Introduction to Interviewing
An interview is a structured conversation where one person or a group of people ask questions to a job applicant. The interview is an opportunity for the interviewer to learn more about the qualifications and abilities of the candidate as well as for the interviewee to learn more about the organization.
Types of Interviews
- Phone Interview: phone interviews are usually conducted as a first round interview. This type of interview is where employers screen candidates to determine their qualifications for the position.
- In-person Interview: this is usually the second round of the interview process following the phone interview, but can be the only interview as well. Conversations are had face-to-face at a specific location.
- Virtual Interview: this type of interview usually takes place using video conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx and more. This can be a first or second round interview as well.
Preparing for the interview
- Research: Spend some time looking up information on the company and the position. Going through the company website, social media page, and talking with people in your network who have had experiences at company are all great ways to familiarize yourself with the company.
- Practice: Practice answering general interview questions. You can do this by looking up general interview questions in your industry of interest, use the BigInterview online resource to practice virtually, or make a mock interview appointment with a career coach through Handshake. The point of practicing is not know every question going to be asked in the interview, but to become more comfortable answering different types of questions.
- Draft Questions: The end of the interview is your opportunity to ask the interviewer questions about the position and the organization. The research your conduct ahead of time can inform some of the questions you could ask. Not asking questions at the end of your interview could come across as you being disinterested in the position so be sure to draft up 3-5 questions ahead of time.
- Confirm Details: Make sure to confirm the time, location, and platform the interview will be held. If the interview is virtual, be sure to test the technology ahead of time to minimize the chances of any technical difficulties.
During the Interview
- Arrive Ahead of Time: It is recommended to show up 10-15 minutes early for an in-person interview and 2-5 minutes early for a virtual interview.
- Bring your Materials: Have a few copies of your resume, your portfolio, and a notepad to take notes.
- Eliminate Distractions: Turn of or silence electronic devices such as cell phones and smartwatches to prevent them from going off during the interview.
- Be Positive and Confident: Remember, you would not be offered an interview if the
employer did not believe you were qualified for the position. Listen to the questions,
focus on positive aspects of your experiences, and relate them to the position as
much as you can. A great way to do this is by using the STAR method to answer questions.
- Situation: Describe the background, provide context. Where and When?
- Task: Describe the challenge and expectations. What did you do and why?
- Action: Elaborate on your specific action. What did you do and how?
- Result: Explain the results, accomplishments, recognition, savings, etc. and give data!
See sample questions for more details
After the Interview
- Show Your Appreciation: Send a thank you email 24-48 hours after your interview. This is an important step that is often overlooked and could be the difference between you being offered the position and being overlooked.
- Thank You Tips: You want to show you reflected on the interview process and personalize the thank you note - do not send it 5 minutes after you walk out of the interview. Be sure to send one to every person you interviewed with or at minimum ask your main contact to pass along your thanks to all members of the interview committee.
- Follow Up: At the end of the interview, if the interviewer does not provide details about next steps, then you should ask them what to expect. This gives you a timeline in the event you do not hear from them and want to do a quick check in that reiterates your interest.
Sample Questions & Answer Strategies
While you will never be able to predict every interview question that will be asked, you can still do a lot to prepare for common types of questions. One strategy for narrowing in on what you may be asked is to review the job description. Employers are telling you what type of candidate they are seeking and the task they will be required to perform. Therefore, it makes sense that they would ask questions related to those qualifications listed.
Common Interview Questions
A job description lists desired skills, abilities, knowledge, and experiences; you will be asked questions about any or all of these items.
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in working for (insert organization name)?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What are the 2 greatest strengths you would bring to this position?
- What are your weaknesses or areas in need of development?
Behavior-Based Interview Questions
Employers evaluate how you handled a situation in the past as a good indicator of how you will handle a similar situation in the future. Respond using specific examples and positive results – the STAR Method can help you develop these success stories.
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
- Give me an example of a time you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
- Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize.
- What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
- Give me an example when you took initiative and took the lead.
- Describe a situation in which used persuasion to successfully change someone’s position or opinion.
- Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with an upset customer or coworker.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
- Tell me about a difficult decision you have made in the last year.
- Give me a specific time in which you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
- Tell me about a time when had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get the job done.
- Give me an example of a time that you had to make a split second decision.
- Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
- Give me an example of a time in which you motivated others.
- Tell me about a time you delegated a project effectively.
- Give an example of a time you used fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
Questions to Ask Employers
Remember, the interview is a two-way street!
- Describe the work environment and/or culture of this department/organization.
- Describe a typical day or week in this role. What will some of my projects and assignments be?
- Tell me about training that is involved with this role.
- Why do you enjoy working for this organization? What is most challenging about working here?
- What qualities are you looking for in your new hires?
- Describe your supervisory style and your expectations for new hires.
- How is an employee evaluated and promoted?
- What are the opportunities for professional growth?
- I read ____ about your organization. Could you tell me more and how it might impact this position?
- When can I expect to hear from you? or Tell me about your hiring timeline.
Practice Leads to Improvement
Some people thrive in the interview setting while for many others it does not come as naturally. Rest assured interviewing is a skill, and you can increase your comfort and confidence by practicing.
Preparation is the key ingredient in improving your interview experience. Start by doing proper research of the position and company. Knowing what you are applying for and why you are applying will help your answers feel more tailored and authentic to the employer.
There are many ways to engage in interview practice including:
- Grab a friend or family member and give them the list of sample questions. Ask them to evaluate you on things like your tone, speed of speech, eye contact, body language, and if any nervous habits appeared while answer questions.
- Schedule an appointment for ‘Interviewing Strategies’ or ‘Mock Interview’ with a member of the Career Development
Schedule an appointment
A Career Counselor is ready to meet with you to talk about any of your career needs. All scheduling is handled through Handshake, which can be accessed by both current students and alumni. Log in using your WCU Network ID (e.g., AB654321@wcupa.edu) and password.
Once signed on, select the Career Center button and you will find an option labeled ‘Appointment’. From here you can select the day and time that works best for you. Your counselor will be altered, approve the selected time, and send you any follow up instructions if necessary.
- Utilize Big Interview, WCU’s online mock interview tool that combines training and practice to help improve interview skills and build confidence.