Interviewing is a skill that you can learn. Reviewing the resources provided in this section of the Career Toolkit will assist you.
If you are invited for an interview you are already seen as a qualified candidate, so the interview is your chance to further convince an employer that you would be a valuable asset to the organization. Consequently, your performance in an interview will be the deciding factor in earning you a job offer. Research, preparation, and practice are the keys to a successful outcome.
The type of interview will vary. It may be an initial screening interview in human resources, or a personal one-on-one interview conducted by the hiring manager. If you are called back you may have a second or third round interview. Other types include series interviews, involving separate meetings with several people in the organization, or a panel interview, conducted by several people at one time. Job offers are seldom made after just one interview so you may experience several different types. Keep in mind that each new person you see is meeting you for the first time and in most cases hasn't been briefed on the information you've shared with others.
The first step in preparing for an interview is to learn as much as you can about the organization, the job, and the interviewer. Check out the organization's website, their social media presence such as a LinkedIn or Facebook page, and Google the organization's name for any recent news articles. Use your personal network and talk to people to gather additional information.
For more research ideas, review the Explore Careers page in the Career Toolkit.
The Simmons Library also offers resources for employment market research:
- OneSource: Use OneSource to find both top-line information and in-depth intelligence on industries, companies (both public and private), executives and corporate family structures. OneSource contains information from more than 2,500 data sources, including market research, analyst reports, regulatory filings, news releases and much more.
- Vault Career Insider, a leading source of career information, also carries voluminous employer listings, accessible by industry, company name, keyword, profession, and more (Simmons login required)
The next step to ensure your interview success is to anticipate questions and prepare to answer them. By preparing ideas in advance you'll avoid fumbling for answers during the interview. Instead, you'll come across as poised, focused, and confident!
Review the CEC article Frequently Asked Interview Questions for sample traditional interview questions and What Are Behavioral Interview Questions? for tips on how to answer different types of questions.
Another essential step is to prepare questions that you will ask during the interview. Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them and they expect that you will have some! Asking questions demonstrates your sincere interest in the position. Also, the questions that you develop are a tool for gathering the information you need to make a decision. Questions such as, "Why is this position open?" or "How would you describe the culture of your organization?" are appropriate. Wait for the employer to bring up any salary questions, however. Check out the information below on negotiating for more information on salary issues.
Although the format of the interview will vary with the type being conducted and the person doing the interviewing, the basic structure of a job interview is fairly standard. Look over What to Expect in an Interview before your first interview.
The person who gets hired is not necessarily the best-qualified individual but the person who most effectively presents his or her skills. It's one thing to think about what you are going to say and another thing to actually say it and receive feedback. Practicing your answers aloud with a friend or family member can be very helpful.
You can also schedule a practice interview with a career coach in the CEC - see the information below to schedule an appointment. If you do meet with a coach, review the Guidelines for Practice Interviews before your meeting.
The outfit you choose to wear won't get you the job, but it could limit your chances of getting an offer. An interviewer's attention should be on what you say, not what you are wearing. A conservative choice keeps the focus on you. Tailored suits for men and conservative suits or dresses for women are good choices. Take cues from the work environment for variations on that theme. For example, a classic navy suit would be a good choice for a conservative financial firm, while a softly-tailored dress or sports coat and tie would be appropriate for the more informal atmosphere of a human services agency.
Review the Professional Attire document, which includes photographs of appropriate outfits, for suggestions.
Show Interest Non-verbally
The language you choose to create a positive impression is not always spoken. Remember these key tips when heading into an interview - over time they will become second nature:
- A firm handshake conveys energy and enthusiasm non-verbally
- Maintaining good eye contact shows interest and lets the interviewer know that you're listening
- Good posture enhances your confidence
- Leaning slightly forward when seated indicates interest
- Speaking with a strong voice level and inflection conveys enthusiasm
Requests for References
Usually employers do not ask for references until later in the interview process. However, you should prepare a list of references as part of your job search preparation. See References - Guidelines & Format for more information.
Always make a favorable impression by sending a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview. A thank you note is an opportunity to restate your interest in the position and convey your understanding of next steps in the process. See the information on thank you notes on the Write a Job Search Letter page.
Negotiation is the process in which two parties come to an agreement concerning the terms and conditions under which they are willing to do business. Negotiating involves using good communication skills - listening and speaking - as well as the ability to avoid making a false assumption about what the other party wants or is thinking.
While many aspects of the job, such as benefits and start date, may be negotiated, most students are concerned with salary. The question, "What are you looking for in terms of salary?" is not a signal to begin negotiating. The negotiating begins when you have actually been made a job offer.
A coach can help you develop your interview skills, including doing a practice interview with you and critiquing your performance afterward. Videotaping and critique are also available. Similarly, when you prepare and practice you can improve your negotiation skills as well.
After reviewing the above, if you feel you could benefit from the expertise of a CEC career coach in preparing to interview or negotiate, contact the CEC to set up an appointment with a coach.
Learn more about interviewing and negotiating through the following resources:
- Check out all the Prepare to Interview documents found in the Career Toolkit section of the CEC Guides & How To's, including the documents referenced above on this page and Steps for Effective Negotiations
- View the CareerSpots video Top 10 Interview Mistakes and related CareerSpots and CareerBytes videos on interviewing
- Check out the Simmons Library Career Guide on Interviewing
- Interview questions specific to a profession may sometimes be found through professional associations' websites or specialized job boards. Look over the job search links on the Career Guides for your Discipline
- You can also learn more about how to negotiate through the Library Career Guide on Salary Information
Career Toolkit for Graduate Students
The purpose of the Career Toolkit is to assist you in your career planning. Whether you are unsure of your career direction or need help with your job search, you will find the resources you need to begin your preparation.
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