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Interview Preparation

Employers conduct interviews to assess three primary factors about candidates: the likelihood of your success in the job given your background and skills, your willingness to perform the position’s duties, and your cultural fit with the organization. 

Read on to understand more about the questions an employer may ask during an interview or start practicing with Big Interview

Let’s translate the employers’ intentions into the questions that you may be asked at a job/internship interview.

Do you have the skills to do the job (or internship)?

Be prepared to answer common questions such as:

  • What is your greatest strength and weakness?
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and why?
  • What led you to choose your major or concentration?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Why should this organization hire you?

To convince an employer that you are the person they need, you must articulate your skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the position. Use specific examples from a variety of your experiences (academic, internships, student jobs, extracurricular activities, hobbies, etc.).

You should also come up with additional examples that highlight the sought-after transferrable skills (e.g. oral and written communication skills; teamwork; critical thinking, etc.) 

Are you committed to perform the position's duties?

Before investing heavily in you, an employer assesses your level of commitment to the position and organization. To convey your enthusiasm for the role and the organization’s mission, prepare responses to these common questions:

  • Why are you applying for this position?
  • What do you most look forward to in this role and why?
  • What activity do you believe will be the most challenging and why?
  • What contributions can you make to our organization?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Would you be a good fit for the organization/team?

An employer asks questions like the ones below to measure your compatibility with the organization's mission, goals, workplace values, procedures, and people. In the interest of both yourself and the employer, prepare honest answers.

  • What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  • What qualities do you seek in a manager?
  • In what type of work environment are you most satisfied?
  • How would a colleague or professional reference describe you?
  • What situations are most stressful for you and how do you cope? 

Your Turn

An employer typically reserves time toward the end of an interview to answer your questions. Take the opportunity to learn more to determine if the position and organization are right for you. If you are not prepared to ask questions, an employer may doubt your intentions; use the samples below as a starting point.

  • What would a typical day be like for me?
  • How will my performance be evaluated?
  • How do employees advance within the organization?
  • What do employees most enjoy about working here?
  • What significant changes or challenges to the job, department, or organization do you foresee in the short- or long-term?

Use the "3R" Strategy to prepare: Research, Review, Rehearse

Start your preparation for a job interview by learning as much as possible about your prospective employer. Go deep and go wide: the employer’s website, media, social media, possible inside contacts, etc. 

If you know the employer well you can more effectively connect your qualifications, your previous experience, and your future career aspirations with the desired job. You will be able to come up with smart questions to ask the employer at the end of your interview. And you will convince the employer of your enthusiasm for the position by referring to specific information about the employer’s activity.

Guidance for your research efforts:

  • Research the employer’s website; dig deeper than their home page and check if they have an annual report on the website. Take a note of published data and facts.  
  • Check if the employer is mentioned in mass media: you may find a public release on a new project or initiative.
  • Look for the employer’s presence on social media. Do they have a Facebook page? Do they post on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn? Find out whether any of their senior executives has posted an interview on YouTube.
  • Reach out and talk to people who work at or may know someone working in the organization. Check LinkedIn and Alumnifire to see if there are AU alums affiliated with the employer. Ask to connect and chat.

When researching, pay attention to the information that could help you understand the following about your potential employer: 

  • Mission, values, and organizational structure
  • Key projects and programs, new initiatives
  • Accomplishments, challenges, and threats
  • Current and potential markets, clients, partners, competitors
  • Sought-after technical skills and transferrable competencies (e.g. working in teams; ethical judgment; critical thinking; intercultural competences, etc.)

For in-person interviews, don’t forget to research possible commute routes and time you need to get to your job interview. 

The next step in your preparation is to do a thorough review of the following: (1) the position’s duties and responsibilities; (2) your experiences; (3) application materials; and (4) interview logistics. 

Make your review efforts efficient by using the following tips:

  • Pay attention to the position’s key skills and competencies and think of how this position contributes to the employer’s mission, programs, challenges, etc. 

When selecting examples of your relevant qualifications, consider a variety of experiences that you have accumulated: 

  • Your coursework assignments: group and individual projects and papers
  • Study abroad: opportunities for developing intercultural competencies, problem-solving, etc.
  • Internships: real world projects, collaboration, observation, and reflection
  • Student jobs: e.g. babysitter, waiter, clerical – transferrable skills, work ethics
  • Volunteering/community service: your passions; service

Craft stories based on those examples. Make them interesting, succinct, and to the point. Use the CAR-R or STAR-R method: 

  • CAR: C – Context; A – your Action; R – Results, or 
  • STAR: S - Situation; T – your Task; A – your Action; R – Results.
  • The second R in both methods is about Reflection. Come up with lessons learned to demonstrate to your potential employers your analytical and critical thinking skills and your enthusiasm for success.
  • Review your resume. Make sure that you know it well, to avoid any discrepancies between your responses at the job interview and your resume. Be prepared to respond when your interviewer says, “Walk me through your resume.”  You should clearly connect your past experiences to the desired job.
  • If your interview is online or by phone, don’t forget to review the technology you will be using as well as the environment where you are going to do the interview. The environment should be quiet and not distracting, and the technology should work. Have back-ups.

Practice, practice, practice! For your upcoming interview, it’s not enough to review your examples and responses in your head. You need to practice saying them out loud. Pay attention to your posture, voice, and intonation – they should project confidence. Rehearse a firm handshake.  Try on your interview attire to make sure that it’s appropriate and comfortable. Rehearse in your interview attire.

  • Use Big Interview to do a mock interview
  • Schedule an appointment with your Career advisor to get personalized interview coaching
  • Rehearse with your friends and family
  • Seek constructive feedback

You may want to test your commute to the interview to see how much time it takes, and to know the road - you don’t want to get lost on your way to the real job interview!

If you are doing a video or phone interview, do not forget to perform sound and visual check to adjust your voice or sitting position with the help of a friend or your career advisor.  

Be smart about your job interview preparation and prepare to win!

List of References

Employers contact individuals, whom you select, to learn more about your character, work ethic, and abilities and to probe any areas of concern before making hiring decisions. With your reputation – and a possible offer – on the line, carefully choose references that think highly of you and are more than willing to recommend you for employment.

Identify three to five individuals who know you well enough to validate your personal attributes such as integrity and passion and to attest to your academic or professional strengths. Consider past and present employers, professors, advisors, and coaches, but do not call upon family and friends. Keep in mind that some organizations prohibit employees from serving as references and only verify dates of employment and salary history. Under these circumstances, consider asking supervisors and colleagues to speak off-the-record on your behalf. If previous supervisors have written letters of recommendation, you may attach the letter(s) to your list of references for additional information. 

When rallying your supporters, be sure to seek their permission before offering them as references and keep them informed of your interview schedule, progress, and results.

Employers typically request references when you advance to the interview stage and ultimately contact them if seriously considering you for employment. Therefore, only present a reference list upon request or at the conclusion of your interview.

List your references separately from your resume and include your contact information as it appears in your resume heading. For each reference, provide the individual’s name, title, organization, phone number, e-mail address, Skype ID, if appropriate, in case the reference is located abroad, and the context in which the person knows you.  

After your interview, notify your references of who may be calling, what the position entails, why you are interested, and which of your skills and experiences they should emphasize. Most importantly, thank your references for their continued support. After you land the position, be sure to write each reference to let them know what happened and to thank them for their help.

Two black chairs on either side of a round table. Framed pictures are on the wall above the table.

Need a spot to conduct an interview? Students can reserve one of three interview rooms during Career Center office hours. Call or email us to reserve a room.

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