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The University of Texas at Arlington | Division of Student AffairsThe University of Texas at Arlington | Division of Student Affairs

The Career Development CenterThe Career Development Center

The University of Texas at Arlington Division of Student Affairs

Interview Preparation

job fairThe job interview is your time to shine! Job interviews are always stressful—even for job seekers who have gone on countless interviews. The best way to reduce the stress is to be prepared. The Career Development Center has offered some insight designed to help you successfully interview and get the job you want.

Take the time to review the “standard” interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample interview answers to these typical interview questions.

Always remember to research the company. The more you know about the company’s culture, goals, and recent accomplishments (to name a few), the better prepared you will be to provide knowledgeable and relevant answers to the interview questions.

The Career Development Center hosted a panel discussion recently titled “How to Wow the Real World.” Watch the video below to learn what local executives and professionals had to say about making a good impression during a job interview.

 

Here are some tips for helping you to be prepared for the interview!

Interview Time Is Show Time

Want to tell a potential employer that you’re creative? A problem solver? Flexible?

Instead of describing yourself as a “self-starter,” tell a story about how you took action when you saw an issue that needed to be fixed.

Don’t say you are “flexible”—tell the hiring manager about a change in your job (or schoolwork demands) and what you did to deal with the change.

Well-worn phrases won’t help you get the job, but concrete examples will!

Don’t say

The story you need to tell

Highly qualified

Highlight your accomplishments in previous jobs. Emphasize your specific skills and note any certifications you have earned.

Hard worker

Explain exactly how you've gone the extra mile for your job. For instance, did you regularly meet tough deadlines, handle a high volume of projects, or tackle tasks outside your job description?

Team player

Provide examples of how you worked with colleagues or individuals in other departments to meet an objective or complete a project.

Problem solver

Highlight a difficult situation you encountered and how you handled it.

Flexible

Describe how you responded to a major change at work (or in your schoolwork) or dealt with the unpredictable aspects of your job.

People person

Can you offer examples of your strong communication skills? Can you describe how you’ve worked with co-workers and customers?

Self-starter

What can you contribute immediately to the company or to the department you work in? Describe how you took action when you saw an issue that needed to be fixed.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

Interview Rubric

Not sure how to rate your interview skills? Take a look at this rubric to find out how you rank in key areas. Remember that you can practice your interview skills and get great interview advice at The Career Development Center!

Excellent interview: You should get a job offer!

Average interview: You could get called back, but it is not certain.

Interviewing skills need significant improvement: You would not get this job.

First Impressions

Your appearance is professional; you are wearing a business suit. You greet and shake hands with your interviewer correctly. Your conversation is enthusiastic and engaging.

You look nice, but you do not wear a suit. Your greeting is appropriate, but you forget to shake hands with your interviewer. Your conversation is enthusiastic and engaging.

Your attire is unprofessional: You wear jeans or shorts to the interview. You do not greet or shake hands with your interviewer. Your conversation is not energetic.

Interview Content

You are knowledgeable about the organization and position. You display poise and confidence. You relate your skills to the job very well.

You are knowledgeable about the position, but not about the organization. You display adequate confidence in your answers. You state your skills, but do not adequately relate them to the job.

You are not knowledgeable about the position or organization. You are not confident in answering questions about yourself. You do not state the skills you have to do the job.

Interview Skills / Techniques

You have excellent eye contact with your interviewer (without staring). Your language and grammar are appropriate. (No use of "um".) You speak at the correct speed.

You have adequate eye contact with your interviewer. Your language and grammar are adequate. You use "um" and other inappropriate terms, but not enough to disrupt the interview. You speak a little too quickly or too slowly.

You look at the floor or ceiling when speaking. Your grammar and language are inappropriate. You speak too quickly or too slowly.

Closing

You successfully convey your interest in the position. You ask appropriate questions. You thank the interviewer.

You convey some interest in the position. You are not prepared to ask questions. You thank the interviewer.

You do not show any interest in the position. You do not ask any questions. You do not thank the interviewer.

Telephone Interview Tips

Chances are, you’ll have several telephone interviews during your job search. It is important to prepare for a telephone interview in the same way you would prepare for an in-person interview. However, since impressing a potential employer over the phone presents some unique challenges, here are some tips that will help you to succeed!

  1. Have your research and company notes to hand. You should also have a copy of the resume that you sent to that company. Remember, the most effective resumes are those that are especially tailored.
  2. Take a "surprise" call in stride. If you are looking for work, then telephone interviews should not really be a "surprise."
  3. Be calm and collected. Remember to slow your breathing; at least try by counting to 5 with each inhale and exhale.
  4. Smile-it really makes a difference in your voice so much so that the person on the other end can tell when you are smiling.
  5. Sound positive, friendly, and collected.
  6. If you need time, say: "Thank you for calling. Would you wait just a moment while I close the door?" Rest the phone as you pull out your resume and company information.
  7. Be professional, as if it were a face-to-face interview. Don't be over-familiar with the interviewer. It does happen!
  8. You should always refer to the interviewer by his or her surname (Mr./Mrs.) until invited to do otherwise.
  9. Listen carefully to the interviewer. Listening and communication skills are essential.
  10. Answer politely and keep to the point; telephone interviews are seldom more than 15 minutes.
  11. Have some questions prepared; for example, "What exactly will be the three major responsibilities in this job?"
  12. Be factual in your answers.
  13. Speak directly into the telephone. Keep the mouthpiece about one inch from your mouth.
  14. Do not smoke or eat while on the phone.
  15. Turn off or shut out all background noises, such as pets, children playing, and the television.
  16. Take notes. They will be invaluable to you in preparing for the face-to-face meeting. No need to record the conversation; that is a bit over the top!
  17. Prompt the interviewer to invite you to interview by saying, "I am immediately available for interview if you would like to arrange one now."
  18. If you are invited to an interview, take a note of the details and read them back to confirm date, place, time, etc.
  19. Ask if there is anything you should bring to the interview and ask the format of the interview or process, the interview length, and how many interviews are normally undertaken. This information will be excellent when it comes to preparing.
  20. Taking care to ascertain the correct spelling and pronunciation of the interviewer's name shows your concern for the small but important things in life; it will be noticed.
  21. If you require more details like a job description or job title, ask for one.
  22. Thank the interviewer for his or her time and that you hope to hear soon. No harm in saying that you are very keen for a face-to-face interview. One school of thought asserts that you should ask three times for an interview; subtly of course.

"I am immediately available for interview."

"I really would like an opportunity to meet you and look around the company."

"I will be in the area on Monday and it is no problem to pop in."

It is difficult to evaluate an opportunity properly over the telephone. Even if the job doesn't sound right, go to the interview. At the very minimum it will give you practice. Moreover, once you attend a face-to-face interview the job may look that bit more attractive as you gather more facts. You might even discover a more suitable opening elsewhere within the company; it does happen.

The Second Interview

Once the first interview has been completed, companies invite their top candidates back for a second interview. Normally, this interview is done at the actual facility. Sometimes, this interview involves traveling out of town, so special care should be taken to ensure that your “big day” progresses without a problem. You should expect the second interview to last at least a half-day. Therefore, flexibility is the key here. Remember to keep upbeat and professional in all situations on that day. You will meet many people, all of who have the potential to evaluate you prior to a job offer being made. The following could occur during your second interview...

1. Meet with a company contact person to discuss:
  • An outline of the activities for the day.
  • The structure of the company or organization.
  • General employment guidelines and procedures.
  • Answers to your general questions.
2. Interviews with at least four to eight people in individual and/or group settings.
  • Most of these people work in your area of specialization or interest.
  • They will be from various levels of employment including coworkers and all levels of management.
  • Many interviews will be similar in terms of the types of questions asked. Remember to be consistent in your responses.
  • Stay upbeat and professional with each individual or group that you meet.
  • You will be evaluated on your abilities, competence, and personality.
3. Lunch may be included for informal interviewing.
  • Relax & be prepared to make “small talk”. Keep your conversation mature and professional.
  • The purpose of the meal to observe you in a less formal setting.
  • You are being evaluated on your social graces, manner of speech, contemporary views and ideas, ability to converse, and ability to mix business and pleasure.
  • Do not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Order foods that are easy to eat (avoid messy foods) and moderately priced.
4. A company/facility tour may also be scheduled.
  • Use this time to observe the work environment and employees
  • Appear interested and ask insightful questions.
5. Testing may also be done during this time.
  • Companies may use a variety of technical skills, verbal or writing skills, personality, drug, or physical exams.
  • These tests cannot be prepared for. Relax and do your best.
6. At the end of the day, you will usually meet again with your contact person.
  • Be prepared to give your impressions of the day.
  • The contact will be able to explain follow-up procedures to you.
  • The contact will also discuss any reimbursement details that might apply.
  • You can ask any final questions that you might have

Behavioral Interviews

The S.T.A.R. Technique

In today’s competitive workforce, it is important to impress upon the prospective employer that you are the best qualified candidate for the position by claiming not only that you have the skills required but by proving it through vivid examples of your past performance.

These examples may come from work experience, extracurricular activities, hobbies, volunteer work, and classroom experiences. A complete description of the behavior which includes the situation under which an action occurred, the action itself, and the result of that action are known as the S.T.A.R. technique.

Your answer to a behavioral interview question must explain the Situation you were in, the Task (problem) for which you were responsible, the specific Action you took, and the Results of your action in order to be considered a complete S.T.A.R.

Interviewers conduct behavioral interviews to identify candidates who have the core competencies that are necessary to be successful in the position being offered. Some competencies might include:

Communication: Able to clearly present information through the spoken word; influence or persuade others through oral presentation in positive or negative circumstances; listen well.

Decision Making and Problem Solving: Able to take action in solving problems while exhibiting judgment and realistic understanding of issues; able to use reason, even when dealing with emotional topics.

Team Building: Able to work with people in such a manner as to build high morale and group commitments to goals and objectives.

Organization and Planning: Able to organize or schedule people or tasks; to develop realistic action plans while being sensitive to time constraints and resource availability.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a specific experience that illustrates your ability to communicate.
  • Solving problems requires more than good plans; it means taking action. Give me an example of a time when you were able to take meaningful action in solving a practical problem.
  • It’s sometimes important to deal with a negative attitude to build team motivation.
  • Give me an example of a time when you confronted a negative attitude successfully.
  • Give me an example of a time in which you were effective in doing away with the “constant emergencies” and “surprises” in your organization’s climate. How did your planning and time management help you deal with the unexpected?

As always, remember that the career consultants in our office are happy to help you develop your interview skills!