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The interview is one of the most useful tools for employers looking to evaluate potential employees but it also allows you the opportunity to determine if the company and position are a good fit for you.
Employer's Interview Goal
- Find out what the candidate knows, their knowledge, skills, abilities, and characteristics that indicate their potential to succeed in the position/company.
- Learn how their work skills have been applied and tested in actual situations.
- Determine where their talents lie for future growth and development.
Your Interview Goal
- Get the job by standing out from the other candidates for the right reasons: displaying good judgment, competence, professionalism, honesty, and confidence in your skills and abilities.
- Show my true self so the right job that matches my qualifications, talents, and passions will follow.
- Research the company and position.
- Research YOU…know your strengths in relation to the position.
- Prepare to answer questions with enthusiasm and confidence.
- Schedule a practice interview with Career Services, call 701.777.3904.
- Present yourself professionally…look, speak, dress, and act accordingly.
- Be on time and treat everyone with respect.
Types of Interviews
Some companies use phone interviews to screen potential candidates to narrow down the candidate pool. Remember…phone interviews are as much of an interview as a face-to-face interview. Typically, the primary goal is to determine if the applicant would be worth bringing in for a face-to-face interview. Phone interview questions will typically revolve around your qualifications, interests, and what you are looking for in a position or company. It is a fact finding mission.
Similar to the telephone interview, campus interviews are an opportunity to screen several candidates at the convenience of the student. Employers typically conduct several 30 minute interviews in one day to make better use of their time.
You will be asked basic, straightforward questions about you, your education and experiences. Traditional interviews tend to focus on your preferred ways of interacting, how you would handle hypothetical situations, and if you are a “fit.” They are typically organized around your resume. Traditional interviews are becoming less common but you may still find some traditional interview questions built into the increasingly more common behavioral-based and case study interviews.
With behavioral based interviews, the interviewer wants to hear how you handled an actual situation, not what you might do in the future or hypothetically. They are based on the principle that past performance indicates future performance. The questions will be pointed, probing, and more specific than the generalized questions used in traditional interviews. The employer knows what skills they need in the person they hire and will conduct the interview to find out if you have those skills.
Case Study / Situational Interviews
This type of interview is typically used to evaluate your analytical skills, creativity, communications skills, flexibility, thinking/working under pressure, listening skills, interpersonal skills, professionalism, command of the subject matter, and problem solving abilities. The recruiter is looking to see how you tackle the situation, arrive at your solution, and communicate the solution. You will need to carefully explain each step in your thought process and alternatives/obstacles/factors considered in order to show the recruiter how you deal with a situation. Case study interviews are meant to be interactive; it’s okay to ask questions.
Common Interview Questions
Tell me about yourself.
This is often the first question a recruiter/interviewer will ask. While this is an open-ended question, your focus should be in providing a summary of who you are and what makes you the best candidate for the position. Summarize your education, experience, accomplishments, and responsibilities in relation to the job you are interviewing for. Avoid personal information. Keep it professional and career-focused.
Example: I am a recent graduate from the University of North Dakota where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. I recently completed my internship/co-op experience at XYZ Company where I was responsible for...
Why are you interested in this position/company?
Imagine you are the interviewer and you have an applicant who isn't too sure what the company does vs. an applicant who has a firm knowledge of the company/position and demonstrates that knowledge by relating the company's goals with their career objectives. Which applicant would you want to get to know more? Interviewers want to know why you are interested in their specific position and company. Setting yourself apart from the competition by doing research and gaining a genuine interest in the company/position will strengthen the impression you leave.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Don't bash yourself; instead think of them as areas of improvement and a verbal display of your growth and learning. Respond with the improvements first and "end on a high note" with your strengths. When describing your weaknesses, follow-up with how you have worked or are working to overcome/improve. The combination of your strengths and improvements should highlight the attributes you have acquired that make you the best candidate for the job. Giving real-world examples turns abilities into proven abilities.
How has your experience prepared you for this position?
Describe how your educational experiences have prepared you for the position as well as how other experiences have prepared you in terms of strengthening your transferrable skills. Internships/co-ops, class projects, coursework, volunteer experiences, memberships, and other activities all play a role in how you have developed into the professional candidate you are today.
Example: Throughout my college years, I have been able to excel in class, sports, and extracurricular activities due to my strong ability to prioritize and multi-task effectively. My involvement in College Scientists club developed my interpersonal skills and strengthened my communication skills through group activities and presentations. My recent internship/co-op experience gave me hands-on experience in the area of "x" and I found I was successful in applying my classroom studies in a real-world situation.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
The interviewer is looking to find out more about your career direction, goals, drive, and how long you might stay with the company. They are interested in knowing if you have career plans and how they align with the position you are interviewing for. Describing career goals that have no connection to the position/company interviewing you will lessen your chances of landing the position. Your response should be genuine and realistic so the importance of researching the company and how it relates to YOU is so important.
What type of people do you work well with?
It is important to give an example of when you successfully worked with a diverse group of people with different backgrounds. Involvement in class projects, sports, and volunteer positions would display an ability to collaborate and work on a team with a common goal.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Certainly! This is your last opportunity to summarize why you are a great fit and why you want to work for this company. Provide a brief "wrap up" or review of the education, experience, skills and strengths you bring and how they relate to contributing to their ongoing success. If you feel you weren't able to highlight a success or area you wanted to discuss, this is your time to do so.
It is illegal for employers to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Questions that would reveal information specific to these areas are inappropriate and illegal. For more information, go to www.eeoc.gov.
Examples of Illegal Questions
- Do you have children?
- Are you married or have a boy/girlfriend?
- What is your ethnic background?
- Do you have a disability?
- How old are you?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- What religion are you?
- Is this your maiden name?
- Were you honorably discharged from the military?
Do you have any questions for me/us?
Not only is the interview an opportunity for the interviewer/s to learn about you, it’s also a chance for you to learn about the interviewer/s! Use time at the end of the interview to learn more about the position/company. Have at least five questions written down in your padfolio, and be prepared to ask at least three. Make sure you can’t find the answers to these questions elsewhere. Always be polite when asking your question and always thank the individual who answered.
Examples of these questions NOT to ask:
- What does a person in this position do?
- When can I take time off for a vacation?
- What does this company do?
- Can I work from home?
- What are the hours?
- Do you do background checks?
- What is your policy on drug use?
- How much does this position make?
Examples of these questions to ask:
- Could you please tell me a story of the culture here?
- If hired, how could I help the department/company reach its goal?
- What do you appreciate most about working here?
- What do you hope the person who gets hired for this position accomplishes within the first ninety days?
- I’m curious about any professional development opportunities available.
If applicable, ask for their business cards so you have their contact information for following up in the future
After the Interview
Many applicants don’t bother to send a thank you note to the interviewer or hiring manager. With the amount of competition in today’s market, taking the time to show your appreciation for their time and consideration may very well give you an edge over the competition.
- Personalize your letter to each individual who participated in the interview.
- Keep it brief.
- Thank the interviewer.
- Restate your interest.
- Address a topic that arose during your meeting.
- Re-emphasize a skill or strength important to the interviewer/company/position.
- Offer the opportunity to contact you for further information.
- Close expressing your interest and how you look forward to hearing from him/her soon.
- Send within 24 hours of the interview, a maximum of two days later.
- Check your spelling! If you did not receive the business card of the individual you are addressing the thank you note to, call the main number and verify the spelling of each name with the receptionist/operator.
- Remember, the hiring process takes time.
- Follow-up with the interviewer if you have not heard from them within 10 business days.
- If the interviewer stated you will hear from them by a certain date, wait until the date has passed before contacting them to follow-up.
- Do not get discouraged. Finding a job can be a long process but you are gaining practice in interviewing and a better understanding of yourself along the way.