Interviewing is not a talent you’re born with. It’s an important skill to develop.
Develop interviewing skills by learning key preparation points:
- Practice the answers aloud
- Schedule an appointment for a mock interview through Handshake
- Dress for success: business casual vs professional
- Practice online through InterviewPrep
Master the three Ps of interviewing: Preparation, Practice and Post-Interview Review.
Don’t underestimate the importance of preparing for the interview. Just like a final exam, your level of preparation will determine your success. When researching and planning for your interview, consider the following:
- Know yourself. What are your career interests? What are your strengths and résumé highlights?
- Know the organization and industry. Why do you like the employer and the position? Don’t forget to spend lots of time on their website.
- Review the position description carefully and discuss it with Boerigter Center staff.
- Prepare answers to anticipated questions.
- Choose appropriate interview attire, see our Pinterest for examples.
- Create an interview portfolio, which may include copies of your résumé, writing samples or other samples of your work.
- Know the questions that you want to ask. Consider asking for details about the position, organization, training and career path. Let us help you with this.
After you’ve completed the preparation steps, don’t forget to practice. This will help you develop confidence. Effective interviewing involves these core skills:
- Use clear verbal communication. Speak at an even pace and do not ramble or say too much.
- Maintain positive non-verbal communication with confident eye contact and body posture.
- Demonstrate an interest in the job, expressed both in words and with your expression.
- Show excellent listening skills. Engage throughout the interview, including asking questions at the end of the meeting.
- Be genuine and approachable, not staged or rehearsed.
After an interview is over, you can continue to make a positive impression:
- Debrief what occurred; note key issues, important points or stumper questions to prepare for in the future, and the organization’s time table for a decision.
- Send a thank-you note, either via email or handwritten on stationary, within 24 hours.
- Follow-up phone calls will always cause some anxiety, but a follow-up strategy will increase your odds of getting the offer by 30% or more. Just be sure to be sensitive to the timeline shared with you.
- When accepting an offer, make sure you have obtained a clear explanation of your responsibilities. It is common to have some time to consider the offer. Put your acceptance or any clarifying questions in writing.
- When declining an offer, be as diplomatic as possible. You want to leave the door open for future career possibilities. Express appreciation for the offer and for their confidence in you.
- When discussing salary, be prepared. The more you know about salary ranges for your career area and desired occupation, the more effective you will be in negotiations. Avoid bringing up salary until they express an interest in hiring you.
- INTERVIEW PROCESS
INTRODUCTION AND RAPPORT
During this part of the interview, the interviewer will attempt to make you feel comfortable. Topics of conversation may include college events, sports and cultural activities, world events and general conversation about your Hope experience. Here are some things to consider during the first part of an interview:
- Before walking in, check your appearance to ensure a positive first impression.
- Arrive 10 minutes early and know where, when and who you are interviewing with.
- Stand up when the interviewer approaches you; smile and introduce yourself and greet him or her by name (e.g., “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Johnson”).
- If they move to shake hands, do so — but it is appropriate to wait for him or her to make the first gesture. Shake hands firmly, standing straight and maintaining good eye contact.
- Think of the interview as a two-way conversation. It is an opportunity for both of you to gather information and to learn about your common goals, interests and experiences.
- Always be positive in your responses.
- Listen: It is easier to answer clearly and effectively if you listen well.
- Do not be afraid of silence. Pauses always seem longer to you than to the interviewer. A pause gives you a chance to think and shows the employer you are taking the question seriously.
- If you are unsure of a question, clarify it with the interviewer. When you have answered the questions, stop — don’t ramble.
This is your turn to gather information. Each question you ask will provide important information to make a decision about accepting an offer. You don’t need to wait until the end to ask your questions; feel free to ask some questions during the interview so the conversation has a two-way tone.
- Don’t ask canned questions; instead, develop questions with nuance and thought behind them.
- Quality questions show you are interested and have researched the organization and position. Depending on the situation, a sample question may be, “I noticed you are rebranding. How will this process impact this marketing internship?”
- Do not ask questions about salary or benefits. Your questions should focus on topics like position responsibility and challenges, the organization (its mission, products, services and competitors), training and orientation, career path options, etc.
In this phase the interviewer will ask if you have any final questions, and then will review the next steps in the hiring process. Make sure to leave the interview on a positive note and sure of what the next steps will be. Here’s what you can do:
- Emphasize your particular interest in the position.
- State why you feel you are a good fit for the position and organization.
- If the interviewer has not told you the process that will follow, clarify the timeframe for making a decision and determining your status.
- EMPLOYER/CANDIDATE QUESTIONS
The interviewer will ask questions attempting to evaluate your skills, abilities, leadership, flexibility, problem-solving, personal qualities and goals. Additionally, you will want to develop a list of strong questions to ask employers. Your questions should focus on topics like position responsibility and challenges, the organization (its mission, products, services and competitors), training and onboarding, and career path options, etc.
Use examples whenever possible. Instead of saying, “I have a lot of initiative,” say, “One of my strengths is initiative. For example, I thought it would be beneficial to my residence hall to start a student council, so I recruited interested students and went to the administration with a proposal. Now we have an active residence hall council.”
In addition to job qualifications, the interviewer is seeking a candidate who is competent, responsible, likable and genuine. The following aspects are important to keep in mind:
- Eye contact: Remember to look directly at the interviewer and not down or around the room.
- Body language: Use good posture, relaxed but alert with natural hand motions. Avoid nervous tapping; remember to smile when appropriate.
- Enthusiastic voice: Use an even pace, be clear and audible with your tone showing natural variation.
- Confidence: Convey a genuine belief that you can do the work and are excited about the opportunity. However, avoid being arrogant.
When prompted with the question “Describe your experiences with diversity in and/or outside the classroom” applicants very often will answer ineffectively, and therefore, candidates need to have well thought through answers to give ourselves an edge in interviews. When constructing potential answers:
- Please explicitly discuss race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, and/or disability as aspects of diversity.
- Demonstrate an awareness of difference within commonly-accepted categories of diversity.
- Go easy on the “stranger in a strange land” equivalencies. Be mindful of the difference between institutionalized discrimination and simply being an outsider.
- Your experience as a foreign exchange student, for example, may not be totally irrelevant. But it is not the same as living with ingrained sociopolitical and economic oppression. Best that you acknowledge the distinction.
- Never assume your expertise with diversity issues is known by others. Share concrete examples about your experiences and demonstrate your knowledge of diversity, don’t assume that people know you’ve experienced diversity.
- Discuss privilege if it is relevant.
- Discuss the positive side of classroom diversity, because it is real as well.
- Offer specific examples and stay on task.
- DEI SPECIFIC QUESTIONS FOR EMPLOYERS
For candidates who believe that DEI matters, it is important to ensure that they are working within a company whose values match theirs. “… a company that truly values DEI”:
- Has made commitments to foster a safe and healthy work environment
- Is taking actionable steps to improve representation across all levels and titles
- Holds leaders, managers and employees accountable for actions and behaviors
- Has sought to center equity through all aspects of the employee process — recruitment, training and development, promotions, pay, benefits and more
Possible questions from students to prospective employers:*
- How does your organization define diversity? What lenses of diversity has your organization made a direct commitment toward?
- Does your organization have a chief diversity officer (CDO) or a designated leader to drive DEI and engage internal and external stakeholders?
- Has your organization made any formal commitments in support of racial equity?
- How does your organization center diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging?
- Does your organization offer any formal employee training around biases, anti-racism or general DEI?
- Does your organization have any affinity groups or committees to support diverse populations? If so, how do these groups contribute to the culture of the organization?
- What resources has your organization provided to its employees in support of COVID-19
and racial injustices?
*Adapted from the NACE online article, “Questions Students May Ask to Assess Your Organization's Commitment to DEI.”
- USING EXAMPLES
Behavior-based interviewing is a popular approach employers use that requires you to provide specific responses to situations from your past. By showing how you responded in the past, you can demonstrate what your future actions will be.
Your objective should be to communicate clearly how your past experiences and knowledge may benefit the organization. Specific examples of past performance can come from internship, work or academic experiences and leadership involvement in student or community groups.
To prepare for this type of question, identify key qualities from the job description and specific examples tied to those qualities. Use the CAR method for responding to these questions.
- Context: What is the context of the situation demonstrating a particular quality? For example, the qualification is teamwork and your context is being a leader of a struggling student organization.
- Action: What are the specific action steps that you took to address the challenges? For example, you led an effort to identify key stakeholders with the student group and facilitated a strategic planning session.
- Results: What are the positive outcomes from the situation? For example, you identified three main areas of weakness and put a plan in place to address them over the academic year. By the end of your leadership, membership increased by 25%.
- PHONE INTERVIEWS
- Have your résumé, notes about the role and organization, paper and pen at your table or desk.
- Use a quiet room with no distractions. The Boerigter Center has space available.
- Have a list of accomplishments ready to discuss.
- If possible, use a landline for a more reliable phone connection, avoiding dropped calls.
- Get the feel for this type of interview by having someone conduct a practice phone interview, asking you 8–10 interview questions.
- Use pauses effectively to avoid “ums,” “ahs” and other unwanted verbal noise and to improve your presentation.
DURING THE PHONE INTERVIEW
- Have a glass of water available.
- Walk during the interview; this helps you convey confidence and energy.
- Speak clearly and intentionally.
FOLLOWING YOUR INTERVIEW
- Thank them on the phone for the opportunity to interview.
- Send a thank-you email within 24 hours.
Schedule an appointment to set up a one- hour appointment for a mock interview.
DeWitt Student Cultural Center141 East 12th StreetSuite 136Holland, MI 49423