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Successful Employment Interviewing Methods

Employment interviewing is a focused, goal-oriented exchange between two people. You will be presenting your education, experience, and personality to an employer who might offer you the opportunity to gain new experience, build a reputation, and start a career.

Interviewing skills are crucial to job seekers because prospective employers base employment decisions largely on information and impressions obtained in job interviews; however, the interview itself will typically be the most significant criterion in hiring.

Pre-Interview Concerns

Of critical importance to successful interviewing is the preliminary footwork and planning prior to your actual meeting.

To maximize your success, you will need to understand in some detail the nature and purposes of interviewing. To merely "show up" is not enough. You must be an active participant in the exchange of questions, answers, and impressions.

From an employer's perspective, hiring you is a risk. Through studying some paperwork that you have submitted and talking with you over a brief period of time, he or she is expected to make a sound decision.

You have the opportunity to convince the employer of your "value". By referring to specific experiences and accomplishments, you must show them that you will fit into their organization and contribute to its purposes.


Before going into any interview situation you will need to spend a considerable amount of time thinking about yourself. Are your interests consistent with the general career area and this specific job? What are your employable skills and how do they correspond with this position? Is this opportunity compatible with your work values?

Knowledge of the organization, its products or services, hierarchical structure, location, and needs is essential. Have these issues clarified in your own mind prior to the interview, and be prepared to verbalize your thoughts. Preparation will strengthen your self-confidence and will show a sincere interest in the job.


You must be able to communicate information effectively to the employer. Remember, that oral communication is among the most important evaluation criteria. Studies have repeatedly supported the notion "that interviewee training (a) can alter performance and (b) is effective in transmitting interview skills.

Interviewing is a skill; as with any skill it improves with practice. You do not want to sound like a tape recorder that spits out a pre-recorded word-for-word answer to an interviewer's questions.

However, you do want to be able to communicate readily and easily about yourself. As a parallel, consider studying for an essay test. You study to learn general concepts and specific facts to support them. You do not usually weave concepts and facts together into an answer until you know the actual essay question.

Preparing for an interview is quite similar. Know your general points and supporting examples; allow them to come together as the questions are asked.

To help you practice for interviews, you might also find a friend willing to act as an interviewer. Respond to some of the questions listed later in this handbook. If you have access to a tape recorder, play back your responses and evaluate yourself as comprehensively and critically as possible.


As a standard rule, dress conservatively and professionally, using your appearance to enhance the image of maturity and self-confidence that you want to communicate. An applicant seeking a professional position is expected to look like a professional. You simply will not get fair consideration unless you do.

Generally, men should wear a conservative suit with a traditional shirt and tie and dress shoes (everyday "knock-arounds" will not do). Hair should be clean and neat. For women, a suit with limited accessories is appropriate.

During the Interview

Your first opportunity to make a favorable impression on the interviewer is to be punctual. Never be late for an interview!

To avoid a potentially awkward situation, decide prior to the interview whether to offer your hand if your interviewer does not extend his or hers. No rule exists about the handshake; do what comes naturally to you. This initial introductory period will usually include a social comment about the weather, etc. to put you at ease.

Always carry extra copies of your resume to the interview. If you have updated your resume for a specific job for which you are interviewing, bring along the revised version and give it to the employer. The same applies to business cards, if you have them (optional).


The majority of time in most interviews is devoted to the employer asking the interviewee questions. Try to hear what an employer is really asking you. What are the underlying questions?

Objectively put yourself in the employer's frame of reference and consider, "What reservations would I have about hiring me?" Your purpose is to alleviate these reservations in the interview and calm any doubt about your suitability for employment.

It may be helpful to utilize an interview answer format to guide the content and direction of your responses. The three components of an effective interview answer are:

  • State your skill or ability.
  • Cite an example surrounding that skill area.
  • Relate the skill and experience to the position for which you are interviewing.

The list of sample interview questions that follows will give you an idea of what you may be asked in an interview. You will not be asked all of these questions; in fact, you may not be asked any of them. But these are the types of questions you will be likely to encounter:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your major strengths?
  • What is a major weakness that you have and what are you doing to correct it?
  • Where do you hope to be in five years? Ten years?
  • Why should I hire you over other candidates?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • How did you get interested in this career field?
  • Why would you be successful in this job?
  • How did you decide where to go to college?
  • Have you been pleased with your choice?
  • Why did you major in___?
  • Did you always plan to major in it?
  • What is your GPA?
  • Tell me about your extracurricular or community activities.
  • What would you like to change about your college experience?
  • What were your favorite and least favorite subjects in school?
  • What kind of professors did you like?
  • Did you do your best in college?
  • Why or why not?
  • Tell me about your work habits.
  • Tell me about some of your work experiences. What have you learned from them?
  • What kind of boss do you like to have? (Avoid criticizing a former boss.)
  • What annoyed you with people you have worked with?
  • What qualities do you admire in others?
  • Why are you interested in this job?
  • To what other organizations are you applying? For what kinds of jobs are you being considered?
  • Why do you want to leave your present position?
  • Tell me about an accomplishment you are proud of.
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Do you work well under pressure?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • How do you feel about traveling as part of your job?
  • Do you mind working overtime?
  • What questions do you have about the position and our organization?
  • What are your geographic limitations?

Ending The Interview

When you sense that the interviewer is ready to wrap things up, do not lengthen the interview unnecessarily. Another interviewee may be waiting, or your interviewer may have other commitments. Show consideration for his or her busy schedule by listening for end-of-interview signals and respond promptly. Before leaving, if the interviewer does not indicate the next step in the job selection process, ask what to expect.

After The Interview

As soon as possible, make notes about what was discussed. Respond promptly to any employer requests, such as to send transcripts or a sample of your work. In addition, write the interviewer a letter thanking him or her for the time and consideration given to you and clarifying any questions.


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