This section contains:
- 10 Tips for Interviewing
- Interview Styles
- Interview Questions
- Asking the Interviewer Questions
- Behaviors to Avoid
- Ending an Interview
- Follow-Up with a Thank-You Note
- Multiple Interviews
A good resume will get you in the door with an employer, but it is the interview that determines whether or not you actually get the job. The interview is your opportunity to convince an employer that you are the best candidate for the position – better than any of the countless other candidates being considered. To stand out, you must communicate to the employer that you have the specific skills and qualities that he or she is seeking. In order to accomplish this, you must be well prepared. Researching the company, preparing your responses to commonly asked questions, and familiarizing yourself with the job description are essential to make your interview successful. In this section, you will learn more about the interviewing process, the different types of interviews, the questions you may be asked, the proper way to behave during an interview, and how you can most effectively convey to your prospective employer how your many talents, strengths, and qualities can benefit his or her organization.
The following 10 tips will give you an overview of what you should do while preparing for an interview, during the interview, and after an interview is over.
- Research the Company: Make a determined effort to secure information about the company before your interview. Simply stated, be knowledgeable about the company when interviewing for a job. This could mean going to the company’s website, researching the company in the Career Services Library in Hagerty Library, or even doing a Google search to find recent articles or press releases about your potential employer. Many employers will ask you specific questions about their company or generally ask you to share what you know about the organization. Your ability to answer these questions will demonstrate your level of interest in the company and the effort that you put into preparing for the interview. Also, be sure to review some of the current industry resources available and be familiar enough with the material to be able to discuss the latest industry issues or trends with your interviewer.
- Prepare Your Responses: Prepare responses to frequently asked interview questions and participate in a mock interview to practice answering those questions. The SCDC offers interview workshops on a regular basis, and you can also schedule a mock interview with your coordinator. The more you practice, the more articulate and convincing your responses will be during the interview. Being well prepared will also alleviate some of the uneasiness you may feel going into an interview. You must also familiarize yourself with the job description so that you know what specific skills the employer is looking for in a candidate. Be sure to prepare responses which clearly illustrate that you possess these required skills. In other words, match your skills to the employer's needs, thus convincing him or her that you are the perfect fit for the job.
- Dress for Success: Put thought into selecting your interview wardrobe. If you want to convince the employer that you are a mature and responsible professional, then you must look the part. Your clothing should be neat, clean and conservative. A dark-colored suit is preferred for both men and women. If you do not own a suit, there are other acceptable alternatives. Men can wear a sport jacket, tie, and neatly pressed slacks. Women can wear a skirt with a blazer, sweater or blouse, but should avoid choosing anything clingy or revealing. Both men and women should stay away from excessive jewelry, cologne/perfume, or make-up. Some students resist this conservative style of dress because they prefer to express their individual style in order to set themselves apart from other candidates. These students should be reminded, however, that it is their skills and qualifications that will most effectively enable them to stand out, not their attire. If an interviewer is distracted by a candidate's unconventional hairstyle, wild tie, or short skirt, it is likely to draw attention away from what counts - the student's qualifications. As a result, it is usually best to err on the side of being conservative. If you are unsure whether the above guidelines apply to your specific major/industry, talk to your co-op coordinator. He or she will be able to counsel you regarding appropriate interview attire in your field. Please see the Dressed for Success section for more information.
- What to Bring: Bring along 5-7 copies of your resume and your reference page printed on good quality paper, a notepad and pen to take notes, and a portfolio of your work (if necessary in your industry). Remember that everything you are wearing makes an impression— carrying these items in a briefcase or a portfolio is much more professional than a backpack. For women, bringing a purse is generally acceptable, provided that it is conservative and plain. A briefcase can be a good choice to carry your resume and other documents, and most can fit personal items as well, negating the need to carry a separate purse. If you choose to bring a cell phone, iPod or any other electronic devices with you, be sure that they are turned off and stored in your briefcase or purse for the duration of the interview.
- Arrive Early: If you have any questions about where the interview site is located, request a map or written set of directions from the company. Leave for your interview earlier than you think you need to, and be sure to have the company’s telephone number on hand in case you get lost. It is recommended that you arrive 15 minutes before your interview; if you arrive too early the employer may feel pressured to begin the interview before he or she is ready. On the other hand, arriving late (even by a few minutes) will make you appear unreliable and irresponsible, qualities that are very undesirable in an employee.
- Meeting Interviewer(s): Relax and remain confident and professional. Remember to smile and be friendly, even if you are nervous. You may be interviewed by several company employees, so be prepared. Firmly shake hands and thank the interviewer(s) for the opportunity that they are providing. Be certain you get the names of all of your interviewers and refer to them during the interview by name. Express 100% interest in the position for which you are applying. Employers want to hire candidates who are enthusiastic about the position and company, so be sure to convey that you are eager to be a member of their team.
- Maintain Appropriate Body Language: The way you present yourself physically in an interview can convey a lot about you. Make sure you maintain eye contact with members of the interviewing team. Eye contact conveys honesty and confidence so be careful not to stare into your lap or around the room. Also be aware of your posture. Sit straight in the chair with your hands on your lap or in another comfortable position. Be relaxed and avoid nervous behaviors (finger tapping, leg shaking, fidgeting, excessive hand gestures, etc.). One goal of interviewing is to convey confidence, and maintaining appropriate body language can help you accomplish that goal.
- Understand the Question and Organize Your Thoughts: If you are not sure you heard the question properly or you are not sure of the question’s intent, ask for further explanation and clarification. Before answering a question, organize your thoughts and formulate your response in sequential order. A few seconds of deliberate thought is much better than 10 minutes of rambling. Choose your words carefully and use proper grammar. Avoid “um,” “ya know,” “well,” “like,” and other words that indicate nervousness, uncertainty, and a lack of professionalism. Also keep in mind that you must always support your claims with concrete examples from your experience. For instance, if you want to convey that you are a team player, prove it by sharing an anecdote about a specific time when you demonstrated your ability to work well with others. Practicing speaking your answers to frequently asked interview questions prior to your interview will help you to successfully answer questions and make a great impression.
- Be Positive: Always speak positively about your previous experiences. Complaining about prior jobs, employers, classmates, professors, etc. can make you appear to have a bad attitude. If you talk excessively about negative experiences, the employer will begin to wonder how much you contributed to these problems and whether you will create similar issues in their workplace. Occasionally, employers will ask you questions deliberately designed to elicit a negative response ("Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone," "Describe your worst job," "What is your greatest weakness"). In these situations you must be honest and answer the question, but do not harp on the negative. Instead briefly describe the issue or problem, then focus on how you resolved the situation. This will enable you to showcase your problem solving skills and your ability to resolve conflict -- skills which any employer will find desirable. Remember to choose your words carefully and use neutral language. Stating that a group project was “challenging” is better than saying it was “horrible.”
- Say “Thank You:” When the interview is complete, make sure you thank your interviewers and express your appreciation for their time. Let them know that you will be looking forward to hearing from them. Ask for a business card from each interviewer so that you have the correct contact information. Within the next twenty-four hours, follow up with thank-you letters to each of your interviewers.
Every employer has a preferred style of obtaining the information they need for their hiring decision. These are some basic types of interview styles you may encounter. Some employers may choose to utilize a combination of different styles, so be prepared for anything.
An interviewer who has a more structured style will usually begin with what is known as an “icebreaker” question. The icebreaker is used to relax you before the more serious questions are asked. A discussion about the weather might be used or perhaps a question about the traffic on your way to the office.
Next, the interviewer may talk for a few minutes about the company and the position. During this time, the interviewer may describe the day-to-day work responsibilities and the general company philosophy. He or she may then ask you a series of questions regarding your past educational, co-curricular, and work experiences.
Finally, the interviewer may ask if you have questions for him or her. You should always have several questions prepared. This type of interview is structured and formal.
The unstructured interview is what the name implies. The only structure to the interview is the one that you provide. Basically, the interviewer is interested in hearing from you, so you may be asked a variety of different open ended questions.
You will find an unstructured interview to be more conversational and less formal in tone and than a structured interview. You may be asked questions about your hobbies, what you do on the weekends, or other casual questions designed to put you at ease. Many students prefer this laid back style of interviewing, but you must be cautious. Sometimes employers intentionally adopt this casual demeanor so that you feel comfortable enough to let down your guard and potentially reveal something that you normally would not. If you find yourself in an unstructured interview, be friendly but maintain your professionalism. Remember that you are there to showcase your best assets and to convince the employer that you are the most qualified candidate for the job. Casual conversation is acceptable, and it can set a positive tone for the interview, but be sure to bring the conversation around to your skills and qualifications.
This style is used primarily by interviewers who are hiring for positions where there is a high level of daily stress in the work environment (i.e., sales, stockbroker, etc.).
The same questions that are asked during a structured or unstructured interview may be asked for a stress interview, however, there may be a difference in the behavior or demeanor of the interviewer. The interviewer during a stress interview may appear distracted, contrary, or indifferent to you. The idea behind this type of interview is to assess your reaction to the pressure of indifference, rejection, and overall stress. To be successful in the stress interview, it is recommended that you focus on the question that is asked and not the manner in which it is asked.
Another hallmark of a stress interview is the “strange question.” For instance, some interviewers like to ask questions such as, “How many ping pong balls can fit in a 757 jet?” To answer a question like this, break it down into smaller, more manageable components. Verbally convey your decision making process. The interviewer will be less focused on whether or not you came to the “right” answer and more focused on your ability to problem-solve and think logically.
Sometimes in a stress interview, the interviewer will put candidates in an uncomfortable situation. For instance, candidates may be given a test that takes two hours to complete, and are told to complete it in thirty minutes. Remember to stay calm throughout a stress interview, because that is what the employer is looking for – a candidate who has the ability to remain cool, calm and collected.
Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new, but widely used method of job interviewing. This approach is based on the belief that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. Therefore, behavioral interview questions are designed to probe your previous experiences in order to determine how you might behave in similar situations in the future. In this type of interview, you will not be asked hypothetical questions about how you would handle a situation if confronted with it in the future. Instead you will be asked how you did handle a specific situation when you encountered it in the past. Keep in mind that employers are not interested in what you should have done, or what you will do next time...they want to know what you actually did. Behavioral interview questions generally start with any one of the following phrases:
- Tell me about a time when you...
- Describe a circumstance when you were faced with a problem related to...
- Tell me how you approached a situation where...
- Share with me an instance in which you demonstrated...
This type of question requires you to tell stories from your past. These stories will be evaluated for evidence of your intellectual competence, leadership, teamwork, personal skills, adjustment and flexibility, motivation, communication skills, administrative skills, and technical abilities.
To prepare for a behavioral interview, you must first identify the skills and strengths that the employer is seeking. Next, reflect on your past experiences (educational, employment, extra-curricular, personal) in order to identify situations in which you clearly demonstrated the identified skills. During the interview, you must be able to recount these circumstances articulately and in a manner which showcases your strengths. A thorough answer should describe the Situation, the Tasks with which you were charged, the Action you took, and the Result of your action. We refer to this as the STAR Method of Responding to Behavioral Interviewing Questions.
Problem Solving or Case Interview
Employers utilize this style of questioning to test a candidate's analytical ability and communication skills. In a problem solving or case interview, you will be presented with a real or simulated problem to consider and solve. You are not necessarily expected to arrive at the "correct answer." What the interviewer is most concerned with is your thought process, so be sure to "think out loud" when responding to this type of question. An effective answer is one which demonstrates your ability to break a problem down into manageable pieces and to think clearly under pressure.
Employers often like to gather the opinions of several members of their staff prior to deciding which candidate to hire. To save time, panel interviews are often used, where one candidate may be interviewed by a few people at once. In a panel interview, take note of each interviewer’s name, and refer to them by their names. When giving your answers, focus on the person who asked you the question, but make eye contact with the other members in the group from time to time.
Your goal during an interview is to convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the job. In order to accomplish this, you must be able to clearly and articulately convey that you have the specific skills and strengths for which the employer is looking. The best way to increase your likelihood of effectively responding to interview questions is through advanced preparation. Before an interview you should prepare your responses to standard interview questions and practice speaking them out loud. If you can, ask your coordinator, or a friend or family member give you a mock interview for some additional practice. Below are some frequently asked interview questions that you can refer to while preparing for interviews.
Sample Interview Questions
Questions About You
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your long-range career goals? Short-range goals?
- What specific goals, other than those related to your career, have you established for yourself?
- What do you really want to do in life?
- Do you prefer working with others or by yourself?
- Would you prefer a large or a small company? Why?
- What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you spend your spare time?
- In what kind of a work environment are you most comfortable (structured, unstructured, etc.)?
- Why did you select Drexel University?
- Why did you choose your major field of study?
- What courses do you like the best? The least? Why?
- Do you think your grades are an accurate indication of your academic achievement ?
- Do you have a geographical preference? Why?
- Will you relocate?
- Do you have plans for continued study and obtaining an advanced degree?
Questions About Your Skills and Motivation
- What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
- Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?
- How is college preparing you for your career?
- What qualifications do you have that make you think you will be successful in your career?
- Why should I hire you?
- What do you hope to learn on this job?
- What three things are most important to you in your job?
- What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
- What have you learned in your other jobs that you think will help you to do this job well?
- Why did you apply for this job?
- What do you know about our company?
- Why are you interested in working for our company?
- After reading the job description, what do you think will be the most challenging aspects of the job for you?
- How do you think you can add to the company?
- What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
Questions About Your Experience
- What have you learned from participation in co-curricular activities?
- What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
- Describe your most rewarding college experience.
- Describe your most recent group effort.
- Tell me about the time you met the most opposition when proposing a plan of action.
- Describe a situation that best demonstrates your ability to get things done through others.
- Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
- Describe the most significant written document, report, or presentation that you’ve completed. Do you have an example of oral communication skills?
- Describe a time when you were confronted by a difficult task-related problem and how you solved it. Did you ever have to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done?
- Give an example of a time when you did not have enough information to do your job. What steps did you take?
- Tell me about a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy even though you did not agree with it.
- Give an example of when you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates.
- Have you ever had a confrontation with someone? How did you handle the situation?
- Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.
- Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
Questions About Hypothetical Situations / Theoretical Questions
- How would you describe the ideal job for you?
- What have you learned from your mistakes?
- Have you ever been in a leadership role? Please explain the situation.
- Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?
- How do you work under pressure?
- What types of people seem to “rub you the wrong way?”
- Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and subordinates.
- What type of supervisor would you like to have?
- Give an example of an important goal you had to set and your process in meeting that goal.
- If a friend or professor were asked to describe you, what would he/she say?
- How do you define “success”?
Legal vs. Illegal Areas of Inquiry
While some information can be elicited once you have been hired, government legislation exists which discourages employers from asking certain questions during the interview process. Technically, employers can ask any questions they want to, they just cannot use certain information in making hiring decisions. In order to avoid potential problems, employers typically avoid certain topics. Some of these discouraged areas of inquiry include:
- National origin (an employer can, however, ask if you are legally able to work in the U.S.)
- Sex and/or sexual preference
- Marital status
If you are asked one of these questions during an interview, very tactfully and professionally say that you are “confident that the area in question (e.g. sex, age, marital status, etc.) will not adversely affect my ability to do my job and fulfill my responsibilities.” You may also choose to ask the interviewer to explain how the question pertains to the job and your ability to fulfill the responsibilities. Most importantly, notify the SCDC immediately when you perceive that employer questions were not appropriate.
Click here for further information regarding Legal/Illegal Areas of Inquiry
Most interviewers will conclude by asking "Do you have any questions for me?" The interviewer will expect you to have questions prepared and will use these questions to gauge your interest in and understanding of the job. Asking thoughtful and specific questions about the job and company will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are serious about the position. Conversely, if you do not ask questions you appear uninterested.
Also keep in mind that the interview is your opportunity to learn more about the position in order to determine if it is a good fit for you. Be sure to ask questions that will enable to you fully understand the scope of the job, so that you can make an informed decision about working for the company.
Avoid asking questions regarding salary, benefits, vacation or anything else that makes you appear to be more interested in what you can get from the company than what you can offer them. Also avoid questions whose answers you could have easily found for yourself if you had put any effort into researching the company.
The following list contains appropriate questions for candidates to ask in the initial job interview. This list is by no means exhaustive; you should certainly develop your own questions during the course of your research on the company.
- What would my typical day look like in this position?
- What type of training programs do you have? How long is the training period? What does the training consist of?
- How and when will my performance be evaluated?
- What can I do between now and the start of co-op so that I am prepared to hit the ground running?
- What is unique about your company? Can you describe the company’s basic management philosophy? What is the organizational structure above and below this position?
- Do you hire co-op students from cycle to cycle? What percentage of your co-ops become full-time employees upon graduation?
- In your opinion, why is this a good place to work?
- What has your career progression been within this company?
- If I excel in this job, would I have the opportunity to increase my job duties and responsibilities?
- What would make an employee stand out as "exceptional" in this job?
- Ask specific questions based on your research of the company: growth plans, competitors, new products and research, etc.
Some Drexel co-op students have special circumstances that they will need to inform employers of during their job interviews. For instance, athletes, ROTC members and Residential Advisors may have already standing commitments that will infringe upon their time at work. Students in this situation should bring their schedules with them to their interviews to inform potential employers. Talk to your coordinator if you are unsure how to proceed in this situation. Students who have disabilities or other circumstances which may make it difficult to interview should contact the Office of Disability Services and their co-op coordinator for assistance and advice.
Below are some of the most common reasons why employers decide not to hire an interviewee. Familiarize yourself with this list so that you know what to avoid during an interview.
- Poor personal appearance
- Overbearing, overaggressive or conceited
- Inability to express self clearly – poor voice diction, grammar
- Lack of planning for career, no purpose or goals
- Lack of interest and enthusiasm
- Lack of confidence and poise, overly nervous
- Overemphasis on money
- Unwilling to start at the bottom, expects too much too soon
- Make excuses, is evasive, harps on trouble areas
- Lack of maturity
- Lack of courtesy
- No demonstrated interest in company or industry
- Too much “name-dropping” from the candidate, emphasizing who they know as opposed to what they can do
- Portrayal of strong prejudices
- Seemingly uninterested in gaining experience
- Late to interview without good reason
- Never heard of company
- Failure to express appreciation for interviewer’s time
- Asks no questions about the job
(*List compiled by recruiters at the University of Delaware based on research conducted by Frank S. Endicott at Northwestern University)
Many employers would tell you that if a worker cannot express him or herself verbally, he or she will serious difficulties working with colleagues and serving clients effectively. During the interviewing process, the interviewer may weigh verbal expression as heavily as academic credentials and preparation. That means that you should be expressing yourself as clearly and professionally as you do on your resume.
Recruiters use the interview as a way to judge how you will perform in the work environment. So behind that infamous question, “Tell me about yourself,” the recruiter is evaluating your ability to structure a sentence and to think logically. Your ability to listen to your questioner, and respond appropriately, is also being tested.
At the end of the interview, you may be given the opportunity to make some final remarks. Use this time to summarize your qualifications and reiterate your strong interest in the position. Be sure the interviewer knows that you want this job! You should also inquire as to what the next steps in the hiring process will be. Will a decision be made imminently? Will there be another round of interviews? That way you will know when to follow up with the interviewer. Finally, be sure to firmly shake hands, thank the interviewer for his or her time, and ask for a business card.
After your interview, always remember to send thank-you notes to those who interviewed you. A thank-you note should convey your appreciation for the interviewer's time, reiterate your interest in the position, and highlight some of your qualifications again for the employer. Try to mention something specific that you spoke about during the interview. This will help the interviewer remember you and it will make the note more personal. You may mail or email your thank-you letters, just be sure that they are professionally written. Send your thank you letter within twenty-four hours of the interview.
See sample letters here.
Most co-op students will only go on one job interview per company. However, it is possible for candidates to have to go to several interviews with the same company before a job offer is made, particularly for graduating seniors. The good news is, multiple interviews give you the opportunity to get to know more about what kind of person your prospective employer is looking for, so you can prepare accordingly. They can enable you to gain a better understanding of the company and whether or not it will be a good match for you.
Some employers prefer to conduct brief interviews via telephone with potential candidates. Phone interviews are almost always screening interviews, intended to determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit before asking him or her to come to an in person interview. Occasionally phone interviews are used to interview candidates who cannot travel to an interview due to distance. Here are a few guidelines for a successful phone interview:
- Prepare for a phone interview the same way you would prepare for an in person interview – research the company, practice answers to frequently asked questions and know the job description.
- Practice with someone ahead of time to make sure that your phone line has a clear reception and that you do not make any unnecessary sounds (breathing into the phone, etc.)
- Make sure you are in a quiet place for the time of your interview. If you live with roommates or family, choose a time when they will not be home or find a quiet location to conduct your interview. Turn off your TV, radio and computer speakers. If you have pets, conduct your interview in a separate room so that your interviewer does not hear barking, scratching, etc.
- Be sure to have your resume, notepad and pen with you during the interview. You can even write down answers to frequently asked questions and have them with you.
- Stand up during the interview. It will help you to project your voice better, and prevent you from getting overly comfortable. Smile while you are talking. Believe it or not, smiles can be heard in one’s tone of voice.
- It can be difficult to build a rapport with the interviewer over the phone. Focus on providing direct and clear answers to his or her questions, and emphasizing that you are a good fit for the job.
The First Interview
The first interview can also be considered a screening interview, and its purpose is to assess your qualifications for the job. On average, the interview may last for about 30 minutes, during which the interviewer will try to assess if you have appropriate skills and abilities to perform the job responsibilities required for the position. Sometimes a phone interview will serve the purpose of the first interview.
The Second and Third Interviews
Once your interviewer has determined that you do indeed have the proper credentials, skills, and abilities for the position available, you may be invited back to the company location for the second and even a third interview. The purpose of the second interview is to determine if there’s a good “fit” between you and the company.
During the second interview you may expect to be asked more questions that will delve into those aspects of the job that will be rewarding and thus motivating to you. You will be asked more questions about your likes and dislikes of past experiences. You may also expect to be asked more “why?” types of questions such as “Why did you choose Drexel?” or “Why did you choose your major?” In this way the employer will try to determine if the position will offer you responsibilities and assignments that you will find rewarding. The other objective for the employer is to determine if you make good, educated decisions. By asking the “why?” types of questions the employer will be listening to hear if you make decisions by thoroughly evaluating the various aspects of the question or haphazardly bringing closure to issues or problems.
Prepare yourself for a long visit. Your interview may last several hours and you might have several interviews during your visit to the company. During the visit you might expect to meet with managers, top executives of the company, recent hires from your university, and prospective co-workers. Throughout the visit your energy level should remain high. With each interview keep in mind the agenda and ask questions prior to leaving, if not during the course of the conversation.