Know How to Interview

Your resume and cover letter grabbed the attention of the employer and you have been asked to come in for an interview. Are you prepared to turn those interviews into job offers?

This step provides plenty of information about interviews:


Interview Tips
Setting Up Job Interviews
  • Think about what you are going to say before you pick up the phone to call an employer.
  • You want the employer to think of you as a good future employee.
  • You will have about 20 seconds to make the employer want to meet you. Therefore, what you say has to be brief, to the point, and persuasive. 
Prepare for an Interview
  • The day before your interview, think about what types of questions the employer might ask you and prepare answers you can give in less than 2 minutes.
  • On the day of the interview: Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. You might need to fill out paperwork before the interview.
  • Go by yourself. If a friend or relative drives you, have them wait in the car.
  • Wear an outfit that is professional looking. It should fit the type of job for which you are interviewing.
  • Do not wear fragrances in case one of your interviewers has allergies.
What to Bring to an Interview
  • Extra copies of your resume, your reference list, and examples of your work.
  • Papers needed to complete your application. This includes copies of work licenses, your driving record (if required), and your social security or immigration cards.
  • Questions for you to ask during the interview.  
During the Interview
  • Display confidence. Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Let the interviewer start the conversation.
  • Listen carefully. Give honest, direct answers.
  • Accept all questions with a smile, even the hard ones.
  • Think about your answers in your head before you talk. If you don't understand a question, ask to hear it again or for it to be reworded. You don't have to rush, but you don't want to appear indecisive. 


Interview Preparation Activities

Do these activities before every interview – if possible, go over the questions and answers with a friend (at the very least in the mirror!), and practice your answers until they sound polished and confident (but not rehearsed!).

Ten reasons why you’re the perfect person for the job
These are the key facts from your experience, skills, accomplishments and/or personality that make you a good match for the job. Try to work one of them into every answer you give – and if at the end of the interview you realize one or more of them hasn’t come up, bring it up!

Ten questions they will ask you during the interview, and your answers
Include both standard and ‘situational’ questions. Your answers should be brief, complete, and thoughtful.

Ten things to avoid doing/saying during the interview
What mistakes have you made in past interviews? What bad habits do you want to avoid displaying, or issues you want to avoid disclosing?

Questions to ask them about the job or company
Show that you’re interested! Pretend you’re a reporter and you’re going to write a story about the company and/or job – what would you want to know?

Questions to Ask THEM in the Interview

  1. How long has this company/organization been open? (remember, never ask anything you can find out on the website!)
  2. Is this a new position? Has it been open long? (optional: Why did the previous person leave?)
  3. What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
  4. What is your definition of success for this position?
  5. What are usually the most challenging aspects of the job?
  6. What are the priorities for this position in the next 2-3 months? The next year?
  7. Who will be my supervisor?
  8. Could you describe the team I’ll be working with?
  9. How would you describe the culture of the office?
  10. How would you describe your perfect candidate for this job?
  11. What’s the normal path & timeframe for advancement within the company?
  12. At what point would you expect me to be ‘up to speed’ with the duties of the job?
  13. What are your company/organization’s goals for the next year?
  14. How do you feel I fit with the qualifications you have defined for this position?
  15. What is your timeline for hiring?
  16. How is this position funded?
  17. What is your favorite part about working here?
  18. Can you clarify what ______ means in the job description?
  19. What is the supervision style here?
  20. What is a typical day like here?

Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions
(adapted from

Remember that many behavioral questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you'll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or -- better yet, those that had positive outcomes.
Here's a good way to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
  • Half your examples should be totally positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.
  • Vary your examples; don't take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples.
  • Use the STAR Method (pdf) to practice your answers
  • Use the Interviewing Questions Guidelines (pdf) to see other potential interview questions.
Situation or
Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you
What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?
Reasons Why People Don't Get Hired After an Interview
  • Application form or resume is incomplete or sloppy
  • Arriving late for the interview
  • Didn't ask questions about the job
  • Failure to express appreciation for interviewer's time
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm
  • Lack of maturity
  • Lack of planning for career, no purpose and no goals
  • Negative attitude about past employers
  • Nervousness or lack of confidence and poise
  • No genuine interest in the company or job
  • Overemphasis on money
  • Overly aggressive behavior
  • Poor personal appearance
  • Responding vaguely to questions
  • Unwillingness to accept entry-level position
  • Another candidate appeared to be better qualified for the position


Thank You Letters

The purpose of a thank you letter is to acknowledge a person who has done something to assist you in your job search efforts. In the case of a reference, it’s to thank them for providing information regarding your employment abilities and qualifications. Following an interview, you want to thank the employer for taking the time to meet with you. This shows appreciation for the employer’s interest in you. Employers appreciate job candidates who send thank you letters after the job interview. So why should more job seekers write thank letters? Because it’s one of your last chances to tell the employer that you are the perfect person for the job.

Five Things to Think About Before Writing a Thank You Letter

  1. It is protocol, and protocol that most people ignore—writing a thank you letter demonstrates that you have good manners and know the etiquette of job interviews. A thank you letter should ideally be sent within 24 hours following the job interview, but no later than 2 days. Reiterate your interest in the position and organization.
  2. A reminder of who you are and a restatement of your interest in the position — this is a perfect opportunity to reinforce your fit for the position and the employer.
  3. Opportunity to correct a mistake or an omission — if you thought of something you forgot to mention in the interview, mention it in your thank you letter. For example, In my enthusiasm about becoming part of your organization, I neglected to mention that in my last place of employment, I was directly responsible for increasing sales revenue in the Detroit area.
  4. E-mail v. Snail Mail— the answer is both methods are appropriate. Think about the company’s culture –if people in the company primarily use e-mail then an e-mailed thank you is acceptable. It is also a good idea if you know the company will be making a hiring decision quickly. However, even if e-mail fits with the company culture, it is still a good idea to follow up with a hard-copy version.
  5. How long should my Thank You Letter Be? —the thank you letter should be kept short and concise. It only needs to be one or two paragraphs long. Keeping this in mind, you need to accomplish two important goals: thank the interviewer for meeting with you, and convey the message that you are the right person for the job

If you interviewed with more than one person, send an individual thank you letter to each interviewer.

Thank You Letter Samples

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