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Career Basics: Interviews

So you have your foot in the door, now what? The interview is your chance to make a good impression and get the position you want. All interviews will be stressful, but you will do well if you are prepared. And if interviews in person were not stressful enough, many employers now use phone interviews as a weeding step. Read through the following questions and suggestions to discover how to become a strong interview candidate.

The Basics

  • Be On Time - Call for directions, leave extra early, make sure you have money for parking. Basically anticipate that half the stop lights will be out and an angry elephant will be sitting in the street on the way to your interview, and make sure you still have time to get there.
  • Appearance - Not only should you have nice clothing to wear, but everything should match, be clean, and be ironed. Don't forget to have nice shoes. Speaking of grooming, try to present a clean and well manicured image. One last note on finger nails, if you must paint them, keep it boring. Before an interview is not the time to try a new hair color or neon purple nail polish.
  • Sleep the Night Before - You need to be wide awake and have all of your wits about you.
  • Be Polite - Don't just be polite to the interviewer, but polite to the receptionist, the person who held the door in the restroom, everyone. Keep in mind that people talk. The receptionist could pass on a little piece of information to her boss.
  • Be Prepared - Do your research. Make sure you have a decent knowledge base regarding the company and its activities. This will be important for answering and asking questions. Get your information from a variety of sources. This will take some time, so get started early.
  • Ask Questions - If you do not ask intelligent questions, the interviewer will think that you are not interested or will take any old job. Pay attention to what has been said so you can refer back to this information in a question. Ask a question about something you read. Try to ask questions that demonstrate your ability to think. Be polite while asking questions and demonstrate a genuine curiosity.
  • Read Your Resume - Make sure you know what information the employer has and what you need to expand on.
  • Sit Up Straight - Good posture indicates confidence. Also, try leaning forward a little in your chair. This will make you look less nervous.
  • Send a Thank You - Send a thank you letter the very next day. Be specific about something you liked. This should be a letter, not a hand written thank you card (just in case you were wondering).

Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are very common these days. There are a few important things you should realize about phone interviews. The first is that they are a weeding tool. Employers use phone interviews to eliminate people when they have too many candidates. Second, take a phone interview seriously. Make sure you have time to talk and there will not be any interruptions. If it is not a good time, ask if you can call back and set a time. And last but not least, smile! You will sound happy and confident if you smile. Good Luck!

Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why did you choose to interview with our company?
  3. What are your long range career goals?
  4. How does this job fit into those long range goals?
  5. Explain your academic grades and performance.
  6. What are your strongest/weakest characteristics?
  7. Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 15 year?
  8. Tell me about a goal that you set and how you were able to reach it.
  9. What would you look for in a candidate for this position?
  10. How do you work under pressure?
  11. Describe how you reorganized something to be more efficient.
  12. Describe a situation that exemplifies your leadership abilities.
  13. Give an example of a time you had to make a difficult decision.
  14. What did you learn from your summer research/intern experience?
  15. How would a professor describe you?
  16. Think of a time when you made important plans that were fouled-up. How did you react?
  17. Describe a situation that illustrates your ability to solve a problem.
  18. Recall a time when you had to work with someone who had a negative opinion of you. How did you handle this?
  19. Give an example of when you had to deal with an uncooperative person.
  20. Describe a time you had to work as a team and what you learned from it.
  21. Tell me about a time you lacked motivation. What caused this? How did you deal with this?
  22. Describe an event that made you angry. How did you handle this situation?
  23. Give an example of how organizational politics affected you.
  24. Describe the standards that you set for yourself. Why are they important to you?
  25. Why should I hire you?
  26. Where else have you applied?

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

  1. Why is this position vacant?
  2. What are the major responsibilities of this position?
  3. Describe the ideal candidate for this position.
  4. What will make this company successful in today's market?
  5. Could you explain the company's hierarchy?
  6. What do you like most about this organization?
  7. What is the timeline for filling this position?