These materials were compiled by The Career Development & Counseling Center, Founders Hall, Room 121, 100 Training Hill Road in Middletown, CT 06457. For more information, call us at (860) 343-5826.
Successful Interviewing Guidelines
The interview process may be a stressful one for those new to it and for experienced workers as well. Being prepared and understanding this process will assist you in being self-confident. We hope you will read and use the tips found on this page.
As you review our tips, keep in mind these very important words for successful interviewing:
- Be punctual,
- Have a professional appearance,
- Do prior research on the company,
- Anticipate questions,
- Have prepared questions of your own,
- Go into the interview with a positive mental attitude,
- Be courteous and thoughtful,
- Give concrete examples,
- Sell your skills, talents and abilities,
- Practice your interviewing skills, AND,
- If you like what you see, ask for the job!
Salary & Benefits
DO NOT bring up the subject of salary or benefits DURING AN INTERVIEW.
- Initiating a discussion on salary/benefits identifies you as a person who is motivated only by money.
- On the company’s employment application, leave the section for desired salary BLANK.
- If the employer asks what you’re currently earning be honest and specific.
- If the employer asks what your salary requirements are, your response should be, “I currently earn in the $___________ range, and I would expect a fair offer”.
- Specifying a desired salary is likely to underprice/overprice you, and/or impede your ability to negotiate the best possible offer.
Interview Questions & Styles
PREPARE SEVERAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Your dual role on an interview is to market your skills and interview the company. Timely, appropriate questions not only provide you with valuable information about the company, but
questions help create a positive conversational atmosphere between yourself and the company representative.
- What are the daily responsibilities of this position?
- Do you have a written job description?
- How many people would I be working with?
- To whom will I report?
- What is the organizational structure of: a) this department? b) the company?
- Where does this position lead?
- Why is this position open?
- How long was the last person in this position? What made this person successful? Are there additional skills needed in this position now?
- What would you expect me to achieve during my first six months to a year? What obstacles do you foresee that I would have to overcome?
- Why do you enjoy working here?
- What is you background?
- Who are your competitors? Where does your company stand in relationship to them?
- What distinguishes you from you competitors?
- When will you be making a decision on this position?
- How do we proceed from here?
THE BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW
In order to get a job, you will meet with the potential employer to ascertain the appropriateness of your candidacy for the available position. You may interview a number of times with various representatives of the organization. Throughout this process, the employer will have the opportunity to gather information concerning your background and experience and its relevancy to the position. Employers will ask you a series of questions which are work-based and which seek to link your past behavior to behaviors required in the organization conducting the interview. Since the goal is to “predict” success in their environment, based on your actions and reactions in another environment, the common name for this type of interview is the “behavioral” interview. Be prepared to describe prior employment, experiences, class projects, and college activities.
Questions may be similar to the following:
- Describe a time when you were faced with a major problem and how you dealt with it.
- Identify, from your background, a situation where you needed to take control.
- How have you dealt with conflict? What was the result?
- Describe an incident where you have applied a theory in class to an actual project.
- Give an example of when you had to utilize your communication skills.
- There also may be follow-up questions such as:
- Can you give me an example?
- What did you do?
- How did you respond?
- What was your role?
- What did you say?
- How did you feel?
In preparing for the behavioral interview, it is useful to review your entire background as it may apply to the position for which you are interviewing. If you are interviewing for a position which will utilize computer skills, be able to respond to inquiries designed to allow you to demonstrate your expertise in the field. When meeting with an employer for a position where your creativity is being reviewed, consider from where in your background you can give actual examples of these skills. If the primary function you will have in the position involves working and communicating with people, consider how you may best demonstrate your abilities in this area.
In general, when preparing for interviews:
- Concentrate on incidents in which you had favorable outcomes.
- Prepare a short but complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, which demonstrates the behavior that is being evaluated.
- Attempt to be specific in responding to the question.
In addition to the behavioral interview, some companies have also started to incorporate the use of a group/case study into the interview process. Here, the employer is attempting to determine a number of your qualities. Typically, your leadership potential, ability to work in a group, and analytical/problem-solving skills are all being evaluated.
As with any interview, remember to research the company prior to the appointment and prepare several well-thought out questions. Interviewing is a two-way process: both you and the corporation need to evaluate the appropriateness of your employment with the organization.
Suggestion: Contact the Career Development & Counseling Center to make an appointment to meet with a career counselor. You may want to schedule a video-taped mock interview to practice your technique. Call the CD&CC at 860-343-5826 to arrange an appointment.
Handling Inappropriate Questions
Most interviewers are very aware and sensitive in their interviewing techniques. At times, however, candidates are caught unaware by sensitive or potentially discriminatory questions that occur during the interview. Simply asking a question is not illegal. It is the use to which the answer is put that may involve illegality.
Interviewers cannot discriminate on the basis of: gender, race, age, religion, height, weight, citizenship, nepotism, marital status, number of children, provision of child care, economic status, language skills, educational background, arrest record, discharge from military service or availability to work weekends and holidays.
A WORD ABOUT THE LAW
Under federal law, any question may be asked, provided it is asked of all interviewees, and is related to a documented qualification for the job. State laws are more specific. These are known as fair employment practice laws and forbid employment bias. Additionally, different agencies, companies or organizations may have a non-discriminatory statement in their hiring policy. For more information, consult with the US Department of Labor or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Examples of inappropriate questions include:
- “Are you married?…Single?…Divorced?”
- “Are you planning to have children?”
- “Oh, you have a son/daughter?…How old is he/she?”
- “What type of child care will you use?”
- “Do you attend religious services?”
- “Of what country are you a citizen?”
- “Have you ever been arrested?” [The employers can ask if you have been convicted.]
- “Do you have any physical disabilities?” [The employers may legitimately ask if you have any physical, mental or medical conditions which limits your ability to perform on the job.]
Before the Interview
- Understand yourself, your strengths and abilities. By identifying these you will be able to understand what you have to offer an employer.
- Research the company. Know the principal products or services provided by this company. Understand how these products are made and sold and who purchases them. This information may be obtained from the Internet, company annual reports, brochures, and from literature in the Career Development & Counseling Center.
- Be prepared with several questions concerning the company which will show your interest in what it offers.
- Be able to clearly state your abilities and potential.
- Review the list of most often asked questions by employers. Think of how you truly feel about them. Practice your responses.
- Do not chew gum and do not smoke even if invited to do so.
- Look professional on the day of the interview. First impressions are important.
- Be on time. Whether you are going to be interviewed on campus or at the company site, promptness is a must.
- Relax and enjoy the adventure of meeting new people and promoting your career!
During the Interview
- Be yourself. Present yourself in an honest and sincere manner.
- Be self-confident but not conceited.
- Maintain a pleasant, friendly, and courteous demeanor.
- Know the name of the interviewer. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on the pronunciation when being introduced. Ask for a business card.
- Express your thoughts clearly.
- Answer the questions that are asked of you. If you do not understand a particular question, ask for clarification.
- Avoid slang and “yes” and “no” responses. The interviewer needs more on which to base a judgment of your skills and interests.
HOW TO PRESENT YOURSELF: A POSITIVE APPROACH
A. Although qualifications are very important, the hiring decision is based more on interview performance and chemistry. Following are a few suggestions on how to create that chemistry.
- Nod your head
- Make eye contact
- Sit up straight, but not rigid
- Lean forward
- Show enthusiasm and interest in the position and company
B. No matter how good you are, or how great the demand for your type of experience, you must sell your assets to the employer. You must do this on your own during the interview. You must approach the interview and the entire process with a positive attitude. Do not be arrogant, nor too hard to get. Never undersell. Always speak and think in positive terms.
C. Remember, the most qualified candidate doesn’t always get the job offer. But, an employer always hires an enthusiastic candidate!
D. Offers of employment are extended to candidates for many reasons, but the decision is based, to a large extent, upon how the candidate interviews.
E. The candidate who interviews well gets many job offers. Some people with average abilities can change jobs easily because they interview well. The quiet candidate for whom every word must be tediously extracted, the over-confident braggart who exaggerates their experience, or the candidate who has established a minimum salary objective which represents an outrageous increase, are all examples of the type of candidate who will receive more negative replies than offers.
F. The entire concept of job hunting revolves around the ability to sell. You must recognize that in job hunting and interviewing, you must be a “salesperson”.
G. Approach each interview with a limited objective, to get an offer. Rather than deciding if you want to work for a company on the basis of the appearance of the building, the individuals you meet, and/or the information you receive about the specific assignment, decide in advance only that you alone want to make the final decision. To do so, you must approach each interview with but one thought in mind—GET AN OFFER. Since offers are extended to those candidates who appear to be the most qualified, you must emphasize your good points and eliminate or avoid discussion of negatives. Without lying, you must answer all questions with whatever positive comments you can make. Every time you answer a
question with the word “no”, you decrease your chances of an offer. Therefore; even if your experience is quite limited in a particular area, it would be better to respond with a comment about what it is you know, rather than any reference to what you don’t know.
Closing the Interview
It is important that you leave the interview expressing enthusiasm about the position as well as uncovering any doubts that the interviewer may have about you as a viable candidate for the position. Below is the correct way to close an interview.
Script: “I’m very interested in the position. Now that we have met, what reservations or questions do you have about my qualifications or ability to do the job?”
After asking the question, it is necessary to be patient and wait for a response. The interviewer’s response may be all that stands between you and the position you desire.
If the interviewer’s response is “NONE”, (This is your opportunity to separate yourself from the crowd) ASK FOR THE JOB e.g. “When can I start?” or “Great, what else do you need from me to move forward to the next step?” Remember the last impression is a lasting impression.
If the interviewer states a reservation, respond with a description of actual work experience in your background that may not have been disclosed in the interview, or illustrate a similar work experience. Remember that when responding to any interview questions, don’t just answer yes or no. Give a specific example and paint a verbal picture of that experience.
If you are interested in the position, tell them so. If they offer the position to you, and you want it, accept it on the spot. (If you wish some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date when you can provide an answer. Don’t create the impression that you are playing one company off against the other to
drive up the bidding.)
Don’t be discouraged if no definite offer or specific salary is discussed. Thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration. If you have answered the two questions top in their mind:
1. Why you are interested in this company, and,
2. What you can offer?
You have done all you can.
Follow Up After the Interview
It is important to follow-up immediately with a note to the primary interviewer to thank them and to reinforce your qualifications and desire for the position. A formal letter is fine, but email is also appropriate in today’s job market. The letter (or email) should consist of the following four themes:
- Thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
- Express your confidence in doing the job.
- List three reasons why you can do the job.
- Express interest in pursuing the opportunity and that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Be sure that you spell the company name and the employer’s name correctly!