Interview Preparation

Interview preparation can help you feel more comfortable in the actual interview, prepare you for curve ball questions, and might help you land the job.
If you have specific questions or want to practice interviewing, contact an adviser via email or phone.

Types of Interviews

  • One-on-One

These interviews are most common type of interview, in which the employer interviews a single candidate.

  • Panel or Committee

In this interview, the applicant is interviewed by several people at the same time. Interviewers will usually take turns asking questions. Address your response to the person asking you the question first, but also shift your eye contact to the other interviewers.

  • Group

In a group interview, two ro more applicants for the same position are interviewed at the same time. At times, you may be the first to respond to a question. Often the interviewers will be observing how you interact with others on a team and if you can lead as well as listen. However, if you are the last to respond, don't just reiterate what others have said-your response should be personal and unique so that it stands out from the others.

Skype Interview Tips



  • Teleconferencing, Skype or Google Plus, Interviews

Interviews are usually conducted via video chat on Skype or Google Plus. Companies may substitue this for the initial phone interview; phone is usually the initial screening interview, if they like you, they will invite you for a second round.  Be sure to be in a quiet room with ensured privacy and face the camera squarely.

  • Phone

The employer interviews the applicant over the phone. You must communicate enthusiasm and friendliness completely through tone of voice since the interviewer cannot see your body language or facial expressions. 

  • Consecutive (second round) interviews 

These interviews are commonly offered to applicants after an initial interview.  Different employees will interview you consecutively. If they ask the same questions, respond in a similar manner especially if they ask your weakness. Respond thoroughly and enthusiastically to each interviewer.

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What to bring to the interview

  • Multiple copies of your resume and cover letter
  • Reference sheet
  • List of questions to ask the employer
  • Transcripts, portfolio, or any other sample items (if requested)
  • Briefcase or professional folder to carry your documents
  • Calendar or planner (either paper or digital format)
  • Notebooks and pen
  • Direction to the interview and parking fare

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Before the interview

Research the company


Do your homework before the Interview

  • Find out about its history, products, services, mission, company culture, competitors, plans for growth, and opportunities for advancement by using Glassdoor, Google news, and the company's website.
  • Use UCSC Career Tools to research companies.
  • Have your interview outfit ready
  • Review the job description
  • Prepare for commonly asked questions
  • Have examples/stories for behavioral questions.
  • PRACTICE - out loud with a partner several times.
  • Know your strengths, interests and goals
  • Prepare 5 or more success stories-DEFINE
  • Practice aloud with someone
  • Be prepared to discuss how your skills and background will benefit the organization
  • Prepare questions to ask the employer

First impressions

  • Show up clean, well-groomed, hair trimmed
  • Arrive early – 5 to 10 minutes before the interview
  • Be courteous to everyone you meet including receptionists.
  • Greet the employer by name with a firm handshake
  • Show enthusiasm and confidence in your voice and posture
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Avoid fidgeting
  • Wait to be asked to be seated

During the interview

Speaking Tips

  • Listen attentively to the questions
  • Ask for clarity if you did not understand the question
  • Use professional language, not slang
  • Use examples, statistics and testimonials to support your claims
  • Don’t talk about a weakness unless specifically asked
  • Speak loudly and clearly
  • Don’t criticize former employers
  • Avoid mentioning personal problems
  • Avoid discussing salary unless the interviewer brings it up.
  • Turn off your cell phone!

Concluding the interview and afterwards

  • Ask insightful questions
  • Reaffirm your interest in the position
  • Thank the interview and ask about next steps
  • Ask for a business card and send the employer a thank you email or note
  • Forward any requested materials
  • Follow up if you don't hear from them in a week

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Interview Questions

Behavioral Questions

Employers are initiating a new trend in employment interviewing. You won't get the typical "Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses" questions in a behavioral interview. Instead, you'll be asked to provide specific examples highlighting skills that are necessary for the job. Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions:

Behavioral Interviewing

  1. Describe a time when you tried to persuade a person or group to do something they didn't want to do.
  2. Give me an example of a time when you faced a lot of obstacles to achieving a goal.
  3. Talk about a stressful situation you've experienced.
  4. Describe a time when you had trouble seeing eye to eye with a colleague.
  5. Tell me about a project or role that you've taken on that is outside your job description.
  6. Give me an example of when you worked with a group or team of people to complete a project.
  7. Talk about a time when you were faced with a difficult decision and describe how it turned out.
  8. Describe a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands.
  9. Give me an example of a time when you were forced to make an important decision without all of the necessary information.
  10. Tell me about a time that you made a presentation at work that received a significant amount of critical feedback, much of it negative. How did you handle the situation?
    • Career counselors recommend you use the "STAR" method to answer these types of probing questions. Preparing for the Behavioral Interview

      • Think about a situation which matches the questions listed above.
      • Write about your experience using the STAR method.
      • Practice talking about the experience. You may wish to tape yourself.
      • During the interview, answer questions succinctly. Avoid rambling.


STAR METHOD

S- situation: set the scene. When and where did the situation take place?

T-Task: What was the task or challenge?

A-Action: What actions did you take to achieve the task or solve the problem?

R-Result: What was the end result? IF not completely positive, what did you learn from the experience?

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From "The New Job Interview" by Sherri Eng, San Jose Mercury News

Common Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you interviewing for this position?
  • What can you tell us about our company?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you successful?
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in this company?
  • Why do you think you are a good fit for our company?
  • How are you going to make a contribution to our company?
  • What do you see yourself doing in five years?
  • How has your college experience prepared you for your career?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • How does this job fit into your overall career plan?
  • Give me an example of when you've worked in a team.
  • Describe a leadership role you've had.
  • How do you manage your time?
  • What have you learned from previous jobs?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What 3 adjectives would your best friend use to describe you?
  • Why did you pick your major? What class did you like most/least and why?
  • If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

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Dressing for the Interview

Business Casual

General rule: Whatever the office style is, you should dress one level higher for your interview. So, for example, if the office you want to work for primarily dresses in business casual, then dress business formal for your interview. Offices fall under four general styles of attire (listed in ascending order of formality):

  1. Casual
  2. Business Casual
  3. Business Formal
  4. Business Conservative

How can I find out what employees at the company usually dress?

  1. Physically visit the organization and observe what employees are wearing (make sure it is not a “dress down” day for them)
  2. Call the hiring manager or human resources department and ask what the dress code is
  3. Ask recruiters at a job fair

*a good rule: it is best to dress more conservatively if you are unsure. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed!

Casual

A casual work environment has a dress code not too different from what you would see on campus.  Casual shoes (sneakers, flip flops) and jeans or shorts with a t-shirt is considered acceptable in a casual workplace.  Jewelry and a variety of colors in clothing are also acceptable. Clothes should be clean, pressed without holes. Women should avoid extremely short skirts or dresses and tops cover clevage.

Business Casual

Business casual is a step up from casual.  The expectation for clothing would be slacks/skirts paired with more conservative tops (sweaters, cardigans, polos, button-ups) in subtle colors such as blue, gray, white, or tan with limited patterns.  In a business casual workplace hair should be styled and jewelry should not be flashy.  For men ties are optional.

Business Formal

Business formal dress consists of suits (jacket with matching slacks/skirt) with long-sleeved button-up shirts in subtle colors such as navy, gray, tan, or light blue.  Ties and polished shoes are required for men.  Jewelry should be kept minimal and hair must be out of the face for women. 

Business Conservative

Business conservative dress requires a full suit (with tie for men) in conservative colors such as black, navy, or dark gray with close-toed black shoes.  Hair should be kept out of the face and jewelry should be limited to a ring or watch.

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Common Interview Mistakes

  • Poor Handshake: Limp hand gives the impression of weakness of disinterest. Too strong is like an aggressive salesperson.
  • Talking too much: Talking too long gives the impression you can't get to the point. Nervous talkers give the impression the candidate is covering up something.
  • Talking negatively about current or past employers/managers: Always try to say something positive.
  • Showing up too late or early: Arrive about 10 minutes early.
  • Treating the receptionist rudely: Often the receptionist is asked her/his opinion of applicants.
  • Asking about benefits, vacation time or salary: Wait until you've been made the offer to discuss these issues.
  • Not preparing for the interview: Always research the company or organization prior to the interview.
  • Verbal ticks: Practice in advance to reduce or eliminate the “umms,” “like” and “you knows.”
  • Not enough or too much eye contact: Avoiding eye contact makes you seem shifty or untruthful. Too much eye contact can wear out the interviewer.
  • Failure to match communication styles: If the interviewer seems all business, be succinct and businesslike. If the interviewer is personable, you can be more informal.

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Questions to ask the employer

Questions to ask the interviewer

  1. Why is the position available?
  2. What are you hoping a person in this position will accomplish? Or will accomplish in the first 6 months?
  3. What are your expectations for new hires?
  4. What will my responsibilities be as far as____________? (Areas not clear from the job description.)
  5. What is the greatest challenge facing your staff, (department or organization) right now?
  6. What are some characteristics of your company that make it attractive or different from other companies?
  7. Will I be working on a team or in a group?
  8. Who will my supervisor/supervisors be?
  9. Do you do formal evaluations of your employees? How often are they done?
  10. Is there training provided on the job?  How long is the training period?   Who will be training me?
  11. When can I expect to hear from you? or When should I check back with you?
  12. How will I be contacted? Phone, email?

QUESTIONS NOT TO ASK IN THE INTERVIEW:

  1. How did the interview go?
  2. What is the salary? What are the benefits?
  3. How much vacation/sick/holiday time will I get?
  4. Are there educational benefits? How does one qualify for them?
  5. Is overtime required? If so, how much?

*Questions about the organization that you should research before the interview. The above questions you can ask when the job offer is made.

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After the interview








Follow-up with a thank you

Thank the interviewer and send a thank you note within 24 hours. Follow-up with the interviewer a week-10 days after the interview. Only about 5 percent of those looking for jobs perform this simple yet crucial ritual and it can often tip the scales in your favor.

  • A thank-you note could make or break your chances of getting a job. One of our UCSC alumni told me that after he was hired for his first job out of college, his boss told him that he had wavered between him and another finalist for the position. Then the boss received the alumnus' thank you letter, and it made all the difference. The UCSC alumnus was hired.
  • Send it within 24 hours of the interview. 
  • What about an e-mailed thank you?
    Career experts are not in total agreement about the propriety of e-mailing a thank you, but the company's culture should guide you. If people in the company use e-mail heavily, your e-mailed thank you will seem right in step. It's also a fast solution if you know the company will be making its hiring decision quickly. Even if e-mail fits in with the company culture, it's a good idea to follow up your e-mailed thank you with a hard-copy version.
  • Should it be a typed business letter or a handwritten note?
    Studies show it doesn't matter. The important thing is doing it. Tailor your letter to the culture of the company and the relationship you established with the person who interviewed you. If you feel the interviewer and the company call for a formal business letter, send that. If your rapport with the interviewer was more casual, requiring a more personal touch, send a handwritten note. This can be in a plain thank you card or on plain white stationery.
  • If you interview with several people, send a thank you to each one. You can make it similar to each person, but vary at least a sentence or two to individualize the letters in case your recipients compare notes.
  • Spell-check, proofread, and have someone else read over your letter before you send it!
  • Be careful about borrowing a letter from a book or web site. You can borrow the basic structure but not the entire letter. Personalize it. We know of one employer who instantly recognized that a thank-you letter he received had been taken word for word from a text he had seen before.
  • Reiterate your interest in and qualifications for the job in your letter. “Thank you for meeting with me this morning about the sales position. Our conversation reinforced my strong interest in joining your team." Cite one or two examples of job duties that increased your interest or showed you what skills you could contribute.

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Mock Interviews

UCSC Career Advisers conduct simulated “mock” interviews to assist you in improving your interviewing techniques. You may request a mock interview with or without being video taped.  Allowing your interview to be video taped will inform you about you body language, tone of voice and presence. Going through a mock interview will help you become more confident, comfortable and prepared to answer those challenging interview questions. Email the adviser in your specific discipline to arrange a mock interview.

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