In order to prepare for an interview, you need to understand the basic guidelines for a successful interview, research the organization, dress professionally, review sample questions and understand how to answer interview questions.
The goal of an interview is to prove to an employer that you are the best-qualified person for the position, so you need to market your experiences, skills, education, and qualities to the interviewer to show, to your fullest potential, what you can offer that employer.
For a comprehensive guide to interviewing tips, please review Steps to Acing an Interview. Additionally, check out these valuable resources:
- Ready Prep Interview
- The Interview (CareerSpots Video)
- The Successful Interview: Preparation and Practice Make Perfect (NACE)
- Top 10 Interview Mistakes (CareerSpots Video)
Researching the company for which you are interviewing is a necessary step in the interview preparation process. Review the company website, business units, annual report, product/client lists, and other resources to have a solid understanding of the organization. Also, read the job description to comprehend, as much as possible, the tasks and qualifications of the position.
For tips on researching companies, review these CareerSpots videos:
For additional interview research, visit these sites:
- Company’s website
- Useful Links (scroll down to Research section)
- Professional Organizations
- Alumni Website, LinkedIn and Facebook to get inside information from your network
- Business Week
- Hoovers Online
Dressing for Interview Success
Professional dress is always expected for an interview. For dress information, please select one or more of the following links:
- Business Casual (CareerSpots video)
- Dress for Success: Interview and Business Attire
- Dress for Success Infographic (NACE)
Sample Interview Questions
In addition to researching the organization and understanding the interview process, you should be prepared to answer a variety of questions. For a comprehensive list of questions, select the following links:
- General Interview Questions
- Engineering Interview Questions
- Flight Interview Questions
- Experienced Candidate Interview Questions
As an in-depth preparation tool, please review the below sample questions with helpful hints on how to approach the question.
Question: Tell me about yourself.
- Brief introduction: Begin by introducing yourself to the employer with some basic facts about your background such as your major, school attended, area of concentration/minor(s) and/or areas of interest in your field
- Major accomplishments: think back to experiences you have that you are proud of such as your GPA, campus involvement, research experiences, work experience, and/or leadership experiences
- Demonstrated strengths
- Importance of strengths to prospective employer
- Try to focus your introduction to highlight what qualifies you for the position; focus on your skills, educational background and experiences.
- Take advantage of this opportunity to set the tone for the interview and briefly highlight why you are qualified for the opening.
- Go into too much detail – this is a quick overview of your qualifications; you will have more time to discuss the details later in your interview.
- Make it too personal; this is not a time to share family history, personal or medical problems, etc.
Question: What are your long-term career goals?
Employers want to see that you are focused and have career goals. You don’t have to know exactly what you plan on doing in five years, but give them an overall idea of where you see yourself to provide them with an insight into whether you can set goals and understand your industry/field and, even further, whether you’re a good match for the company.
Question: What do you believe is your greatest strength?
With this question, an employer wants to see whether you know yourself enough to know what you are bringing to the table. Review the job description and do research on the company to learn what type of work you are applying for and then think back to some of your strengths. Pick the strength you think most effectively shows why you are a great candidate. Don’t forget to provide an example to back up your strength.
Question: What do you believe is your greatest weakness?
Employers want to see that you can honestly assess your skills and acknowledge the areas on which you need to work. However, pick an area that you are working to improve and be ready to discuss how exactly you are doing that. Keep in mind that you should pick a weakness that will not cast you in too much of a negative light; instead, select one that you struggle with yet work to overcome.
Question: Tell me about a time you were the leader of a project.
Here is an opportunity to not only share an example where you led a team, but you can also provide insight into something related to your field. For example, you can mention a time you led a school project in a course related to your field. This action will help you showcase both your leadership and technical skills. You may also discuss a leadership opportunity outside of school, just be sure to provide an example to demonstrate how you lead groups (your specific actions should be highlighted).
Question: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.
This question gives the employer an insight into what types of challenges you are willing to take and what you do in order to meet them. Be sure to provide a full story not only detailing what the achievement is but what types of obstacles you encountered and how you overcame them.
Question: Tell me about your ability to set goals.
Take this opportunity to show an employer that you can set goals and achieve them. Provide a story to show what actions you took to achieve a particular goal.
Question: Provide an example of a time when you helped resolve conflict in a group.
This question is a great time to demonstrate your conflict resolution skills. Be sure to discuss the specific steps you took to help solve the conflict. Tip: avoid speaking negatively about others when you provide this example as it can project negatively on you.
Question: Tell me about a time you failed at something.
With this question, keep in mind that employers don’t necessarily want to hear about the negative aspects of the story but ultimately want to see how you can overcome failure. Provide an example of something you weren’t able to achieve, complete, etc., but also discuss what you learned from it or how you would handle the situation if you had to do it again.
Question: What is your GPA? Does your GPA reflect your ability?
Be honest and provide your current GPA, not your expected GPA. Then be able to explain whether you think it is a fair assessment of your abilities or not. Be able to take ownership of your GPA and do not make too many excuses. For low GPAs, you want to highlight the positive parts of your academic career.
Question: Why do you want to work for us?
This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the research you have conducted about the company. Tie it in with your skills, and this will help you show how you can contribute to the company.
Question: What motivates you?
Your answer to this question will give employers information about what drives you and will allow them to assess whether or not they think you would succeed in their company. In addition, hiring managers use this information to gauge the type of employee you will be and if you will have the drive to succeed at their job.
Question: Why should we hire you?
This is the time for your final sales pitch. You can either re-emphasize your strengths as they relate to the position, or you can take the opportunity to add any additional details you did not get to discuss during the interview that you feel are important to the job. Be positive and confident during this part. If you are not asked a similar question or are not asked if you have anything else to share, you can approach the question in the same manner – summarize your strengths and let them know why you will succeed if given the opportunity.
Be prepared to answer questions in a variety of areas including:
- Decision Making and Problem Solving
- Dealing with Ambiguity
- Career Ambition
- Learning on the Fly
- Team Work
- Interpersonal Skills
- Planning and Organization
- Time Management
- Technical Skills
- Customer Focus
- Conflict Resolution
Questions to Ask During the Interview
Asking questions during or at the end of an interview is equally as important as answering an interviewer’s inquires. You can ask questions throughout the interview to show your interest and understanding of the company/position, and you will more than likely be offered a time, towards the end of an interview, to ask questions. To best prepare for this part of the interview, consider what questions you may want to pose to an interviewer. Questions can cover topics about the position, tasks, company, employer’s expectations of the candidate, future growth, and other areas. It is best, though, to avoid overly self-focused questions about benefits or salary. In addition, avoid asking questions that are easily found on the company website or were answered during the interview.
Entry-level or Co-op/Internship Sample Questions to Ask
- Are there any specific skills you are looking for in the candidate you select for this opportunity?
- What does an average day as a (insert position title here) look like?
- What would I expect to learn in the first 30/60/90 days in the role?
- What type of projects or activities have previous interns worked on?
- Do you have an idea of when you will be making your selections for this opportunity?
- I am really interested/excited about this opportunity with (insert company name). What is the next step from here?
Additional Sample Questions to Ask
- Are graduate degrees important to advancing within your company?
- Are there opportunities for ongoing training through your company?
- Could you describe to me your management style and the type of employee that works well with you?
- Why do you enjoy working with this company?
- Does your company have plans for expansion?
- How has the economy affected your company’s progress?
- How is your company structured?
- How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom?
- How would you describe the working environment within your company?
- What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses compared to its competition?
- What do you feel are the future trends in the industry?
- What qualities are you looking for in a productive employee?
- Where do you see this company in five years? 10 years?