University of Vermont

Prepare for a Job Interview

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What makes for a great interview?

An interview that ends in a job offer is not the result of luck. Preparation is the key to a successful interview. A candidate who prepares for an interview will reduce their chances of being flustered by unexpected questions and will present a positive and relaxed image. Once your cover letter and resume have gotten you in the door, it's up to you to let the employer know why you are the best person for the job.

Interviewing guidelines

  • Dress: More conservatively than normal.
  • Punctuality: Be early, not late.
  • Listen: Listen well so that you can answer well.
  • Talk: Engage in casual conversation before the interview. Showcase your social skills!
  • Body language: Avoid nervous habits, make eye contact.
  • Act interested: Act interested, take notes, be prepared.
  • Answer questions: Respond directly or ask for clarification.
  • Evaluate: Immediately after the interview, consider how you feel about the job.
  • Send a thank you: Consider typed, hand written or e-mail depending on the circumstances.

Remember, you are interviewing the employer or organization just as much as they are interviewing you. You want to make sure the employer or organization is a good fit for you too.

Convince an employer to hire you

  • First, you must know what skills you have, assess what your values are in relation to your work, and be able to discuss your personal qualities.
  • Second, you must research the organization and position.

How do I get ready?

Do your research!

Research the position and the organization before going to the interview and try to obtain a detailed job description. Use the Web to research the company and read any printed materials available. Discuss the position with anyone you know who might have insights into the organization. This information will enable you to target your answers to the job and the organization and will demonstrate your interest. Your research will also help you formulate questions to ask the interviewer. Good questions display your critical thinking skills, your understanding of the position and your enthusiasm. Be prepared to answer the following:

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  • What do you know about this organization?
  • What contributions do you think you could make to this organization?
  • Why did you decide to seek this position with this organization?
Get to know yourself

Be prepared to discuss why you are the best person for the job andyou’re your strengths and abilities relate to the position. Provide examples from previous employment or activities to exemplify your skills. If you are unsure of your skills or how to describe them well, schedule a meeting with a Career Counselor.

In addition to discussing your strengths, be prepared to discuss your values in relation to work and lifestyle. Consider questions such as:

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  • In what kind of work environment do you feel most comfortable?
  • Why have you chosen the career for which you prepared?
  • Would you be willing to relocate?

Thoughtfully answering these or similar questions demonstrates maturity and a strong sense of direction. If your answers are compatible with the values (or culture) of the company, you are seen as a potential employee who will be content with the job and committed to the organization.

Practice!

Practice is the key to interview success. With practice answering questions and talking about your experience, skills and goals you will hone your answers and get interview ready. Make an appointment with a Career Counselor for a mock interview or use Big Interview, an on-line tool to help you prepare.

What type of interviews should I expect?

Screening interviews

Screening inter views are short, first interviews used to determine which candidates should be considered more closely.

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  • First impressions are crucial in a screening interview because the employer is trying to determine if you will fit in with the organization.
  • Screening interviews are conducted over the phone, via Skype, or at the organization itself. Some interviewers come to campus to conduct this type of interview.
On-site interviews

During on-site interviews, you usually talk to several people, including future co-workers, supervisors and high-level managers.

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  • It is appropriate to ask for the agenda in advance so you can prepare for the questions you will be asked and become familiar with the names of the people you will meet.
  • Sometimes you will be invited on-site without a screening interview.
  • Some on-site interviews may include a presentation. If so, find out what topics they would like you to present, who will be present, and how much time you will have. Be sure to take time to prepare your presentation.
  • Make sure to clarify where the interview will be held, so you will be on time.

What are commonly asked questions?

If you think through these questions ahead of time, you will be poised, confident and prepared. Think about how you would answer sample interview questions. Also it’s important that you have questions to ask the interviewer. Thoughtful questions will be grounded in the research you’ve done and demonstrate your interest.

Questions an employer may ask you
Personal assessment and career direction
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your long- and short-range goals? How have you prepared to achieve them?
  • What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
  • Why did you choose the career for which you prepared?
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would someone who knows you describe you?
  • What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in this field/position/organization?
  • In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
  • Describe how you work under pressure.
  • In what part-time or summer jobs have you been most interested? Why?
  • How would you describe the ideal job for you following graduation?
  • What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
  • Do you have a geographical preference? Where? Why?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • What are some examples of your creativity?
Work attitudes
  • How do you define success? According to this definition, how successful are you?
  • What qualities should a successful manager possess?
  • Describe the relationship that ideally exists between a supervisor and supervisee.
  • What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
  • Are you willing to spend at least six months as a trainee?

Academic assessment

  • How has your college experience prepared you for a career?
  • Describe your most rewarding college experience.
  • Did you work while you were going to school?
  • Why did you select your college or university?
  • What led you to choose your field of major study?
  • What changes would you make in your college or university? Why?
  • How would you plan your academic study differently if you could? Why?
  • Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree?
  • Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic achievements?

Sensitive issues

  • How did you get along with your last boss?
  • You seem overqualified for this position. Can you explain why you applied?
  • What is the hardest job you have ever performed?
  • How much do you think this position pays?
  • Tell me your position on drug testing.

Knowledge of the employer

  • What do you know about this organization? Where did you find this information?
  • What contributions do you think you could make to this organization?
  • If you were hiring a graduate for this position, what qualities would you look for?
  • Why did you decide to seek a position with this organization?

Other interests and experiences

  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
  • What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?

Situational or behavioral questions

  • Describe the most difficult interpersonal situation you’ve had with a professor, supervisor, supervisee or colleague. How did you handle it?
  • If your supervisor were setting impossible deadlines, what would you do?
  • How would you handle a situation where your direct supervisor asked you to do something that was not consistent with your professional judgment?

Teacher/education-specific questions

  • What would your classroom look like?
  • How do/would you use technology in the classroom?
  • How do/would you manage a variety of different ability/skill levels in the same classroom?
  • How do/would you handle a student who refuses to follow directions and is rude during your class discussion?
  • Please give us two examples of situations in which you used effective classroom management strategies?
  • What are five things that are vital for a successful classroom?
  • How do you create community in your classroom?
  • Why do you want to be a teacher?
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as a teacher? In what ways have you improved?
  • How do teaching and learning relate to each other?
  • What is the role of parents in your classroom?
  • How do you know if a student is/has been successful?
  • What unique skills and qualities would you bring to the school/team?
  • Respond to the following statement: The parent is always right.
  • What is your educational philosophy?
  • Why do you want to work at this school? Why do you want this position?
  • What kinds of resources/materials would you need/use in your classroom?
  • How do you challenge students of all levels and learning styles?
  • How do you incorporate state and national standards into your curriculum?
  • What is the importance of and how would you prepare your students for standardized testing?
  • Respond to this statement: It is important for my students to like me.
  • In what different ways to you assess student learning? How do you recognize, encourage and assess multiple intelligences in your classroom?
  • What are your personal and professional learning goals for the next few years?

Questions to ask the interviewer
  • What are the responsibilities of this position?
  • What qualifications do you expect the successful candidate to have?
  • What are the main problems that need immediate attention?
  • What resources are available to solve these problems?
  • What are the reputations, academic training, and tenures of the employees in this department?
  • Do you support professional development? How?
  • What is the department’s supervisor’s reputation in the organization?
  • What are the established guidelines and procedures for making decisions in this position?
  • What are the reporting relationships of this position?
  • What are the short-term and long-term goals of the department and how are they set?
  • How would successful performance be measured in this position?
  • How often is performance reviewed in this position?
  • What is culture of this organization? Is the environment formal or informal, structured or flexible?
  • Describe the interdepartmental relationships.
  • What has the turnover rate of the department been?
  • What happens next?

Interview Evaluation and Follow Up

What you do after an interview is just as important as the interview itself. After the interview, take the time to evaluate your own performance as well as your interest in the position now that you have learned more about the position and the organization.

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  • Send a thank you promptly! Whether or not you decide you are interested in the position you will demonstrate your professionalism and follow through.
  • Spend some time evaluating your interview. Consider these questions below for follow up interview questions/clarifications and future interviews with other employers.
    • Note the name of the interviewer and the place and date of the interview.
    • What questions were you asked that you want to remember?
    • Which questions posed the most difficulty? How would you answer differently if you could?
    • In which areas do you need more information?
    • What should you emphasize more strongly if offered a second interview for the same position?
    • What is your overall evaluation of the interview?
    • Do you see yourself as a fit with the organizational culture and the demands of the position?
  • If you haven’t heard back from the interviewer within the time frame specified, you can follow up with them and express your continued interest.

Last modified September 04 2013 03:37 PM