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Interviewing Tips

The employment interview is often the determining factor in obtaining a job offer. Career Services can assist in your interview preparation by conducting videotaped mock interviews, advising on proper interview attire (see photo samples below) and providing resources to research companies.

What's on this page:

Prepare

  1. Know what the position and the organization are about. Know what types of positions and programs the organization offers so that you can match them with your interests and abilities. Research the company so that you will know about its history, products and services.
  2. Know your qualifications for the job. Understand your skills, abilities and interests and how they fit into the job and organization. Be able to tie relevant skills and abilities specifically to that position. Prepare examples from your past experiences that demonstrate evidence that you have the required skills and abilities.

Practice

Practice these and other questions with a roommate or a family member or stop by Career Services and schedule a mock interview with a career counselor.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your previous work experience and what have you learned from it?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Why are your interested in our company/organization/position?
  • What are your major strengths/weaknesses?
  • What qualifies you for this position?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go the extra mile.
  • Describe a situation where a misunderstanding occurred; how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake; what did you learn from it?
  • Take me through a situation where you had to get more information to solve a problem.
  • Someone in this position cannot be an expert in everything, but what should he or she be an expert in?
  • How do you determine success?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Do you think your grades are a good indicator of your academic abilities? Why or why not?
  • What would your employers/professors say about you?
  • Why did you choose this career field?
  • You have an employee who makes too many personal phone calls on company time. How do you handle the situation?
  • What salary do you expect?
  • What kinds of people do you find difficult to work with?

Questions you could ask the interviewer

Be ready with some questions to ask the interviewer. Here are some suggestions:

  • What are your expectations of the ideal candidate?
  • How would you describe the duties of the job?
  • How will my performance be supervised and evaluated?
  • Is there a formal training period and if so how long does it last?
  • What is your company's policy on promoting from within?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?
  • Are there any additional qualifications you are looking for that we did not cover?
  • Is there anything else I can tell you about my qualifications?

Proper Interview Attire

Men's Suit Men's Business Casual

 

MEN

  • White or pale-colored shirt; no prints or stripes
  • Simple tie, nothing loud or distracting (Need help with the knot?)
  • Conservative suit, preferably navy or charcoal
  • Dress shoes (no tennis shoes, sandals, etc.)
  • Small amount of cologne, if any
  • Neatly trimmed mustache/beard
  • Hair should be a conservative length
  • Minimal jewelry (wedding band and/or college ring are okay);
    no earrings or other body piercing is acceptable.
    Remove any body piercing accessories before the interview.

Women's Suit Women's Business Casual

WOMEN

 

 

  • Conservative-colored suit jacket with matching knee-length skirt is preferable;
    pantsuits are also acceptable
  • Long-sleeved blouse is preferable, nothing sleeveless
  • Shoes should be closed-toe pumps; avoid very high heels
  • Hosiery should be neutral or skin tones
  • Perfume should be applied sparingly if at all
  • When applying makeup, less is better in interview situations
  • Place only essential items in a small purse to avoid the awkwardness of a large,
    bulky purse
  • Jewelry worn should also be minimal. Choose small earrings and few rings. Avoid clunky and noisy jewelry. Jewelry should complement rather than distract from your appearance.
  • If in doubt, dress how you imagine the interviewer would dress, only nicer.
  • If you dress like a professional, you will feel professional.

Interview Do's and Don'ts

  • Do arrive 10-15 minutes early to show eagerness and have a chance to get a feel for the environment.
  • Do visit the company's website before the interview. Familiarize yourself with the various departments included. Show a general interest in what they do.
  • Don't chew gum.
  • Do bring extra copies of your resume.
  • Do bring relevant work samples or a portfolio, if appropriate to the type of work being pursued.
  • Don't smoke prior to your interview.
  • Do leave your cell phone in the car.
  • Do greet the interviewer with a smile and a handshake.
  • Do answer a question thoroughly, but don't drone on or monopolize the conversation.
  • Don't give just two-word answers. The interviewer is trying to get to know you; talk with him or her.
  • Don't interrupt the interviewer.
  • Don't be afraid to pause and think about an answer before you begin speaking.
  • Don't look at your watch during the interview. This tends to hurry things along. Let the interviewer set the pace.
  • Do maintain good eye contact.
  • Do ask questions about the job and organization to show your interest.
  • Do show knowledge about the company, position and career field.
  • Don't talk negatively about former employers, co-workers or professors.
  • Do ask for a business card from each interviewer.
  • Do write a thank-you note within 48 hours of the interview.
  • Do make notes immediately after the interview of key points that were stressed.

Third-Party Recruiters

As you conduct your job search you will find that some employers hire third-party organizations to assist them in identifying and hiring college students. An employer can hire a third-party organization to do on-campus recruiting, represent the company at a job fair, screen job candidates who apply through an Internet web site, or other hiring activities. Many college career centers allow third-party recruiters to work with students through their offices. Some have special policies that apply to how, when, and where third-party recruiters can work with students. The Career Services Center at Virginia Wesleyan recommends that you be aware of issues that are pertinent to working with these organizations.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) defines third-party recruiters as "agencies, organizations, or individuals recruiting candidates for temporary, part-time, or full-time employment opportunities other than for their own needs." Categories of third-party recruiters include:

  • Employment Agencies: Employment agencies list positions for a number of organizations and receive payment when a referred candidate is hired. The fee for listing a position is paid either by the firm listing the opening or by the candidate who is hired. If the job listing does not include the phrase "fee paid," be sure to ask who pays the fee before signing any papers.
  • Search Firms: A search firm contracts with employers to find and screen qualified persons to fill specific positions. The fee is paid by the employer. Search firm representatives will identify the employer they represent.
  • Contract Recruiters: Employers hire contract recruiters to represent them in the recruiting and employment function.
  • Resume Referral Firms: A resume referral firm collects information on job seekers and forwards it to prospective employers. Data can be contained in resumes or on data forms (either paper or electronic). The employer, job seeker, or both may pay fees. You must give the firm written permission to pass your resume to employers. Your permission should include a statement that expressly states to whom and for what purpose the information can be used.

Questions to Ask

A third-party recruiter may be helpful to you in your job search, but be a wise consumer. Read all materials carefully. Ask questions. Ask the Career Services Center staff for information. Ask a lawyer to read any contracts you are asked to sign. Here are some general questions you may want to ask:

  1. How many job openings are there for someone in my field? If you have the opportunity, inquire about the positions being filled or the number of openings related to your field. These are important questions because, in some instances, recruiters may not really have the type or number of openings they advertise. They may be more interested in adding your name to their candidate pool as a means of attracting more employers or clients to their services. Or they may be collecting resumes from students for potential job opportunities. Virginia Wesleyan College does not allow third-party recruiters to interview students unless they are trying to fill actual job openings.
  2. How is this information being used? A third-party recruiter is allowed legally to share your resume with the contract employer for positions that you are actually seeking. The recruiter must tell you, in clear terms, that your materials and information will not be shared outside the organization or used for any purpose other than with the company they represent at the time they interview you. The third-party recruiter cannot sell your information to anyone else. You may choose to authorize the recruiter to share your data elsewhere, but your authorization should be given to the recruiter in writing.
  3. Are candidates treated equally and fairly? If you are qualified for the job opportunity, the third-party recruiter must pass your information to employers without regard to your race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
  4. Who pays the fee? Before you agree to anything or sign a contract, ask the recruiter who will pay the fee.

Copyright © 2006 National Association of Colleges and Employers

For assistance with these questions or other related topics, contact the Career Services Center in Batten 220 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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