Research the job & organization
Before an interview, you want to make yourself as knowledgeable as possible on the organization you are meeting with. This will lead to a more informed and meaningful conversation during your interview. Spend some time on the company website and reviewing the job description. After researching you should have some familiarity with the organization’s product/service or customers, the things that make the organization unique, and how your skills & experience uniquely pair with the organization and job description.
Before the interview, do an inventory of your skills and experiences. The goal is to have a menu of stories and examples you can draw from during an interview, depending on which strengths and characteristics you want to emphasize.
Use our Interview Brainstorm Sheet (PDF) to prepare before your interview.
Prepare questions for your interviewer
It is a good idea to prepare some questions you would like to ask your interviewers during the interview. Most interviews will conclude with “do you have any questions for us?” It’s good to have 2-4 questions ready.
- What do you like best about working for this company?
- What does a typical day look like in this position?
- What is the timeline for the hiring process from this point?
- What are the skills or characteristics of an ideal employee for this position?
- Are there any points from my interview that you would like for me to clarify or expand?
- How is success determined for this position?
- What are this company’s goals over the next year (5 years?), and how does this position contribute to those goals?
- Is there any additional information I can provide to help make this hiring decision easier?
- What are the top priorities for this position over the next 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?
- What is the hierarchical structure for the organization? Who is the supervisor for this position?
- How would you describe this company’s culture or work environment?
Before a job interview, think through some of the logistics of the interview day:
- Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early. Consider transportation and parking beforehand.
- Plan to dress professionally, in clothes that are appropriate for your field.
- Prepare to bring additional copies of your resume, a notebook, and pen.
Answer questions effectively
A good interview answer is:
- Relevant to the job
- About 1-2 minutes long (not too short, not too long)
- Backed up by examples (don’t just say you are a good communicator, give an example of some times when you’ve used communication skills)
- Positive and focused on your own actions, skills, accomplishments
Use the S.T.A.R. method to answer behavioral questions
It is becoming increasingly common for interviewers to ask behavioral interview questions. Behavioral questions inquire about actions you have taken in past situations to predict how you might behave in your future work environment. Answering these questions often involves telling a story from your past as a means of demonstrating a certain personal quality or skill, such as leadership, ability to multitask, or resilience in the face of obstacles. An example of a behavioral question is “tell me about a time when you disagreed with a coworker, and how you handled it”.
When answering one of these questions, it is important to tell a cohesive story that demonstrates the situation and your actions. Using the S.T.A.R. method can help you stay on track with these answers:
- Situation: describe the situation and context
- Task: explain the challenge or issue
- Action: describe the action YOU took in the situation
- Result: tell the result of the situation or what you learned from it
Example of S.T.A.R. in action:
Question – Please describe a time when you had a lot of things to accomplish in a short amount of time.
Answer – (Situation) As a full-time undergraduate student at the University of Idaho, I was also working part-time as a waiter at Joe’s Diner. My senior capstone project required that I spend a lot of time outside of class in order to complete the project on time. (Task) Throughout my capstone project I had to carefully balance my time spent working on the project with my work schedule. (Action) I created schedules and utilized a planner to set aside specific time to work on my capstone project while still maintaining my work hours and coursework from my other classes. (Result) Through planning and time management, I was able to keep my work hours, maintain a 3.6 GPA, and complete a successful capstone project that was very well received by my professor.
Send a thank you note
Within 48 hours after an interview, you should write a thank you note to each interviewer(s). Express gratitude for the interview opportunity, comment on some positive encounter or topic you enjoyed from the interview, and, if applicable, reconfirm your interest in the position. Either an email or a handwritten note is appropriate.
Reflect on your performance
Every interview is a learning experience, and you will become better at interviewing with practice. After each interview, spend some time reflecting on your performance to guide your own improvement.
- What went well?
- What did you convey positively about yourself?
- What didn’t go so well?
- Did the interviewer ask questions for which you were not prepared?
- What do you wish you said when asked a question?
- What can you do differently next time to improve?
If you do not hear from the interviewer by the time he or she indicated, or within a reasonable amount of time from your interview (1-2 weeks), call or email to inquire about the hiring process status. If a decision has not been made, ask the interviewer when he or she believes it will be made. If you have another job offer but would like to know about this interview outcome before making a decision, tell the interviewer. It may speed up the process.