check your appearance. Look at yourself on screen to determine how you can present the best first impression. Dress and groom professionally and conservatively. Avoid bright whites, loud colors, busy patterns, and small stripes. They can be unpleasing and distracting on camera. Dress up even for telephone interviews; it puts you in a more professional frame of mind.
  • Set YOUR stage. Take down questionable photos, posters, and paintings, beer bottles, etc. from the background. Eliminate extraneous noise and the possibility of distractions by locking doors, turning off electronic equipment, and keeping pets and humans away from your interview space.
  • Have your materials within reach including your résumé, job description, printed company research, etc.

During the Interview

  • Do not smoke, chew gum, or pop open a soda during the interview. They can hear and see everything!
  • Demonstrate that you are listening carefully. Listen and speak clearly and slowly. If you didn’t understand or hear something, ask for clarification. When you respond, remember on a telephone call your voice is doing ALL the work so pay attention to sounding enthusiastic. Put a smile in your voice!
  • Don’t ramble during pauses in telephone interviews. The interviewer is probably writing notes, so there may be a moment or two of silence after you have completed your response. If you have answered the question completely, simply sit quietly and wait for the next question. If you are not sure whether you have answered the question completely or that you have lost the connection, ask! “Have I answered your question?”
  • Acknowledge that you are listening. When you are listening to a detailed response from the interviewer (such as an overview of the company or the interviewing process), acknowledge that you are listening verbal cues such as, “Yes”, “That’s interesting”, “I understand” etc. This lets them know you are still on the line and actively engaged.
  • Have some tissues handy. If you have a cold or you sneeze, you’ll want to have a tissue close by!
  • Send a timely thank you note or e-mail. You will impress the interviewer by following through quickly and thoroughly. You would be surprised how many interviewees fail this simple task.

Interview Types and Questions to Ask

Preparation is the key to a successful interview. To be well-prepared, it is important to know the kinds of questions interviewers ask, anticipate possible questions, and craft thoughtful responses. Then, practice speaking the responses aloud to lower anxiety and build confidence ensuring a positive interviewing experience.

What They’re Looking For

Keep in mind what most employers are looking for and craft your responses to demonstrate:

  • Communication skills.
  • Problem-solving skills. A logical path to an answer, key variables, reasonable assumptions, and conclusions.
  • Quantitative ability. Try to quantify our responses at every opportunity.
  • Business/industry knowledge. Knowledge of basic vocabulary needed for the job and industry.
  • Common sense.
  • Good work ethic.
  • Ability to work productively with colleagues.

Traditional Interview

With traditional interviews, you need to answer broad-based questions in a very specific, personalized way. The interviewer’s goal is to identify your skills, experience and enthusiasm for the job. The interviewer closely follows your résumé structure. He or she will probe you about the experience, education, and achievements listed.

Examples: “Tell me about yourself,” ”What prepared you for this position?” or “Why would you like to work here?”
Response: These questions are straightforward and relatively easy to answer. However, keep the position requirements in mind when responding. For example, if you are seeking a teaching position, the response to “Tell me about yourself.” should focus on those experiences that led to your decision to pursue teaching as a career.

Behavioral Based Interviews

Behavioral based interviews focus on your experiences and how you acted in these experiences. Behavioral interview questions prompt candidates to describe a past experience or situation, demonstrating how he/she handled the situation. Past experiences are generally a good indicator for how he/she would handle it again.

Examples: “Give me an example of your greatest student teaching challenge.” or “Tell me about a time when your work was criticized.”
Response: Answers should include an example that demonstrates ability. The following STAR framework is an effective way to structure a response in a logical and specific manner.

Situation: What was the situation?

Task: What was the task?

Action: What action did you take?

Result: What was the result of the action?

Using this method, the candidate tells a story giving explicit, concrete examples of the particular situation or task, describing their actions and then the results of those actions. The best way to prepare for this type of question is to recall situations that demonstrate favorable performance concerning projects, work experience, teamwork or past problems that have been overcome.

Case Based Interviews

Case based interviews focus on your analytical and critical thinking abilities. You are introduced to a dilemma. You are asked to analyze the situation, identify key issues, and discuss how you would address the problems involved.

Example: “A parent is angry at the grade you gave his or her child, what would you do?”
Response: Effective responses include a careful analysis of the situation and generating a solution. To prepare, consider the prospective position responsibilities and predict situations or problems that might occur, and then effective ways to address them.

Sample Questions

You can prepare for an interview by reviewing these sample interview questions. Also, be prepared to ask intelligent questions that will show your interest and knowledge about the company or organization. Asking well thought out and researched questions may help to set you apart from the other candidates.

Not sure how to respond to these interview questions? Visit the Career Services Office in SZB 216 or e-mail for assistance.

Questions to Ask

The interview is designed to be a two-way conversation. The candidates need information on the organization, position, work environment, promotional opportunities, and compensation/benefits. Interviewee can obtain some of that information from the website or job description; however, the most direct source is to ask questions in the interview.

Organization/Company/School District

  1. How would you describe the company’s management style?
  2. What are the major issues this organization and industry face presently and in the next three to five years?
  3. In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
  4. How has the organization changed in the past five to ten years?
  5. How is the organization structured in terms of divisions, departments, etc?
  6. What do you enjoy about working for this company?
  7. What is your company culture like? How would you compare it with the culture of your competitors?


  1. What are the key characteristics, strengths, skills, or traits that you are looking for in a candidate?
  2. To whom does this position report?
  3. What is your time frame for this position? If I were offered a position, when would I start?
  4. Is travel involved in the job? If so, how much?
  5. Would budget cuts affect this position?
  6. Is this job the result of increased expansion or new growth?
  7. What kind of assignments might I expect the first six months on the job?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  1. What are the company’s values and ethics?
  2. How important is diversity to you, and what value does it bring to the workplace?
  3. What are you doing to make sure everyone feels included?
  4. Do your employees participate in diversity training, such as unconscious bias training?
  5. Does the company have any programs in place to support diversity, equity, and inclusion? If not, are you planning to in the future?

Education and Training

  1. Does your company encourage continued education such as advanced degrees?
  2. What kind of training program does the organization have? How long is the training process?
  3. What additional training might be needed for this position?
  4. What type of professional development programs are in place at your company?
  5. How does the company help the employees achieve their maximum potential?

Evaluation/Assessment of Performance

  1. How often are performance reviews given?
  2. What are your expectations for new hires?
  3. What criteria will be used to evaluate my performance? How will the review be conducted and by whom?
  4. How are employees recognized or rewarded for superior performance?
  5. What are the opportunities for advancement?