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Career Services - Job Interview Tips

The Offices of Career Services has information detailing employment interviews. Additional information on interviewing may be found under Helpful Websites.

If you would like to schedule a mock interview, please contact our office for an appointment.

Do Not Wing It

The key to promoting yourself in the interview involves preparation. It is a myth that you can "just wing it" in an interview and attract a good job offer. Set an agenda of key points that you want the interviewer to know about you, and energetically articulate these points in the interview. Provide the interviewer with compelling reasons to select you over other candidates.

Before The Interview


Research the job or position being interviewed for. Determine the skills required.

Self - Assessment

Know your own interests, skills and values. A common concern of employers is that many students do not know themselves nor how their past experiences demonstrate the interests, skills, or motivation employers seek.

Be prepared to show employers how your abilities match their needs. Dip into all of your background; volunteer experiences, educational background, etc.

Identify three to five top selling points - attributes that set you apart from other candidates - and be sure you get the chance to point them out in the interview. Develop and rehearse concise examples about how you used your skills, each illustrating a specific activity or task required by the job.

Rehearse answers to basic questions. Be prepared to provide examples of occasions when results were different than expected. Your skill in handling failure as well as success may be probed. Be prepared for questions asking for more detail than you've already given. Be prepared for surprises.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

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Transferable Skills

Don't underestimate transferable skills! Even if your past experience does not seem to be directly relevant to a position that you are applying for, do not assume that you will not be able to use the skills that you have gained.

Consider, for example, that you are interested in a job at a bank. You are wondering about how to market the three summers that you spent working at a fast food restaurant. Although the actual duties may be different, think about what skills both positions would share. For example, in your position at the fast food restaurant, you needed to address the needs of all kinds of customers. Your communication needed to be effective and pleasant. You needed to work under pressure and ensure that all of the details needed to complete an order were addressed. You handled money and worked as part of a team of employees. These are skills that are transferable to the position at the bank.

These skills are then combined with other experiences, course work, and activities to assist you in marketing yourself as a successful candidate.

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During The Interview

Create A Positive First Impression

The "presence" you project is a product of the way you dress, speak, act and "carry yourself." A positive initial impression will serve you well throughout the interview. Conversely, a negative first impression is almost impossible to overcome (in spite of good qualifications), since hiring decisions are often made within the first ten minutes of an interview.

  • Prepare yourself and your family or roommates to react in a businesslike way to job-interview phone calls you receive. Potential employers may call anytime, day or evening and even on the weekends. Be sure to have a professional sounding message on your answering machine or voice mail.
  • Attire contributes to the image you project. Be business-like in dress and appearance. Dress professionally and when in doubt, err on the conservative side. Specifically, hair should be clean, neat and simply styled. Don't neglect shoes and fingernails, and make sure your clothing is well-pressed and well-fitting. Suits are safest for both men and women; a tailored dress may also be acceptable. Men usually choose gray or navy, while women are allowed more flexibility: be careful not to choose something too bright or overwhelming - choose a becoming color and style. Keep any jewelry and perfume subtle.
  • Bring to the interview a folder with references and extra copies of your resume, along with any demonstrations of your work you wish to offer. If you are in a field that prefers a professional portfolio which highlights your work, be sure to have one available. You may also want to prepare a portfolio if you feel that it would provide useful information to support your candidacy.
  • Plan to arrive at least ten minutes early. Allow extra time if you don't know the area or parking is difficult.
  • If you cannot make the appointment, call well in advance to cancel or reschedule.
  • Relax - try deep breathing for a few minutes before the interview.
  • Give a firm, friendly handshake.
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Leave a Lasting Impression

  • Be yourself - within the bounds of professional behavior, relax and let your personality show. Try to convey an attitude of respect without fear; self-confidence without cockiness. Be friendly, warm, interested and enthusiastic.
  • Be conscious of your body language and posture but don't adopt an "unnatural" style for the interview. Although a little nervousness is to be expected, avoid mannerisms that indicate tension or nervousness.
  • Try to maintain eye contact whenever the interviewer addresses you, and for most of the time when you address her or him. If there are two or more interviewers, direct your comments to all and establish eye contact individually.
  • Listen attentively, asking questions if you don't understand a point and building on their comments. Employ active listening skills (i.e. paraphrasing and summarizing what has been said, head nods, etc.) to show you are listening.
  • Don't interrupt or use profanity or slang. Avoid repetitive phrases such as "you know" or "like". Plowing on without "taking in" what the interviewer tells you is a real rapport blaster.
  • Answer questions directly and concisely - avoid both one word responses and long, rambling explanations. Use proper grammar and avoid slang and trite phrases.
  • Be positive - avoid volunteering any negative information about yourself or others. Try to phrase even negative responses positively. i.e.: "Have you taken any computer courses?" "No, but I've had the opportunity to use Word-Perfect and Excel on the computers at school."
  • Here's where your preparation pays off. Tell what you can offer and how your skills and achievements meet the job requirements. Illustrate your skills with examples from jobs or volunteer activities. Focus on how you can meet the employer's needs, not vice-versa. Show a willingness to learn.
  • In closing the interview, let the interviewer know if you are interested in the position. Ask what the follow-up procedure will be and thank the interviewer for his/her time.
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As already mentioned, you are to be an active participant in the interview - not a passive respondent to questions. Setting an agenda of key points you want highlighted in the interview helps you to become an active participant. With a set agenda, you become less self-conscious and look for opportunities to get across your points. Present your qualifications in terms of the interests, skills, and values which parallel the qualifications the employer seeks.

Have Questions

Have questions for the interviewer. However, don't ask questions that could be answered by company literature or through basic research. Ask questions to gain information that you are sincerely seeking.

By being an active listener during the interview, you may come up with questions you hadn't thought about prior to the interview: questions about the work environment; what motivates the interviewer in working for company X; what the track records of previous hires have been, etc.

Don't ask about fringe benefits, vacations, or salary until you have a firm offer. The exception is when you must expend extensive time, effort and money to attend a job interview and you need to know if it is worth your or their time and expense. In this case it is acceptable to ask the human resources department for a salary range and general benefits information.

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After The Interview

Be sure to immediately follow-up any interview you have with a thank you letter. This courtesy projects your professional image, and allows you the opportunity to summarize your interview remarks. You may also use this letter to add comments that were not discussed in the interview.























Job Board

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Contact Career Services

Lois Trimbur
Career Services Specialist
724.287.8711 Ext. 8310

Mary McGinnis
Career Development Coordinator/Academic Advisor
724.287.8711 Ext. 8264

Online Resources

College Central Network allows students and alumni to post a resume and employers to post job openings.


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