During the Interview
A typical interview will progress through the following steps:
The first impression is very important. Be ready to make eye contact, offer a firm hand-shake and call the interviewer by name (using Mr. or Ms.)
The interviewer may attempt to relax the candidate by making small talk and establishing rapport. You might comment on some things in their office (trophy, painting, etc.) or perhaps the building or office space.
One of the most common interview questions is along the lines of "Tell me about yourself." A good way to approach this question is to talk about your present, your past and your future, as it relates to the position for which you are interviewing.
- Present: Where are you now? School, location, graduation date, degree, majors/minors, internships/jobs.
- Past: Where have you been? Work, internships, leadership experience, volunteer activities, study abroad.
- Future: Where are you going? How can you be of assistance to their organization?
Career Interests and Goals
You will almost certainly be asked to explain your interest in the position, organization and career field. In addition, you may be asked to articulate your short and long-term goals. This is where your preparation will help you display well-designed, mature and realistic career plans. If your career goals are inconsistent with the organization's needs and interests, you will most likely be screened out.
To determine your qualifications, an employer will be looking for tangible results or achievements in work experiences, academic endeavors, community activities and leadership positions. Be prepared to give specific examples using positive action verbs emphasizing your accomplishments.
"What if" Situations
The interviewer might pose a hypothetical situation and ask you to role play your response to the problem. While it is difficult to plan for every possible situation, you can be prepared for this type of question and accept it as a challenge rather than displaying panic and uncertainty.
You may be asked what you know about the organization. Therefore, once again, researching the organization prior to your interview is extremely important. The interviewer will probably spend some time talking about the position and the organization. If you find yourself with a recruiter who talks continually, you will need to find a way to politely interject your own comments and highlight your interest in the position.
Most experienced interviewers allow time for your questions and you should have some prepared ahead of time. The interviewer does not want to answer questions that are covered on the organization's website, so be certain you have reviewed it carefully. Also, it is generally inappropriate to ask about benefits and salary during the screening interview, since you want to appear interested in the work itself, rather than the compensation and benefits package. See page 65 for sample questions.
Questions involving religion, age, sex, marital status, credit rating, political affiliation, birthplace, national origin and sexual orientation are unethical to ask during an interview. If you are asked a question that you think is illegal, you have the right to refuse to answer or you may decide to answer the question, despite your unease. Either choice is acceptable and there is no right way to answer an unethical question.
Although the interviewer should take the initiative to end the discussion, you should watch for clues that indicate the interview is over. If the interviewer does not tell you what the next step in the process will be, ASK. Finally, reaffirm your interest in the position and organization and reiterate your qualifications for the job. Make a strong summary statement that repeats your interest and strengths. Thank the interviewer for his/her time.