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California State University, Long Beach
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Interviewing for the Job

An interview typically results from an effective presentation of your resume. The resume provides a snapshot of how your qualifications match those identified in the job announcement. It is now up to you to take advantage of this opportunity. Interviewing Techniques workshops are offered by the Career Development Center throughout the academic year.

Job Interview Tips

  • Interview Do's
  • Interview Don'ts

Interview Preparation

  • Be Prepared
  • Practice with InterviewStream
  • During an Interview
  • Telephone Interview
  • In-person Interview
  • Follow up to the Interview
  • Second Interview

Behavioral Interview

  • What is a Behavioral Interview?
  • Examples of Behavioral Questions
  • How do I respond to a behavioral question?
  • STAR
  • Example response to a behavioral interview question

Questions Asked By Employers

  • Personal
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Career Goals

Questions for Applicants to Ask

  • During Employment Interviews
  • Applicant Questions for Employers at a Second or Third interview

Thank You Letter Tips

  • What format should I use?
  • What if I am no longer interested in the job?
  • What if I interviewed with several people from the same company?

Job Interview Tips

Interview Do's

  • Know your resume and be prepared to discuss your qualifications for the job
  • Research and learn as much as you can about the position and the organization
  • Be ready to describe your strengths and weaknesses
  • Practice interviewing with a career counselor, friend or relative
  • Dress professionally
  • Check the location of the interview, you may even want to practice getting there the same time of day as your interview
  • Be on time or better yet a little early, fifteen minutes will do
  • Turn off your electronic devices
  • Bring extra copies of your resume and list of references
  • Be courteous and respectful with everyone you meet
  • Make eye contact and use a firm handshake
  • Show enthusiasm
  • Ask questions about the company that cannot be easily found on the web site
  • Ask questions or seek clarification if you are not certain about what you are asked or told
  • Ask for the interviewer(s) business card
  • Follow up, make sure you write a thank you note and get it to them within 24-48 hours
  • If you promise to follow up on something, do it
  • Attend Interviewing workshops offered by the Career Development Center (See Workshop Schedule)

Interview Don'ts

  • Keep the accessories to a minimum (no visible body piercings)
  • Use proper English and avoid slang
  • Do not chew gum during or smoke just prior to the interview
  • Arriving late to the internview
  • Lack of research
  • Failure to ask questions
  • Discuss salary too soon
  • Bad mouth other employers

Interview Preparation

Be Prepared

  • You must prepare for the interview. The following steps can assist you in getting prepared:
  • Assess your skills, abilities, interests, personality, values and career goal as it relates to the position.
  • Practice how you will articulate this information about yourself to the employer.
  • Research and learn as much as you can about the position and the organization.
  • Schedule an appointment with a career counselor to practice interviewing. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Review the Questions Asked by Employers.
  • Prepare questions for the interviewer. See the list of questions Questions for Applicants to Ask Employers.
  • Use the services of the Career Development Center to assist you with Steps 1-6 and any other concerns you have in preparing for the interview.

Practice with InterviewStream

InterviewStream is an online tool you can use to practice interviewing at your convenience using a webcam. Select questions you would like to practice responding to or use one of the general question sets provided. View videos on interviewing tips from experts. Save and review your interview with a career counselor. To access InterviewStream and create an account, go to the "Shortcuts" menu on your BeachLINK homepage.

During an Interview

  • Accentuate the positive
  • Select and articulate relevant information for your responses - how can your qualifications benefit the employer
  • Cite examples of past experiences and events to support your responses; share your achievements and accomplishments when appropriate
  • Listen carefully to the question(s)
  • Be clear and concise
  • Be confident and enthusiastic
  • Be honest
  • Have questions for the interviewer (it shows interest in the position and company)

It is important for you to learn as much as you can about the position. Focus your questions on the position and the company. Remember, the interview is an opportunity to exchange information - the company wants to learn more about you and you want to learn more about the position and the organization in order to make a more informed decision; so it's important for you to ask relevant questions. Although salary is important to know; it is strongly recommended that you not bring up salary until you receive the job offer.

Telephone Interview

The initial interview may come in the form of a telephone interview. You should prepare and conduct yourself for the telephone interview in the same manner as the in-person interview. However, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind.

  • If there is a scheduled time for the telephone interview, you should be the one who answers the phone. Be professional.
  • Make sure that you are in an area where you will not be interrupted and there are no distractions (i.e. no television, music playing, video games, text messaging)
  • Do not answer call waiting or put the interviewer on hold.
  • Have your resume and other documents with you in case you need to refer to them.
  • You may want to dress as if this is an in-person interview. It helps to keep you in the mind-set that this is an interview

In-person Interview

A great deal of emphasis is placed on verbal communication in preparation for an interview. However, equally important are the nonverbal elements of communicating. Appearance and body language are essential components of interviewing. The following are nonverbal behaviors that you should be aware of when preparing for and during your interview:

  • Bring a positive attitude; show interest in the position
  • Dress appropriately with careful attention to hygiene and overall appearance
  • Be courteous and polite to all individuals you meet
  • Use a firm handshake, make eye contact, smile
  • Be attentive to questions; listen
  • Arrive to the interview 10 - 15 minutes early
  • Conduct yourself in a professional manner
  • Bring copies of your resume
  • Be prepared to fill out an employment application
  • Avoid using technical devices (cell phone, i-Pod, laptop)
  • Request a business card from each interviewer
  • Thank the interviewer for his or her time; reiterate your interest in the position

Follow up to the Interview

  • Send a thank-you note or email to the interviewer(s) within 24-48 hours after your interview
  • Reaffirm your interest in the position

Second Interview

An invitation for a secondary interview indicates that the company is interested in you. Your interview will probably be with the supervisor and others in the department that has the job opening. As with your first interview, continue to communicate your qualifications and skills and what you can do for the company.

Behavioral Interview

What is a Behavioral Interview?

Interviewers conduct a behavioral interview or ask some behavioral questions to learn how you have performed in the past. This is based on the premise that the best way to predict future behavior is to look at past behavior in similar situations. Organizations determine the skills, competencies, or attributes that are most important to that organization's success. Then, recruiters and hiring managers are trained to ask candidates questions that will enable them to assess whether the candidate has those characteristics needed for success.

Examples of Behavioral Questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you were on a team and one of the team members wasn't carrying his or her weight.
  • Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
  • Give an example of how you applied knowledge from previous coursework to a project in another class.
  • How have you differed from your professors in evaluating your performance? How did you handle the situation?
  • Describe a situation that required a number of things to be done at the same time. How did you handle it? What was the result?
  • Give me an example of a time you had to persuade other people to take action. Were you successful?
  • Give me an example of a time you had to make an important decision. How did you make the decision? How does it affect you today?
  • Give me an example of a time when you did not believe you could meet a deadline you'd been given and what you did about it.
  • Think of a situation where you distrusted a colleague or supervisor, resulting in tension between you. What steps did you take?
  • Can you think of a time you faced an ethical dilemma at school or at work? How did you respond?
  • Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or colleague.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.

How do I respond to a behavioral question?

One of the keys to interviewing success is practice. Although you do not want to over-rehearse and memorize your answers, neither do you want come across as surprised by a question or its format. The key is to be prepared for the types of questions you might be asked and to have a mental outline to follow in responding to the questions. One helpful method is the STAR approach to formulating your response to behavioral questions.

STAR

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Results

Situation or Task you faced

Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.

Action you took

Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.

Results you achieved

What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Become a good story teller and use the STAR technique to respond to the question while avoiding a rambling response.

Once you've described your situation, actions, and results, you can expect the interviewers to ask you for more details and to probe your responses so that they can better understand the strength of your qualifications.

It can be challenging to prepare for behavioral interviews because of the unlimited variety of questions you may get. You can be better equipped to respond to this type of question if you understand the skills, competencies, and attributes an employer is seeking in new hires. You may be able to identify these by thoroughly researching the company, reading job postings carefully, and talking with current employees. Some employers are very clear about what they seek in candidates and you can expect that there will be behavioral questions to determine if you have those characteristics.

Example response to a behavioral interview question:

Interviewer question

Tell me about a time when you were on a team and one of the team members wasn't carrying his or her weight.

Possible response

Our class was broken into teams and each team had to build a canoe out of concrete. One of our team members wasn't showing up for our lab sessions or doing his assignments. I finally met with him in private, explained the frustration of the rest of the team and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He told me he was preoccupied with another class that he wasn't passing, so I put him in touch with someone who could help him with the other course. He not only was able to spend more time on our project, but he was also grateful to me for helping him out. We finished our project on time and got a "B" on it.

Questions Asked By Employers

Personal

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you choose to interview with our organization?
  • hat can you offer us?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
  • Can you name some weaknesses?
  • Have you ever had any failures? What did you learn from them?
  • Name three accomplishments that give you pride.
  • How does your college education or work experience relate to this job?
  • What motivates you most in a job?
  • Have you had difficulty getting along with a former professor/supervisor/co-worker and how did you handle it?
  • Have you ever spoken before a group of people? How large?
  • Why should we hire you rather than another candidate?
  • What do you know about our organization (products or services)?
  • Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years?
  • Do you plan to return to school for further education?

Education

  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Why did you choose to attend your college or university?
  • In which campus activities did you participate?
  • Which classes in your major did you like best? Least? Why?
  • Do your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why or why not?
  • Were you financially responsible for any portion of your college education?

Experience

  • What job-related skills have you developed?
  • What did you learn from your previous work experiences?
  • What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
  • Give an example of a time when you worked under deadline pressure.
  • How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work?

Career Goals

  • Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
  • Would you be successful working with a team?
  • What other types of positions are you considering?
  • How do you feel about working in a structured environment?
  • Are you able to work on several assignments at once?
  • Would you be able to work overtime?
  • Would you be available to travel for work?
  • Would you be able to relocate?

Before you begin interviewing, think about these questions and possible responses and discuss them with a career advisor.

Conduct mock interviews and be sure you are able to communicate clear, unrehearsed answers to interviewers.

Questions for Applicants to Ask

During Employment Interviews

  • Please describe the essential duties of the job for me.
  • What kinds of assignments might I expect in the first six months on the job?
  • What products (or services) are in the development stage now?
  • Do you have plans for expansion?
  • What are your growth projections for next year?
  • Have you cut your staff in the last three years?
  • Which does this company value more, creativity or individuality?
  • In what way is this company environmentally aware?
  • In what way is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
  • Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
  • What is the largest single challenge facing your staff (department) right now?
  • May I talk with the last person who held this position?
  • What do you like best about your job and this company?
  • How long is the probationary period for this position?
  • Has there been much turnover in this job area?
  • Do you fill positions from the outside or promote from within first?
  • What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?
  • What skills are especially important for someone in this position?
  • What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
  • Is there a lot of team project work?
  • In this position, will I have the opportunity to work on special projects?
  • Where does this position fit into the organizational structure?
  • How much travel, if any, is involved in this position?
  • What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you or should I contact you?

Applicant Questions for Employers at a Second or Third interview

  • Are salary adjustments geared to the cost of living or job performance?
  • Does your company encourage further education?
  • How often are performance reviews given?
  • Do you offer flextime?
  • What is the usual promotional time frame?
  • Does your company offer either single or dual career-track programs?

Thank You Letter Tips

Always send a thank you letter after an interview, ideally within 24 hours. It is an opportunity to reinforce your interest in the position and demonstrate your professionalism. It can be your key to getting a job offer.

What format should I use?

The format of your letter depends on the company's style and its formality.

A typed, business letter is always correct and allows you to provide additional information in follow up to the interview.

If time is of the essence, you may send your thank you letter in the form of an email, with the same level of formality.

If you choose to handwrite a thank you note, choose simple, business note cards rather than social stationery you might use to write a thank you to your aunt for a birthday gift.

What if I am no longer interested in the job?

If as a result of the interview or other factors you are no longer interested in the job, it is still appropriate and good professional practice to send a thank you letter. However, in this case the letter should also indicate that you are withdrawing your application for this position.

What if I interviewed with several people from the same company?

Write a thank you to each individual and personalize each one.

SAMPLE TYPED THANK YOU LETTER

Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email

Date

Name
Title
Organization
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:

I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity to interview with you yesterday and meet the other members of A2Z's Marketing team. The position of Marketing Coordinator seems to be a very good match for my skills, interests and experience. The creativity and energy of everyone in the department is evident in your recent campaigns and confirmed for me that A2Z is exactly the kind of firm where I'd like to work.

In addition to my own enthusiasm, I will bring to the position my strong writing skills, excellent organization skills, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. My writing background will help me to work with writers on staff and provide me with an understanding of the messaging aspects of our work.

I appreciate the need for strong coordinating skills in such a high volume department. I am known for my attention to detail and, as one of my supervisors put it, am good at "bringing order out of chaos". I may not have mentioned it in my interview, but I did spend two months helping organize a state senator's campaign office after her administrative assistant had to take an emergency leave.

I appreciate the time and interest thus far. I continue to be very interested in the Marketing Coordinator position with A2Z. If I can provide you with any additional information or samples of my work, please contact me at myemail@me.com or 123.456.7890. I look forward to hearing from you about this position.

Sincerely,

Your Signature

Your Typed Name