An interview offers you and an employer the opportunity to learn whether or not there is a "fit" between you and the interviewer's organization. The ideal interview is a two-way street, allowing the employer to sell the job to you and permitting you to elaborate on the information contained in your resume. The invitation to interview means that, in general, you are qualified for the job; however, the employer wants to determine if you are the best qualified candidate.
What to expect during interviews
Regardless of industry, most employers are interested in the following:
- Communication (written and verbal) Skills
- Interpersonal and Teamwork Skills
- Leadership Qualities/Potential
- Knowledge of the industry
- Organizational Skills
- Analytical and Problem-Solving Ability
Depending upon the nature of the job and the organization, other competencies may be evaluated more rigorously. Pay attention to the qualifications described in the job description, as these are attributes that are likely to be evaluated during the interview process.
Nonverbal communication can give as much information, if not more, than words. Be conscious of slouching back in a chair (boredom?), twiddling your thumbs (nervousness?), and crossing your arms (hostility?). If you are asked a particularly tough question, maintain your composure and take extra time to think before replying. Maintain good eye contact, which conveys confidence and honesty.
During the interview, listen carefully to the interviewer and answer the question that is asked. Don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation if you don't understand the question. It is fine to take a few moments to think before answering difficult questions, so don't rush into your answer until you are ready.
How to prepare
Preparation is vital. While you cannot anticipate every question, you can prepare yourself to make the most of whatever you are asked.
Employers are not interested in students with undefined career goals; they aim to fill jobs with qualified candidates who have some sense of direction and know how their skills support their job objectives. Even if you don't know exactly what you want to do, you have to be able to confidently tell an employer why you are interested in this particular job at this time.
Think about your own abilities and experience in relation to an employer's needs and be able to discuss why you want to work in this type of industry, division, and/or company. Identify your strengths in relation to each job for which you interview. Review your resume for experiences - whether they are related to education, work, or activities - that you can use as examples to support your skills. Anything on the resume is fair game, so also be prepared to describe or explain any item on it.
Know the organization and the industry
Know the organization, the industry and the position. Spend time reviewing organization websites, familiarizing yourself with the organization’s divisions, and mission statements. Learn about the industry, what are the most important trends in this field and how is the economy affecting the industry. Know who the key players are and be able to speak the “language of the industry”.
Talk to alumni currently working at the organization to get more detailed information about what it takes to be successful there. You are not expected to be an expert in the particular field, but you should have enough knowledge to formulate meaningful questions to present to the interviewer. You can usually get an overview of the organization, its products and/or services, its philosophy and new developments, from its website or annual report.
Know what to ask
Third, be certain to prepare questions to ask the interviewer. You want to evaluate the organization and the opportunities provided by this position in order to determine whether or not you are even interested. In addition, the questions you ask convey interest and enthusiasm; if you fail to ask anything of the interviewer, s/he might assume you aren't particularly interested in the job or the organization.
Practice interviewing with InterviewStream
InterviewStream provides a realistic "simulated interview" experience in which you are asked challenging questions and must respond, just as you would in a real job interview. You can repeat each question as often as you like, and you can even see examples of how someone else might answer. It's streamlined and easy to use.
Schedule appointment with a career counselor
During this appointment you can review your InterviewStream video with the counselor and discuss what you can do differently. You can also have a traditional mock interview with a Career Counselor. This interview will be identical to a real interview, from the opening to the closing handshake. You will dress the part and answer questions about yourself and how you will fit into the company. The only difference will be that the Career Counselor will provide feedback on how you did. Call (715) 836-5358 to make an appointment.
- Silence is OK - Interviewers are used to moments of silence when you are thinking of an answer. Don’t feel uncomfortable and take your time thinking of your response.
- Turn Cell Phones Off - Getting a phone call in the middle of an interview doesn't impress the employer. Avoid the disruption by turning your phone off or not bringing it at all.
- Address the Employer - Always have direct eye contact when the employer is asking a question or you are answering. This shows that you are confident and self-assured.
- Prepare Questions to Ask - You are not the only person that answers questions during an interview. At some point, you will be allowed to ask the interviewer questions about the position, company, and anything else you can think of.
- Send a Thank You Letter - Immediately following the interview write a thank you letter to the interviewer, and allows you one more opportunity to make a good impression. It also reminds the interviewer of your skills and anything else that you forgot to mention in the interview.
Dress for success
Be professional and dress appropriately in the work place. The way you dress for work reflects your professionalism. It is important that you research the company you work for so you may reflect their standards. How you dress on a given day may also depend on your daily agenda. If you have important meetings to attend or you are giving a presentation, business professional is a smart choice. Otherwise business casual may be perfectly acceptable.
An interview for a job or internship is your chance to make a lasting impression. This first impression is important and dressing appropriately for the part can make a lasting impression. Here at Career Services we recommend dressing in business professional attire for all job and internship interviews. However, it is important that you research the company you are interviewing with to get a better understanding the image expected from you.
See the following guides for proper attire: