The interview is a point of anxiety for many job applicants. While a resume can get you an interview, en employer will rarely hire a person for their presence on paper alone. The interview is an important meeting in which you can show your interpersonal and communication skills, as well as get insight into the position and organization to which you are applying.
Interviewing is a skill that comes more naturally to some than other. As is the case with most skill-based activities, practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing (or at least practice will help you feel ready on your big day!). Being PREPARED for your interview is the greatest present you can give to yourself and your job search! Career Services offers the following ways for you to hone your interview skills:
- Tips on Interviewing (including common questions) – Found in the Career Matters Handbook
- Interview Coaching (one-on-one consultation)
- Mock Interviews with Counselors (offered all year)
- Mock Interviews with Employers (offered in March)
Utilizing these services will improve your interview skills a great deal. Mock interviews are priceless in that you get to have another person’s perspective!
- Know yourself – You need to know what you have done (work, extracurricular, volunteer, and classroom activities), what skills you possess, what you could add to the organization, and why you are applying to the position
- Know the company – Nothing looks worse than a person who cannot muster up an exact reason for why they would want to work at a given organization. Do your research on the company to what attributes you feel the company has. If you cannot think of something positive about an organization, why apply?
- Be able to give SPECIFIC examples - It is not enough to just say that you are a “hard worker” – you need to give a specific example about how your initiative led to the completion of a project (for example).
- Close the interview well – You NEED to have questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. This shows interest in the position and preparation on your part. As you leave, reiterate your interest in the position and make sure you have the business cards of the people with whom you met. It is imperative that you FOLLOW UP with a thank you note to every interviewer.
Behavior (or situational) based interview questions are ones in which the employer asks you to “Name a time when….” or “Give an example of a situation in which…” Basically you are asked to give an anecdote from your past about a time when you performed a certain act/skill (e.g. took initiative, engaged in teamwork, acted as a leader, resolved conflict). The employers are operating under the assumption that your past behavior will predict your future behavior in their organization. This interview approach also tests your communication skills.
Although telling a story about yourself may not sound too difficult, these types of interview questions stump many people. Below is an acronym to help you structure your responses and answer the questions completely. Use the STAR approach to behavioral questions as you prepare:
- Situation (S) - Give the situation to provide the context for what was occurring (i.e. were you at work, in class, involved in a student organization)
- Task (T) – Give the task that needed completing (what had to get done, what problem/challenge/opportunity was presented)
- Action (A) – What did YOU specifically do to impact the situation and the task that you just presented
- Result (R) – What was the bottom line of the situation? What occurred as a result of your action. Make sure the result is always positive even if it just consists of what you learned from a given challenging situation or how you would approach a problem differently the next time you were faced with it
Below is an example of an interview response using the STAR approach. You do not need to say Situation, Task, Action, Result as you give your response, that is just something to keep in your head to make sure you are only giving relevant information to the story and the question posed.
Question: Tell me about a time when you worked within a team to complete a project.
Situation - In Autumn semester, 2012, I was enrolled in an Introduction to Business class that all business majors are required to take. It has an enrollment of over 250 students but within that large class are smaller groups of 5 – 6 students. These small groups work every closely together on one important project. My group had five members
Task - In our group project, we needed to manage an automotive company. We had to manage every aspect of the company and compete with the other groups (companies) in the class. We needed to define our product & our customer, allocate resources, handle inventory and be profitable.
Action - Each of us had to take a specific part of the company to run. I volunteered to
coordinate all of the financials for the group. I wanted to make sure that everyone
had access to that information as we went along, so I created a web site where I could
list the most recent information. I also got everyone’s email address and when I updated
the site, I emailed everyone a link.
Each week, I needed to find and post our most recent . . . .
Result - Because we all had access to the necessary information when we met, we were all on the same page. We could use our time to make important decisions. We could also react quickly to changes in the market. Therefore, our business did very well. Among all the teams in the class, our team outperformed all others on profits, market share, innovative products and everyone in our group got an “A” on the project and in the course.
Call 559.278.2381 to make an appointment for a practice interview or interview coaching.