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The Interview Process

1. 4 Stages of an Interview
2. Interview Styles
3. Outcomes
4. Planning and Preparing for Your Interview
5. Researching Employers
6. Guidelines
7. Typical Interview Questions
8 . Asking Questions of the Interviewer(s)
9 . Illegal Questions
10. After the Interview

Tips for Interviewing (.pdf document)
Interview Questions (.pdf document)

The job interview can be a very pleasant and rewarding experience. It provides and the employer the opportunity to discuss your qualifications and to determine if a match with a position and the company can be made. As much as the interviewer wants to assess who are and your qualifications, also need to be doing the same.

An interview is a two-way exchange of information. Interviews need to be approached in a business-like manner because they are a form of a business meeting. This means research and preparation are required.

Most initial interviews are twenty to thirty minutes in duration. These interviews are a screening process to decide which candidates to invite for an on-site or secondary interview.

The 4 Stages of the Interview

An interview usually consists of four stages:

  • Breaking the Ice
    This is to help both and the interviewer "tune in" to the interview situation and to each other. It usually consists of small talk about classes or school or another general topic. It may also include a broad, open-ended question like "tell me about yourself." The content and duration of this stage are controlled by the interviewer. Although this part of the interview seems informal, be aware that it is an important part of the inteview process.
  • Sharing of General Information
    The interviewer will begin to tell you about the company and the positions they have open. You, in turn, can state how your skills relate to the position. You should be concise, using specific examples whenever possible.
  • Amplification and Sharpening of Focus
    At this point in the interview, you will provide much information about yourself. You will be questioned about your work-related values, goals and aspirations. Your qualifications will be explored in detail. The interviewer is assessing you relative to the interview outcomes discussed earlier. At the same time, you need to determine if the company and the type of position they have match your goals and personality.
  • Closure
    This is the conclusion of the interview. Typically, you will be asked if you have any questions. Once those have been addressed, you need to find out process for follow-up and secondary interviews. This includes:
    1. How soon a decision will be made?

    2. How you will be informed of that decision?

    3. What steps to take if you do not hear from the company within the specified period.

    If you are still interested in the job, this is the time to let the interviewer know.

For on-campus interviewing, some companies bring back alumni to be greeters or interviewers. Remember, these individuals will provide input on your selection. Be warm and friendly to them as well as careful in what you say and how you act.

Interview Styles

Structured - This consists of a list of specific questions asked in order.

Non-structured - This style uses broad, open-ended questions designed to have you "open up" and talk about yourself. It is more conversational in tone than the directed interview.

Behavioral - This interview style is based on the premise that the best predictor of future performance is how you have performed or acted in the past. Questions will ask about specific situations from your past and how you acted in those situations.

Stress - This is an interview designed to put you under pressure to see how well you handle the situation. Stress interviewing has become out-of-favor; however, you might still encounter "stress" questions during another type of interview.

Interview Outcomes

Most interviewers do not use a specific style throughout the interview. They incorporate their own combination of types instead. No matter the style used, an interviewer is trying to answer four questions:

  1. Does the candidate have the job specific skills needed?
  2. What additional qualifications does the candidate have?
  3. Is the candidate mature, easy-to-work with and will they be an asset to my company?
  4. Is there a match between company's culture and future goals with the candidate's personality and aspirations?

Planning For The Interview

Self-Assessment
Identify who you are, where you want to go and how you intend to accomplish this. Examine and evaluate your:

  • Strengths
  • Personal Goals
  • Weaknesses
  • Work Experience
  • Academic Performance
  • Special Skills
  • Career Interests
  • Values

Upon completion of this self-assessment, you should be comfortable in expressing who you are in specific terms or examples. You will also know what you have to offer and where you future career lies during an interview. If this is not true, see a Career Counselor for assistance.

Research Your Prospective Employer

Employers expect candidates to have a basic knowledge of their organization, products and industry. You, as a candidate, also need to know how they evaluate and promote personnel, orientation and development programs, geographical locations and leisure/recreation opportunities of those locations.

Research of this nature is accomplished through the use of the:

  • CSD and CSD Website
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Corporate Literature
  • Career Fairs
  • Employer On-Campus Presentations
  • USP Faculty and Staff
  • business newspapers and magazines
  • the Internet and other resources.

Research often raises important questions that you can have answered at the interview. Remember, you are seeking a career, not just a job.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Interviewing is a skill that takes practice to develop. The more practice, the better you will interview and the more comfortable you will be during the interview. Do not try to script exact answers to anticipated questions. Rather, practice telling stories that illustrate your abilities and traits. With the emergence of behavioral interviewing, this is what interviewers are seeking. CDC recommends the STAR Method for telling your story: Situation, Task, Action Taken, and Result.

Interview Guidelines

Be punctual.
Always allow ample time to prepare for your interview. The interviewer is on a schedule also, and you may miss the opportunity to interview if you arrive late.

Dress conservatively and professionally.
Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should wear a suit or conservative dress and apply cosmetics sparingly. Avoid "overdoing it." Careful grooming of hair, fingernails, shoes and clothes are very important for both sexes.

Expect to be nervous!
Nervousness is a natural function of your system which helps you perform at your best. This may manifest itself with laughter, giggles, sweating, etc. The time to worry is when you do not become nervous.

Introduce yourself with a strong, confident handshake.

Look the interviewer directly in the eye. A strong first impression will set a positive tone for the interview.

Tune in with the interviewer & follow the pattern she or he sets.
Be alert, maintain good posture, relax as much as possible and listen.

Talk in a normal tone of voice and maintain frequent eye contact.
Pause and think about what you want to say when responding to questions.

Elaborate on your "yes" or "no" answers. Intelligent, well thought out responses build your case as a candidate for the next stage of selection. Being overly friendly, casual or a "know it all" will do the opposite.

Look for nonverbal feedback from the interviewer.

It is a signal you may be missing the target with your answers. Also, it is a sign that the interview is coming to a close. Always leave the termination of the interview to the interviewee. Be prepared to respond when asked "Do you have further questions?"

Express a sincere interest in the position when you exit the interview.
The employer will not know the extent of your interest unless you express it. If you want the job, ask for it.

Know what the next step will be.
For example: Will they contact you? Must you contact them? When? How? Keep a notebook to record information about follow up and results as you viewed them, both objectively and subjectively.

Typical Interview Questions

Here are examples of typical interview questions. Do not attempt to memorize answers to each of them. Instead, think of key points you want to make and how to put those points in a positive, concise answer.

Open-Ended Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself?
  2. Why should I hire you?
  3. What are your long range career goals?

Close-Ended Questions

  1. What computer programming languages do you know?
  2. What are you three best qualifications for this position?
  3. Which is more important to you, the money or the type of job?

Behavior-Based Questions

  1. Describe a time when you were forced to make an uncomfortable decision. What did you do?
  2. Give me an example of a time you had to make a quick decision without supervision.
  3. Tell me about a bad experience in working in a team environment. How was it resolved?

Asking Questions of The Interviewer

Asking the interviewer logical, well thought out, pertinent questions indicate a high degree of interest in the company. Just as important, the answers to your questions will provide you information and insight into the company. The interviewer will know that you have taken a professional approach in preparing for your interview. Companies want to hire professionals.

Conversely, questions that are illogical, shallow, vague and asked just for the sake of asking questions tell the recruiter you did not prepare for the interview or really are not interested in the company. To be professional read the organizational literature, talk to others who may have knowledge of the company, research the company in databases. Once you have a sense of the company or the particular division, prepare three to four logical, well-defined questions for the interview.

Interviewing, as stated before, is a two-way exchange of information. You need to be prepared to seek answers to questions which will assist you in making good career decisions. Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask:

  1. How do you prepare new hires for the positions they will fill?
  2. What are the duties, responsibilities, and authority for this position?
  3. How many entry-level engineers will you hire this year?
  4. What is the performance appraisal process? How often?
  5. What are the plans/projections of company growth?
  6. What are the opportunities for personal development and growth?

These are examples only. If you do use these questions, understand their meaning, be prepared to explain what you mean and be prepared to answer questions that will arise from your questions. It will be to your advantage to develop your own questions and express them in your own style. Lack of preparation will do more harm than good.

Illegal Interview Questions

Federal law prohibits interviewers from asking you questions concerning age, national origin, race, gender, religion, citizenship, certain physical data and marital status. For more specific information, see a Career Counselor in the Career Development Center.

After The Interview

As soon as possible, provide information requested by the interviewer such as references, transcripts or credentials. Follow up with a "thank you" letter for the interview. This is an opportunity for you to sell your candidacy again to the employer and provide any additional information that did not come out in the interview.

Writing the thank you does not conclude your activities to obtain the position. You need to be persistent in the follow-up until you receive an offer, secondary interview or rejection letter.

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