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.
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
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
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
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
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.