Your success in an interview is usually determined in the first few minutes. According to Business Insider, employers are looking for common ground to relate to candidates. This is one reason we recommend including an “Other” section in your resume—to give your interviewer an immediately apparent commonality with which he or she can relate.
It also means, though, that “creating a relationship is just as important in an interview as displaying your skills and expertise.” Therefore, be approachable, warm, and friendly. After all, you’re not just being considered for a particular position; you’re also being considered as a potential colleague.
It’s also important to know what kinds of questions to expect—though that’s only half the battle; you have to be able to answer the questions, too. Spend time, then, familiarizing yourself with common interview questions and drafting, and practicing, your answers to them.
General Interview Questions
For any type of interview, be prepared to answer these common, general questions.
- Tell me about yourself. Share your relevant professional and academic experiences. Be concise. See Self-Marketing for more guidance.
- Why are you interested in working for us? or Why are you interested in this particular industry? Share your knowledge of the position, company, or industry, and how your experience matches it.
- What are your long-range career goals? Express your commitment to the profession, maturity, foresight, and outlook.
- What’s your greatest strength? State your strength, and then support your claim with an example/story.
- What’s your greatest weakness? Share a weakness, but end on a positive note. Some options: Use a weakness from your past and show how you overcame it, use a weakness that can be seen as a positive characteristic, use a minor part of the potential job where you lack knowledge but could quickly learn with experience.
- Why should we hire you? Recap the job description, aligning it with your skills. Be concise. Highlight areas from your background that relate to the company’s current needs. Emphasize your unique qualities that may set you apart from other candidates.
Behavioral Interview Questions
The most common type of job/internship interview is the behavioral interview, where the employer asks questions about your past professional and academic experiences to determine your skill level and cultural fit for the company/ organization. Some common behavioral interview questions include:
- What was the most difficult task you performed in your last internship/job?
- Give me an example of how you manage your time. What factors do you consider? How do you track your progress?
- Give me an example of a project you planned, managed, and executed.
- Tell me about a time when your opinion was challenged. How did you handle it?
- Describe a situation when you led a group of people.
- Tell me about the most significant or creative presentation that you’ve had to complete.
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
- Tell me about a time when a group project you were working on failed.
- Tell me about a time when you took initiative.
The best way to structure your answers to behavioral questions is the STAR method: briefly describe the Situation and context of your story (who, what, where, when, how), explain the Task you had to complete (and highlight any challenges or constraints), describe the specific Actions you took to complete the task, and close with the Result of your efforts. To read more about the STAR method and behavioral interview questions, see Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers 101 by Mike Simpson.
Questions to Ask an Interviewer or Potential Employer
At the end of your interview, the employer will most likely ask if you have any questions for him or her. This is your chance to express your interest, get your questions answered, and learn more about the company/organization and the interviewer. Always be prepared with 3-4 questions—however, keep in mind that you may not have time to ask them all. Here are a few questions to consider:
- What is your timetable for making a decision about the position? or When should I plan on hearing back from you? This question will save you anxiety and headache in the days and weeks after your interview.
- What is a typical day like for you at this company/organization?
- What are opportunities for growth within the company?
- How would you describe the work environment?
- What do you enjoy most, and least, about working here?
- How would you describe the management style in this organization?
- I saw on your website that your company/organization does [fill in the blank]. Can you tell me more about that?
Questions Not to Ask an Interviewer or Potential Employer
- Do not ask questions about salary or benefits during the interview process. Once you have received an offer, then you can negotiate and ask questions about things like salary, benefits, moving expenses, etc.
- Do not ask questions that the interviewer has already answered for you.
Video and Telephone Interview Tips
Video Interview Tips
- Interview in a quiet place.
- Use a solid background to be less distracting for the interviewer.
- Check your computer, webcam, software, and WiFi to make sure they’re working properly. (If the connection is lost during the interview, stay calm, call the interviewer back, and explain what happened.)
- Dress in interview attire.
- Look at the camera, not the computer screen.
- Maintain good posture by sitting straight and not leaning too close to the camera.
- Don’t fidget or touch your face and/or hair.
- Relax and speak slowly and clearly.
- Smile and be enthusiastic.
- Check out more at InterviewStream.
Telephone Interview Tips
- Interview in a quiet place.
- If possible, use a landline phone.
- Keep the following things at hand: copies of any materials you’ve sent (resume, cover letter, writing samples, etc.,), information you’ve received from the organization, a “cheat sheet” of information you’ve gathered, a list of your skills and experiences you wish to communicate, a list of your questions, pen and paper.
- Consider standing during the interview to help you project energy and reduce the risk of sounding too casual over the phone.
- Smile, even though no one can see you, and be enthusiastic.
Since employers make such quick decisions about whether to hire you, dressing appropriately is important.
- Business formal is the standard dress code for a job or internship interview.
- Women: wear either a skirt or a pant suit (preferably in dark color, skirt should be knee-length), closed-toed shoes with no more than 1-2 inch heels, post earrings and minimal jewelry, small to medium sized purse, subtle makeup, avoid perfume.
- Men: two-piece, single-breasted, and dark suit with a white dress shirt and white undershirt and conservative tie (no bowties, bright colors, or bold patterns), dark, polished shoes and matching socks, conservative short hair cut, avoid cologne.
- All: bring your portfolio, pen, and extra copies of your resume.