Preparing for the Interview

Interviews are a critical part of the hiring process. As a candidate, the interview allows you to obtain information about the job and the organization, determine whether the job is suitable for you, and impress the em­ployer. The interviewer is working to promote his/her organization, gather information about you, and assess your qualifications.

Before the Interview

Interview preparation should begin early in your job search process and will contribute to your success. Thorough preparation will enable you to speak confidently about your achievements. Preparation can be broken down into three main components:

Know Yourself 

Conduct a thorough self-assessment of your education, experiences, accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and values. Review what you said on your résumé about the skills you developed and contributions you made in each experience.

Research 

Learn everything you can about the organization (e.g., vision, location, size, structure, products and services, culture, customers, and competitors) and the industry. This will help you to respond to interview questions and demonstrate that you are interested in the organization.

Practice 

We encourage you to practice responses out loud with a friend, family member, or peer to become more comfortable and confident in talking about yourself and your accomplishments. Receiving feedback and constructive criticism is critical to improving interviewing skills. Mock interviews may be scheduled with any NCA career adviser and are a great way to practice. All NCA mock interviews are videotaped to assess your nonverbal behaviors.

The most common interview format employers use today is behavioral interviewing, which is based on the idea that past behavior and performance are predictive of future behavior and performance. The interviewer will typically ask questions that begin with “Tell me about a time when you … ” or “Describe a … ” or “Give me an example of when ….” Your responses should describe how your specific experiences relate to the job for which you’re applying.

Developing a strategic approach to behavioral interviewing means taking the preparation steps described above even deeper. Analyze and identify themes within the job posting. Reflect on your experiences to identify examples of when you demonstrated the skills, knowledge, and experience required for the position. By using the STAR approach, you can structure and organize your responses to behavioral interview questions, succinctly communicating the important parts in describing an event:

Situation. Describe the context of the situation.

Task. Describe the task at hand and your specific role within it.

Action. Describe the actions you employed.

Result. Describe the outcome of your actions.

During the Interview

Most interviews follow a three-stage pattern:

The Introduction 

Arriving early shows respect for the professional who has reserved time to meet with you.

When the interviewer approaches, rise from your seat in greeting. The walk to the interview room is an opportunity to develop rapport by engaging in small talk. Once you are seated, the interviewer may provide an overview of the time you will spend together.

The Information Exchange

The interviewer will ask questions about your experiences, skills, and interest in the position. This is your opportunity to prove that you are the best candidate. Remember that your nonverbal behaviors, such as how you stand, sit, and listen, also influence the impression you’re giving.

The Wrap-Up 

It is common for interviewers to ask toward the end of an interview, “Do you have any questions for me?” You may ask for more details about the position and the skills the organization is seeking, but avoid asking questions related to salary, benefits, and personal topics. At the conclusion of the interview, express appreciation for the interviewer’s time and restate your interest. The interviewer will likely share the hiring timeline. If you are not offered a business card, ask for one so that you have the exact email or postal address to which to send a thank-you note.

After the Interview

Analyze in writing how the interview went, what you learned, and what your impressions were of the organization and the interviewer(s). A written record of each interview will help you remember and compare positions later.

Within 48 hours, send a personalized thank-you note to each person with whom you met.

If you do not hear back from the organization within the timeframe discussed, contact the interviewer(s) again to express your continued interest and ask about your status.