Interview Preparation

Interview Preparation | Practice with InterviewStream | Before the Interview
During the Interview | After the Interview | Follow Up

Interview Preparation NACE's Job Choices magazine

The interview is the last step of the hiring process and the most important. It offers both you and the employer the opportunity to meet one another, exchange information and come to tentative conclusions about "hiring" one another. The interview is a two-way process. You evaluate the employer while he/she evaluates you.

What better way is there to prepare for an interview than by practicing your responses to typical interview questions with a CDO counselor? This is a great way to try out your answers in a non-threatening environment. Counselors will provide feedback, and give you some pointers on ways to improve, if necessary. If you wish, we will videotape your session, so you will have accurate feedback on your non-verbal presentation skills.

GET STARTED NOW! Schedule an appointment for a mock interview.
Have a webcam? Practice at home with InterviewStream (webcams can be signed out at the CDO).

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Preparation is the key to successful interviewing. There are three important elements:

1) Knowing yourself – know your resume inside and out and be able to discuss your qualifications, skills and abilities, and your personal goals and values. Write down your accomplishments and prepare concrete and specific examples of these. Anticipate questions that may be asked of you.

2) Knowing the employer – research the position and the organization thoroughly. Learn as much as you can by visiting the organization’s website and access any available literature; know the employer’s services, products and mission. Analyze the position description, matching your experiences, interests, and abilities to the position. Talk with people who have worked in similar positions and research the salary range that is typical for the position.

3) Knowing how your skills, interests and career goals relate to the needs of the employer – show that you are a good fit for the position. Also make a list of questions to ask. Your questions may reveal your level of interest in the position, the employer, and your preparedness for the interview. Ask questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in and knowledge of the organization and position.

Other important factors include being familiar with the interviewing process and projecting a professional image.It is a good idea when scheduling an interview with an employer to ask with whom you will be interviewing, how long should you plan for the interview, and what kind of format will it follow. This will help you to prepare.

Reminders and Helpful Tips:
  • Dress in a professional, conservative and neat manner
  • Women: a well-tailored suit with minimal makeup and jewelry
  • Men: a well-tailored suit, conservative tie, polished shoes
  • Keep cologne to a minimum or don’t wear it at all, it can distract the interviewer
  • Review your resume and work history so you are ready to speak about both
  • Bring extra copies of your resume
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview
  • Maintain good eye contact and be aware of your gestures, facial expressions, posture and hand movements
  • Avoid using slang expressions or improper grammar

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Prepare questions beforehand to ask the employer at the end of your interview. These questions will help to convey your interest and enthusiasm. The following areas may serve as guidelines for questions:

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Prepare questions beforehand to ask the employer at the end of your interview. These questions will help to convey your interest and enthusiasm. The following areas may serve as guidelines for questions:

  • Day-to-day responsibilities of position
  • Typical career paths/opportunities for advancement
  • Performance evaluations - type, by whom, frequency
  • Orientation and training for new employees
  • History of position
  • Strengths and weaknesses of organization
  • Major challenges facing organization/field
  • Long-range plans for organization/department
  • Organizational structure; communication channels
  • Management style; philosophy of organization
  • Expectations with regard to travel and/or relocation
  • Multicultural diversity and sensitivity
  • What interviewer likes/dislikes about the organization
  • Geographical area – cost of living, housing, schools
  • Starting date; hiring process/timeline

Don't ask:

  • About salary or benefits
  • About job pressures, overtime or morale
  • Questions that are answered in the company literature or website

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The Thank You Letter

Take notes after your interview is finished and use them to remind yourself of what was discussed. Write down everything you feel you handled well and areas for improvement. Note any information that may be helpful to include in your thank you letter.

  • Always get the contact information of everyone involved in the interview process (i.e., name, address, title). If you are not sure of names, ask the secretary/receptionist or ask interviewers for business cards.
  • Send a thank you letter within 24-48 hours.
  • Type or handwrite the letter. A typed letter is considered the most professional. In some situations, an e-mail is appropriate if the organization indicated that this is their preferred method of contact or if there is a quick turnaround time requirement to fill the position.
  • Your letter should be brief (no longer than one page) and include the following:
    • Thank the interviewer for his/her time.
    • Briefly express your appreciation for the interview and the opportunity to learn more about the organization.
    • Reaffirm your interest and enthusiasm for the position.
    • Mention something from your interview to remind the interviewer who you are and reiterate any important points which were discussed or that you were not able to express during your interview.
    • Describe in one or two sentences why your skills, experience and background make you the best applicant.
  • If, on the other hand, you discover that you are no longer interested in the position, it is a professional courtesy to inform the employer of your decision to withdraw from the selection process. Be sure to thank him/her for the opportunity to learn more about the organization, but explain that the position does not meet your goals and/or interests at this time.

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Follow Up

If you do not hear from the interviewer by the date that was promised, something unforeseeable may have delayed the decision-making process. It is also possible that someone else was made an offer and has asked for time to make a decision. In any case, it is appropriate to call the interviewer (unless no phone calls were requested) and inquire about the status of your candidacy.

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