For most career fields, you will not get the position without interviewing. Therefore, effective interviewing skills and knowledge of the interview process are a must. Others will be competing with you to obtain the same position. It is critical to convince a potential employer that you can do the job and that you can do it better than the other candidates.

You must understand that the interviewing process does not begin the moment you walk into an employer’s office and end the moment you leave. Successful interviewing requires that you prepare prior to the interview and that you follow up after the interview.

Interviewing 101

Below are steps you can take before, during, and after an interview that can help catapult you ahead of the competition and ease your anxiety and tension.

  1. Dress professionally:T he way you dress has an effect on the interviewer’s initial impression of you. Allow time to select and, if necessary, tailor an interview suit appropriate for your chosen profession. View our section on attire for more information.
  2. Be professional: Being professional encompasses everything: punctuality, dress, hygiene, verbal and nonverbal behavior, and dining etiquette. Arrive at least 10-15 minutes early; remember, you have only one opportunity to make a good first impression and being late or not showing at all will not be viewed favorably. Do not arrive at the interview empty-handed. Consider bringing a portfolio that includes the following: resume, letters of recommendation, writing samples, projects and, if possible, performance evaluations. This gives the potential employer additional information to consider during the selection process.
  3. Know the position: Knowing the position is a top priority so that you will be able to match your strengths. Consider the following: What does the description entail? What are the essential functions of the office, company, or organization? To whom will you report? Organize your thoughts before you practice for the interview.
  4. Know the organization: It is critical for you to thoroughly research the organization prior to your interview. Interviewers may ask you what you know about their organization as a way of evaluating how interested you are in the position. 
  5. Understand the different types of interviews: See the list below.
  6. During the interview: It is your responsibility to convince the interviewer that you are the most qualified applicant for the position. Remember: You have only one chance to make a good first impression, and first impressions are lasting impressions. Listed be­low are some tips to follow at the beginning and during the interview.

Tips to Follow

  • Give the interviewer a good, firm handshake, accompanied with eye contact.
  • Show enthusiasm and confidence by smiling, maintaining good posture, and listening carefully.
  • Convey interest and knowledge about the position and company.
  • Provide specific examples to illustrate use of skills.
  • Avoid fillers such as “umm,” “you know,” “yeah,” “I mean,” “like,” etc.
  • Be careful not to dominate the interview. Practice providing concise answers to avoid rambling.
  • Keep the focus on professional, not personal examples. Don’t discuss personal problems.
  • Use the STAR Skill Chart of answering behavioral questions to make sure your examples are complete.
  • Avoid interrupting.
  • Keep the conversation positive; do not make negative comments about previous experiences, supervisors, teachers, etc.
  • Ask relevant questions.

Types of Interviews

  1. The Structured Interview: In this interviewing strategy, all potential candidates are asked the exact same questions.
  2. Interviewing With Other Candidates: If you are invited to interview along with other candidates, be mindful of how you interact. Introduce yourself to the other candidates and be sure during the interview to balance contributing your comments with listening. Avoid interrupting and be careful not to dominate the conversation. If another shares a view you planned to share, think of a comment that adds to that one. Make sure you are participating and not simply observing.
  3. The Group Interview: If you are being interviewed by a group, direct your answers to the entire group by making eye contact and addressing every group member, making the most eye contact with the person who asked the question.
  4. The Telephone Interview: Employers interviewing candidates in various locations will often narrow the list through phone interviews before arranging on-site interviews. Telephone interviews may be conducted by an individual or by a panel. If a phone interview is arranged with an employer in another time zone, be sure to clarify which time zone will be observed. When anticipating a phone interview, answer the call by stating your name. This professional greeting will prevent the caller from having to ask for you. Arrange to have a reliable phone in a quiet location where you can limit or avoid distractions. Print a copy of your resume, the job description, and questions you plan to ask them. You may also want to have key words written down that will help you recall examples you would like to share in your responses. Remember to smile! Smiling will increase the level of energy often diminished in voices over the phone. Sit straight as if you were meeting with the interviewer(s) in person. Some candidates find that wearing interview attire puts them in the appropriate mindset.
  5. Video Interviews: To save time and money, employers may interview through video calling programs like Skype. Practicing will allow you to see how you appear on a screen and hear how your voice carries. Your goal should be to look just as you would if you were sitting in the room with the interviewer. Position the camera on your computer to capture the upper half of your body, including your hands. This will allow the employer to observe some of your nonverbal communication. For eye contact, look at the camera rather than the screen. Make sure your surroundings reflect a professional setting. Clear away distractions including pets that might interrupt your thoughts or appear on screen. Check the lighting to make sure you will be visible. Before speaking, wait to make sure the interviewer is completely finished. Speak clearly and smile!

Writing a Thank-You Letter After an Interview

A thank-you letter shows thoughtfulness, a characteristic many employers value. Writing a thank-you email or letter also gives you an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position.

When to Write a Thank-You Letter

The letter should be written within 24 hours of the interview. If you know the organization will be making a hiring decision right away, send your thank-you letter as an email.

Letter Tips

If you prefer to send a letter and time permits, type the letter to make it look more professional and to show that you know how to format business letters. If there were others in the organization who assisted with your interview arrangements, you might send them a handwritten note. Thank employers for their time and express your continued interest in the organization. The letter should be short and to the point; however, you can still mention something you found particularly appealing or interesting.

Resources