These resources will help you prepare for and succeed at your job interview. Remember that employers consider the interview the most important part of the job search process. So you should carefully prepare for and rehearse your interview.
The interview pages are organized in the following way:
- Interviews Part 1: Preparing for a job interview
- Interviews Part 2: What to do during and after a job interview
Preparing for a Job Interview
What is a job interview?
A job interview is a meeting between you and an employer. An interview lets you learn more about the job and the company. Interviews also let employers learn about you.
Why do I need to do an interview?
Employers consider the interview the most important part of the hiring process. The interview allows you to make an in-person impression on your potential employer. This impression can be good, but it can also be bad. So even if you have a good cover letter and résumé, you will have to do well during your interview in order to make a positive impression. Remember the old saying:
“You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
How do I get ready for my interview?
There are a few easy but very important steps you should complete to prepare for your job interview:
1. Research the company and the job so that you can answer (and ask) detailed questions about the organization and the position. Find out as much as you can about the company. Here are some questions to answers (this list was modified from Job Interviews for Dummies):
Organization (use the Internet, the library, the job ad, and local state employment agencies)
- What does the company do, and what services does it provide?
- What is the company’s mission?
- What are some of the company’s goals?
- How many employees does it have?
- Is it local, or does it have multiple locations?
- Is it a union shop?
- What are some of it newest products or projects?
- Who are the company’s competitors?
- What types of employees does the company hire?
- When was the company established?
- What is the company’s financial status?
Job (use the Internet, the library, the job ad, and local state employment agencies)
- What is the job, and what will you have to do?
- What are the daily responsibilities?
- What sort of physical labor is involved?
- What sort of technology or computer labor is involved?
- Is the location of the job different or the same as the company’s location?
- Is there travel involved in the job? If so, is it long distance and how often will you be expected to travel?
- What sort of past experience will you need?
- What sort of specific skills will you need?
- Does the job call for any special licenses (Commercial Driver’s License), certification, or training?
- What sorts of benefits are related to the job, and what is the salary? You may not be able to find specific answers for these questions. But it is good to have a general idea of salary and benefits for the type of job you want.
Remember that you can contact the company directly to find answers to most of these questions.
2. Review your résumé and cover letter and be able to speak in detail about your accomplishments and how you can help the company.
3. Practice your interview with someone. Have your friend use the interview questions below. Your mock interviews should cover every part of the interview. You should wear the same clothes, hairstyle, and jewelry you will wear at the interview.
Mock interviews will help you answer questions. Rehearsing also helps relieve stress.
Common Interview Questions
Some of the most common interview questions are (this list was adapted from wisebread.com):
- Tell me about yourself
- Why are you looking for a job?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What sort of skills do you have that match our needs?
- What sort of training do you have that matches our needs?
- How do you work under stress and with deadlines?
- How would you describe your work ethic? (Translation: employers want to know what motivates you to do a good job)
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- I notice that you have some time on your résumé where you were not working. What were you doing? (This is especially important to rehears if you have been incarcerated)
- Do you work better in a team or by yourself?
- Describe a past situation where you did something positive for an employer
- How do you work with people you do not get along with?
- Are you willing to put the company’s needs ahead of your own?
- Please explain why I should hire you
- Do you have any questions for me?
What to Do During and After a Job Interview
What should I wear to my interview?
Employers expect job candidates to dress nicely for interviews. What you wear and how you style your hair sends a message to the employer. So, it is good to dress conservatively for your interview. But it is also good to fit into the company’s culture and what they wear at work. So if you are confused about what to wear, you can use these lists adapted from How to Get a Job and Keep It:
- Matching skirted suit (first best choice)
- Matching pantsuit (second best choice)
- Jacket with a skirt
- Jacket with a dress
- Jacket with slacks
- Matching suit (best choice)
- Blazer with slacks
- Sport coat with slacks
- Shirt with tie and slacks
- Sweater with slacks
If you do not have these types of clothes, check with your local employment agency to see if there is a community service that provides dress clothes for interviews. Many community “closets” have suits you can have or borrow for interviews.
Use this list adapted from Interviews for Dummies for personal appearance:
- No heavy makeup
- No provocative clothing (see-through, tight, slits, super-short skirts)
- No flashy jewelry
- No strappy shoes, sandals, or towering heels
- No big hair or elaborate styles
- No hosiery runs or designer stockings
- No sagging coat lining or saggy pants
- No five o’clock shadows (be cleanly shaved, and if you have a beard or other facial hair, make sure it’s neatly trimmed)
- No short or white socks
- No mismatched belts and shoes (same color leather)
- No ties too short or too long or bowties
- No wrinkled or soiled clothing
- No tinted glasses
- No joke or fad watches
- No visible body piercing or multiple earrings in one ear
- No visible body art; cover tattoos if possible
- No inconsistent look – no sneakers with suits
What should I do during my interview?
Employers respect and like job candidates who look professional, who are relaxed, polite, and confident. Preparing for your interview will help you to relax and be confident. The following list, adapted from Interviews for Dummies will help you be polite and make a positive impression:
- Arrive at least 10 minutes early for the interview (always leave extra time to get lost or get stuck in traffic) and turn off your cell phone
- Bring extra copies of your cover letter and résumé
- Exude confidence: Smile, hold your head high, shoulders back, and walk with vigor.
- Radiate friendliness: Greet everyone (including the receptionist) with warmth.
- Be positive: Do not talk badly about yourself, other people, or complain about anything.
- Extend yourself: Offer a firm, strong handshake at the beginning and end of an interview
- Use eye contact: Maintain eye contact during your interview, glancing away occasionally, but always remaining focused on the person you are talking with.
- Gesture naturally: Find a home base for your hands and let your gestures add interest to your conversation – do not pick at your nails, tap your feet, straiten your hair, or bite your lips.
- Display respect: Don’t use first names unless you are asked to, rise when you greet someone, and be a good listener.
- Be mindful of good manners: Turn off your cell phone and do not eat, chew gum, smoke, or wear fragrance.
- Be gracious: Thank the interviewer for his or her time, write and mail a thank you/follow-up letter so that it arrives no more than one week after the interview.
What should I not do during my interview?
- Arrive late
- Dress inappropriately
- Appear unprofessional
- Address people by their first names
- Drink alcohol or smoke before the interview or use cologne or breath mints to cover up smoker’s breath
- Sit down right away without greeting and shaking hands with everyone
- Mumble or speak too loudly or quickly
- Slouch or sit too rigidly
- Stuff your hands in your pockets
What should I do after my interview?
In order to thank the employer and continue the interview process, write a thank you or follow up letter. Make sure you send the letter so that it arrives within seven days of the interview. If you have not heard back from the employer within ten days, you may call to ask about the job. These CWEST resources will help you write your follow up letter.
Kennedy, Joyce Lain. Job Interviews for Dummies. 2nd ed. New York: Hungry Minds, 2000. Print.
Morem, Susan. How to Get a Job and Keep It: Career and Life Skills You Need to Succeed. Chicago: Ferguson Publishing, 2002. Print.