Interviewing Tips

Preparing for the Interview | Dress to Impress | The Interview Format |Interview Questions | 
After the Interview | Reasons for Rejection... | Salary Negotiations


Preparing for the Interview

Know Yourself, Know Your Skills

  • Think about your skills in relation to the position.  The employer wants to know if you can do the job, if the job is suited to your talents, and if you will fit.  By relating your skills to those required for the position, you will go a long way towards answering those important questions.
  • Think of the skills required for the specific position and emphasize your skills that match.  Be ready to give examples of how you have used those skills.

Research The Employer

  • In a recent survey, 24% of hiring executives said failure to research the company was their number one reason for turning down a candidate.
  • Be sure to thoroughly explore the employer's website, including the latest press releases and descriptions of their leadership teams. Check to see what other positions are open as well.
  • Follow their social media platforms. Be sure to read any posts/blogs by company executives.
  • Check the archives of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Business Journal, or the Wall Street Journal for the latest articles about the company and industry.
  • Talk to friends, professors, career counselors, alumni and others about the organization.

Research The Position

  • A job description is the ideal place to start your research.  If you have a good job description, you can be better prepared to discuss in the interview how your skills and qualifications match the employers description.
  • But don’t stop your research with the job description.  Research similar positions with companies in the same industry. Find out the typical career path for that position. By reading the NACE Salary Survey (available at the Career Center) or going on-line you can discover the typical salary range to expect.

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Dress to Impress

You only have one chance to make a first impression.  Decisions not to hire are often made in the first 30 seconds. Be sure you have given your interview clothes a practice run. Nothing could be more disconcerting for you than a skirt that hikes up too high when you sit down or a shirt collar that chokes you.

Basic Guidelines - Keep it simple and conservative: Less is more! Be memorable for your unique abilities and accomplishments. Do not be memorable for being inappropriate or outlandish

Attire - Wear a suit in a neutral color. Be sure it fits well, is clean and pressed, and is not revealing. A suit projects professionalism, responsibiliy, and interest in the job. Download our Interview Attire Guide.

Grooming - Make sure that your shoes are polished, your fingernails clean and appropriately manicured, your breath fresh-smelling, your hair clean and neat and your makeup moderate.

Corporate Culture - Today’s dress codes and corporate cultures vary greatly from  company to company and industry to industry. Casual business dress is the norm in many industries, but it is still not the norm for inteviewing.  Unless you are told otherwise by the interviewer, be sure to wear professional business attire to the interview.

Here are some helpful hints:

  • If you smoke, make sure that cigarettes don’t show in your pocket, pocketbook or on your breath.
  • Avoid frangrances because you may smell like the interviewer’s mother or last boy/girlfriend or the interviewer may be allergic.
  • Have extra copies of your resume available. You may be asked to meet with a number of people.
  • If you are invited to hang up your coat, do so. The less you have to encumber you, the better off you are.
  • Carry a typed list of references with your name and the name, position, address, email and phone number of each reference. Be sure to ask people ahead of time if they can be used as your reference. 

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The Interview Format

Arranging The Interview

  • Getting that phone call from an employer who would like to interview you can be one of the most exciting points in your job search, but don’t let your excitement keep you from getting important information.
  • If you send out resumes expect to get an interview. Employers will be calling so make sure to keep your job search information close to the phone. This way you can easily recall the company and position while you are talking to the employer. Be sure to check your voice mail!
  • Make sure you get the correct time and date of the interview. If you don’t know where the company is, make sure you ask for directions. If you take public transportation, find out where the closest stop is.
  • Ask who will be interviewing you and what the format will be. The person who arranges the interview is not necessarily the person who will interview you. Also, you may be interviewed by more than one person, asked to fill out an employment application, or required to take some type of test and you will need to prepare and allow yourself enough time for the entire interview process.

Arrival

  • Allow yourself ample time to arrive at the interview site, but DO NOT ENTER until 10 minutes before the scheduled interview time.
  • Greet the receptionist with a smile (they are often involved in the hiring decisions).  Be aware of your posture while standing and sitting; slouching conveys an unprofessional attitude.
  • Hang up your coat, if possible. Refuse a cup of coffee. Do not smoke!

Introduction

  • Make sure that you hear and remember the interviewer’s name.  Call the interviewer by name during the interview.  Use Ms. or Mr. and use it frequently.
  • When the interviewer enters stand up, offer a firm hand shake, maintain eye contact, repeat the interviewer’s name and smile.

Information Exchange

  • This is the core of the interview when the interviewer will be asking you questions designed to determine whether or not you possess the knowledge, skills, and attitude to effectively perform the job in that particular organization.
  • Be prepared to engage in a dialogue with the interviewer and avoid yes and no answers to the questions. Speak up and maintain eye contact.
  • Do not be afraid to stop and think about an answer to a question.
  • Stay professional.  Occasionally an interviewer will seem to be very informal, casual and friendly. Do not fall into a trap of losing your professionalism.
  • LISTEN to what is being said and ask and respond appropriately. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification.

Closing The Interview

  • Be alert to signs that the interview is coming to a close and follow the interviewer’s lead in ending the interview.
  • Ask about the next step in the interview process.
  • Restate your strong points and interest in the position.
  • Thank the interviewer for seeing you.  Leave with a smile and a strong handshake.

The Second Interview

  • It is rare that a candidate is hired for a professional position on the basis of one interview. If a candidate is interviewed on campus, he/she is usually called back to interview on site.
  • No matter how relaxed you are, maintain your professional demeanor at all times.
  • Take several extra copies of your resume.
  • Be prepared to answer more technical questions that have to do with the actual job functions.
  • Keep your antenna out. If the company has brought you back, they are serious about you. Is this the kind of place you would like to work? If you are not offered a tour, you can ask to see where you would be working if you were offered the job.
  • If you are invited to lunch, order something easy to eat so that conversation can be continued. Do not order an alcoholic beverage and do not smoke.
  • If offered a job, be ready to discuss salary requirements.
  • You do not need to accept a job on the spot. It is very professional to thank them for the offer and request some time to think it over.

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Interview Questions

Interviewing is a two-way street

SAMPLE QUESTIONS FROM THE EMPLOYER

As you think through your answers, it is much more effective and interesting to be able to give an example or tell a story that illustrates your point. The story should be short (30 seconds is sufficient) with a beginning, a middle and an upbeat end. Give the background of the situation, the action you took, and the results of your actions. Listen carefully to each question.

Why did you choose Rutgers University?

  •  Give a strong and positive answer relating to the program, location, and your connection to the university.

Why did you choose your particular major?

  •  Tie this in with a particular strength or interest.  Good place to give an example.

What college subjects did you like best? Least?

  •  It would be strange if you didn’t like the classes in your field or those closely aligned to your field.

Tell me about yourself.

  • State your professional background. Show some other interests and relate this to your skills and your career interest. Finish by asking if there is something else they would like to know.

What are your long range and short term career goals?

  • You need not be specific, but you must show a knowledge of career paths and  opportunities in the industry. Again, this is an opportunity to state that you want to  use specific skills.

What qualities do you have that make you think you would be successful in this position?

  • Your homework and research will pay off as you can discuss your specific qualities that relate to the position.

How would your (best friend, supervisor, co-worker) describe you?

  • Pick a quality or qualities that would be sought after in the job market. This is a good time to tell a story.

What is your greatest strength?

  • Pick one and be sure to give an example.

What is your greatest weakness?

  • The “perfectionist” answer is overdone. Choose one that does not directly relate to the job. Be sure to tell how you are working to overcome any weakness.

What major accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction?

  • Tell a story using the STAR Method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. 

What major problem (mistake) have you encountered and how did you deal with it?

  • Again STAR Method.  End on a positive note.

Why should we hire you?
(A stress question, but an excellent reminder that you need to promote yourself for the job.)

  • Highlight your background based on the company’s current needs. Recap your qualifications keeping the interviewer’s job description in mind. 
  • If you don’t have much experience, talk about how your education and training prepared you for this job.

What are the most important rewards you expect from your career?

  • Show enthusiasm for the work itself.

What does success mean to you?

  • Describe it in a way that touches on all phases of life.

How do you manage your time? What are the techniques you use? How do you prioritize duties?

Why are you interested in our organization?

  •  This is the time to show knowledge of the company, industry and incorporate your skills.

What haven’t I asked you that you think I should know?

  •  Tell something else about yourself of which you are proud and that fits into the job.

QUESTIONS TO ASK IN AN INTERVIEW

  • What would a typical day be like for someone in this position?
  • What do you see as future trends for the company/ the industry?
  • What are the opportunities for personal growth?
  • Identify typical career paths based on past records. What is the realistic time frame for advancement?
  • How is an employee evaluated and promoted?
  • What is the retention rate of people in the position for which I am interviewing?
  • Describe the typical first assignment.
  • Tell me about your initial and future training programs.
  • What are the challenging facets of the job?
  • What are the organization’s plans for future growth?
  • What industry trends do you foresee affecting this organization?
  • How would you describe your organization’s personality and management style?
  • Is it organization policy to promote from within?  Desribe the work history of your top management.
  • What are your expectations for new hires?
  • Describe the work environment.
  • What is the overall structure of the department where the position is located?
  • Why do you enjoy working for your organization?
  • What qualities are you looking for in your new hires?
  • What characteristics does a successful person have at your organization?

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After The Interview

  • Make immediate notes about the interview.
  • Write a thank you email within 24 hours. Make it as personal as possible so that the interviewer will remember you. If you have seen more than one person, send emails to everyone you met. If you only have one person's contact information, be sure to mention everyone's name in your email.
  • If you want to send a handwritten note, do so promptly and in addition to an email. Make sure your handwriting is neat and error-free. Do not just repeat what you wrote in your email. 
  • If you are asked to “stay in touch” or “call if you have questions,” do so but be sure not to call too frequently.
  • If you do not hear from the employer within the time frame you were told to expect, make a follow-up phone call to reassert your interest in the position.

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Reasons for Rejection...

Why are candidates not chosen by employers? According to the Endicott report--following a nationwide poll of employers-- the following are the major reasons for rejection. Study them. Then assess your own interview behavior. Are you guilty of any of these?

  • Lack of proper career planning-- no purpose or goals.
  • Lack of knowledge of field of specialization.
  • Inability to express self clearly. Poor voice, diction, grammar. Indefinite response to questions.
  • Insufficient evidence of achievement or capacity to excite action in others.
  • Not prepared for the interview-- no research on organization.
  • No real interest in the organization-- just shopping around.
  • Narrow location interest-- unwilling to relocate later.
  • Lack of interest, indifferent. Lacks enthusiasm.
  • Overbearing. Over-aggressive. Conceited. “Know it all.”
  • Interested only in the best dollar offer.
  • Asks no or poor questions about the job.
  • Unwilling to start at the bottom. Expects too much too soon.
  • Makes excuses. Evasiveness. Hedges on unfavorable factors in record.
  • Failure to participate in activities.
  • Poor scholastic record-- just got by.
  • Condemnation of past employers.

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Salary Negotiations
Do not bring up the question of salary during the first interview, but do prepare by knowing the usual salary range for the type of position for which you are interviewing. Research salaries for positions in your field to determine current salary ranges.

Assess your financial needs.  How much must you have to meet your basic needs for one year, e.g., shelter, food, living expenses, loan/credit card payments, etc.  Salary alone is misleading; be sure to consider the entire benefits package and the intervals at which salary adjustments are made.

Have a target salary figure in mind, based upon your research.  Whenever possible, let the employer name the salary first.  If the employer states a satisfactory salary range, always accept the top of the range. If you are not satisfied with the offer, tactfully ask if that figure is negotiable. If the interviewer indicates the salary is non-negotiable, be careful about pushing for a higher range. You can inquire about a salary review, when will the first one be, how often do you get a review.

Once an offer has been accepted, the employer should provide the employment terms and salary in writing.

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