Successful interviews are the result of preparation. To be sure you're ready for an interview, follow these guidelines.

Guide to Interview Preparation

1. Research.

  • Thoroughly research the organization you’re interviewing with. This can be done online, but it’s also helpful to connect in-person, through networking events, or by conducting an informational interview. You can refer to our guide on how to conduct an informational interview.  

2. Know your Strengths.

  • Review the job description and requirements. Interview questions will most likely target these particular skills.
  • Make a list of experiences you’ve had that demonstrate your ability to do the job you’re applying for.
  • Be ready to discuss your transferable skills, especially if you’re applying for a job where your previous experiences are not directly related.

3. Prepare your Answers.

            Situation: Give a brief description of the situation you are going to use.
            Task: Briefly explain what was expected of you in this situation.
            Action: Describe the steps you took to solve the problem or complete the task. 
            Result: Identify the positive results that occurred due to your action.

4. Practice.

  • Once you’ve prepared some examples of your experience, practice speaking them out loud, as though you were at an interview. You can also practice with a friend, or schedule a practice interview with a career advisor.  

5. Make a Great Impression.

  • Your interview begins from the first contact—even when someone reaches out to schedule your interview. Be courteous and professional 100% of the time. When it comes to the actual interview day, follow this checklist to ensure you’re presenting your most professional, competent self.  
    • Dress professionally. The National Association of Colleges and Employers provides a helpful graphic for appropriate dress.
    • Arrive on time or a few minutes early. Map out the location in advance, so you don’t run late.
    • Bring extra copies of your resume in a plain folder or bag.

6. Prepare questions for the interviewer.

  • These questions should be prepared in advance, and should come from your research of the organization and/or the job title, or from some aspect of the interview conversation. It’s perfectly fine to write these down ahead of time, and refer to them when you come to that portion of the interview.
  • Ask about the “next steps.” If it’s not already been addressed by the interviewer, you can ask (at the end of the interview) what their hiring timeline is. This will tell you if and when it’s appropriate for you to reach out to them after the interview.

7. Follow Up.

  • Send a thank-you note. This can be a hand-written note, but a professional email should be sent as soon as possible. In it, you should:
    • Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration, and for the opportunity to interview.
    • Mention anything you learned during the interview process that makes you particularly excited about the position.

Group Interviews

A group interview is typically used for positions such as RA, OD leader, etc. A group interview could mean that you are in a small group with other student applicants and have to complete a task together, like deciding on how to plan an event. The key to these is to be sure you...

  1. Say Enough: in group simulations/role-play scenarios, you need to participate. If you are shy, you need to be sure you provide at least 3 - 5 solid contributions to the discussion.
  2. Don't say too much: If you are talkative, be sure you don't dominate the discussion. That can be as bad as saying too little. If you provided 5 or more responses in a 15 minute discussion with 5 other people, then you've probably contributed enough.
  3. Listen intently: Instead of planning on what you are going to say next, listen to what others are saying. Make eye contact. Lean forward. Then when you make a response mention that you liked what another member of the group said and you want to add or piggy-back on their comment.
  4. Recognize others: You can also use the active listening technique of summarizing. For example, "Blitz, do I understand correctly that you said _____ and _____? I like that idea, and I'd like to add something to it."
  5. Enable the process: If the discussion is going in circles you might want to ask if you can summarize and see if you all can go to the next step in interest of time. Or you might say, "I noticed that Blitz didn't say much. Blitz, is there anything you would like to contribute?" You might interject in the discussion that time is running out and suggest figuring out how to wrap up.

In group interview sessions, the interviewers usually care more about your interactions than task completion. They often don't care what conclusion is reached. They want to see how you talk, listen, contribute and interact with others. They want to see that you are assertive and independent, but also that you are inclusive, respectful, and connecting well with others. Don't get carried away with the task so much that you lose sight of interpersonal communication. 

Additional Tips

1. Phone and Virtual/Zoom Interviews.

  • It’s not uncommon to be offered an initial interview via phone or Zoom before an in-person interview. There are pros and cons to these, and they require much of the same preparation as an in-person interview. A few more tips:
    • Treat an initial phone interview as an interview. No matter how casual the employer makes it seem, this is their first opportunity to get to know you and your potential fit for the position. Make it count.
    • For phone interviews, you can wear whatever you want, but sometimes it can be helpful to “dress the part” so you feel more professional while you’re speaking.
    • For Zoom, dress professionally—just as you would for an in-person interview.
    • Test your technology in advance. Make sure cameras, wifi, and phone reception are all operating correctly in the location you plan to do the interview.
    • Find a quiet place. You don’t want there to be distracting, ambient noise.
    • Once the interview begins, be sure you know all the people on the other end of the phone/Zoom so you can send thank-you notes. It’s totally acceptable to ask the names of everyone if they don’t offer up that information.
    • Follow-up. Thank you notes/emails apply in phone interviews too!

2. What’s your greatest weakness?

  • This is one of the most common questions we get from students--how to answer the “weakness” question. Here’s a good approach:
    • Choose a skill and explain the flip side. Often a weakness is simply an overused skill.
    • Explain what you do to ensure the weakness does not interfere with your ability to do the job.
    • Example: “I am interested in many different things. So in order to avoid getting sidetracked from my task at hand, I keep a daily list of tasks and prioritize them. By maintaining a running list of tasks to accomplish, I don’t follow tangents.”

Helpful Resources

Willamette University

Career Development

UC 3rd floor
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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