Interview Preparation

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Even with amazing credentials, an interview can make or break your prospects of a job offer.  Preparation and practice are essential, and this section of our website is dedicated to helping you feel calm, collected, and ready to land that job!

General Interview Tips

  • Investigate the employer. The internet is an invaluable tool for learning about a company's products, services, benefits, philosophy, etc. It is also important to research the company culture and history. Why? Because having a strong knowledge base on the organization prepares you to better interview as well as ensure the organization's mission and vision aligns with your values.
  • Create a profile of the position for which you are interviewing.  What qualifications does this position require? What are the duties and responsibilities for this position? How do your skills align with the requirements and position? Why? Tracking these qualities assists you in being more organized in your job search and better prepared for creating a customized resume and cover letter.
  • Prepare for questions. Identify your experiences, skills, and characteristics related to the position. Write your answers to commonly asked interview questions to help formulate your thoughts and ideas.
  • Compile relevant information. Some organizations will ask you to fill out an application as well as provide a resume. You may want to write down addresses of former employers, names and dates before doing to the interview. Always have extra copies of your resume and keep a pen and paper handy to jot down notes about the interview.
  • Practice. It is essential to rehearse prior to a successful interview. Spend some time with a list of interview questions and develop a plan to answer each question. Attend the Center for Career Development's mock interview sessions or utilize InterviewStream to practice (see events for mock interview dates and below for the InterviewStream resource).
  • Dress professionally. Make sure your shoes are polished and your attire is clean and well pressed. Make sure you are properly groomed (clean hair, clean fingernails, etc). Keep jewelry to a minimum and no strong perfume or cologne. Why? First impressions matter.  You want your personality, skills and accomplishments to speak for you rather than your clothes or grooming.
  • First Impressions are lasting. Arrive at least ten minutes early.  Allow time for traffic. Introduce yourself to the receptionist and indicate who you are there to see. Remember the interview starts the moment you enter the door and does not end until you leave. Practice the pronunciation of the interviewer's name and repeat the name when you greet him/her.
  • Attitude is everything. Show confidence, interest, assertiveness and enthusiasm. Do not be arrogant, aggressive, or immature.  Smile, relax, and be friendly. Be honest in all your answers. Be courteous, polite and respectful at all times.
  • Verbal Communication: Use proper grammar. Do not use "um," "like," and "you know" when speaking. Pause for a moment before answering to gather your thoughts. Answer questions thoroughly by using examples. Do not monopolize the conversation or ramble. Make sure you answer the question asked.
  • Nonverbal Communication: Shake hands firmly with the interviewer and anyone else to whom you are introduced. Make eye contact when speaking to someone. Always wait to sit down until you have been offered a seat. Be aware of your posture at all times.  Beware of talking with your hands too much. 
  • Your past should not be evaded.  While past failures need not be volunteered, do not try to cover them up.  If you have a blemish in your past, simply explain the circumstances around it without giving excuses or blaming others. Discuss what you learned from the situation. Never speak poorly about former supervisors, colleagues, or employers.
  • Be attentive. When introduced to others, remember their names. Pay attention. Do not ask questions about information that has already been addressed or is commonly found online. Ask for a business card at the close of the interview to ensure you have proper contact information for sending a thank you.
  • Negotiating salary. The employer should be the one to introduce this topic.  It will generally be discussed at a later interview or at the time an offer is made.
  • Dress Code: You want your words to speak for you in an interview, not the color of your blouse or tie. You should dress to impress for the interview, dressing a step up from what is standard attire for the profession.  Whether that is business professional or business casual, best practice is to ask the company to define their standards. Review the dress attire guide below for details.

Interview Resources

Interview Stream logo
Click in the interviewstream logo to connect to thousands of practice interview questions. All you need is internet access and a webcam.

Interview Time-frame

  • Prior to applying for jobs: Practice interviewing and prepare answers to basic interview questions such as "Tell me about yourself" and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Practicing your communication skills will help you overall in the interview process. Index cards are a great day for you to practice the main points you would like to address with each question.
  • A week to a day before the interview: Research the company, paying special attention to the company mission/goals, and job description. It is important to make sure you are a good fit with the organization you will potentially represent and can express this in an interview. Take notes on ways you can address this in your interview and practice. In addition, use this research time to think of a few good questions to ask during the interview. It's important to have some questions ready to go ahead of time!
  • Day of the interview: Arrive at least 10 minutes early, even if it means hanging out in your car for a few minutes. Accommodate for traffic and "get lost" time (even better- do a test drive the day before so you know where you are going). This gives you time to relax, review your answers mentally, and use the bathroom. Remember to breathe!
  • Within 24 hours of the interview: It is important to send a thank you note indicating your appreciation for the interview and the person or committee's consideration. An email is acceptable, but a hand written note is even better! Go ahead and have this postmarked and addressed so you can easily drop it in the mail soon after your interview.
  • 2 weeks after the interview: Haven't heard back or weren't given a time frame on when to hear back? It's ok to call and leave a message or email to gain a better understanding of when you might hear back. However, don't call repeatedly (especially without leaving a message) or send multiple emails. You don't want to counteract a positive first impression!