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Interview Basics

Prepare For the Interview


  • Convince an employer that you can make a contribution to their organization
  • To see if the job and organization is right for you
  • Opportunity to avoid being screened out


Research the employer:

  • What the organization does and what is important to them
  • Information about the industry
  • What others say about the organization
  • Current challenges and industry trends

Ways to research:

Know Yourself

  • What skills and experiences do you bring an employer?
  • How do these skills and experiences relate to the position for which you are interviewing?
  • Prepare a positive spin on any potential negatives. Instead of making excuses, redirect their attention to other activities and skills that will alleviate their concerns. Ex: If you’re lacking related experience, discuss your skills gained through school projects, organizations you’re a part of, or volunteer work.


Types of interviews

  • Directed/Structured
    • Guided by the interviewer, with job related questions
    • More formal and direct
    • The interviewer will usually go down a list of questions he or she asks each candidate
  • Non-directed/unstructured
    • Relaxed style that is conducive to shedding light on a candidate’s personality
    • Tends to flow more like a conversation with open-ended questions

Format of interviews

  • Group interviews
    • Several candidates are interviewed at once
    • Could be structured in a case study where you have to show your ability to work in a team on issues you might face in the actual position
    • Want to show initiative and creativity in answering questions without being pushy
  • Panel interviews
    • More than one interviewer posing questions
    • Make sure to maintain eye contact and engage each person who is interviewing you
  • Phone interviews
    • Have your résumé, job description, water, pen and paper, and a list of questions to ask interviewer
    • Be in a comfortable, quiet place with no distractions
  • Video interviews
    • Practice with the software so you are familiar with the program. Have your phone as backup
    • Consider what the interviewer will see on camera


  • During Your Interview

    The key to any interview is preparation and, as mentioned in the last section, being prepared consists of researching the organization and the position in detail. However, to be fully prepared requires an understanding of what will occur during your interview or the interview process: Introduction → Dialogue → Closing.

    Introduction: Make A Good Impression!

    First impressions can set the tone for the rest of the interview. When your interviewer comes into the waiting room and calls your name, walk toward that person with confidence, make eye contact, extend your hand for a handshake, and say, “Hello I’m (insert your name here).”

    Additional tips:

    • Be on time! Even better, arrive 5-10 minutes early (but not more as that will be seen as too early by the interviewer)
    • Do not chew gum or wear too much fragrance
    • Turn off your cell phone

    Dialogue: The Actual Interview

    The most common type of interviewing today is Behavioral Interviewing. This is a popular method where questions are based on the idea that past behavior best predicts future behavior. For example, if you have shown initiative in a class project, you are likely to show initiative when you are working. If an employer was looking to hire a candidate with leadership skills, they might ask “Tell me about a time you had to take on a leadership role.”

    You should respond to these questions with a specific example where you have demonstrated the skill the interviewer is seeking and the “S.T.A.R.” method is a useful approach to structure your response:

    • S – Situation – describe the Situation
    • T – Task – illustrate the Task you needed to accomplish
    • A – Action – explain the Action you took
    • R – Results – tell them the Results

    Remember no matter what the question or interview format, there are three key things that employers want to know:

    • Are you capable of doing the job?
    • Are you motivated to do the job?
    • Are you a person they’ll like working with on their team?
  • Closing: Close the Sale!

    Don’t forget that once the interviewer has finished asking you questions the interview is NOT complete. Always finish your interviews by completing these three steps:

    • Have questions about the position or organization that you prepared ahead of time (3-5)
    • Obtain all interviewers’ business cards
    • Express your interest and how you fit
    • Ask about the next steps in the process

    After Your Interview

    The Five W’s of Follow Up

    Following an interview, promptly write the interviewer a letter (email first, handwritten card second) expressing interest and fit in the position, and appreciation and thanks for the interview. If you are not sure who or when to contact individuals, follow the five W’s of follow up:

    1. Who?
      • Contact each person you met with in-person (or on the phone)
      • Hopefully you obtained business cards from all your interviewers (if you didn't use their website or your contact at the organization to obtain other's contact information)
    2. What?
      • Express thanks for the opportunity
      • Summarize why you feel like the opportunity is the right “fit”
      • Include any information that really excited you about the position or program
      • Be genuine
    3. When?
      • Immediately following your interview (within 48 hours)
    4. Where?
      • Sending an e-mail and hand-written thank you card is best
    5. Why?
      • Set yourself apart and create an excellent “last impression”
      • Opportunity to reiterate and solidify your interest and fill in anything you may have left out
  • Interview Dos and Don'ts
    • DO know about the organization
    • DON’T arrive late
    • DON’T appear disinterested or arrogant
    • DO Identify what you have to offer
    • DO offer examples
    • DON’T dress unprofessionally
    • DO know where you’re going
    • DO develop your “close”
    • DO follow up

    Source: UC Berkeley Career Center