Interview Preparation

Yow only have one opportunity to make a great impression.

Practice Your skills with Big Interview

(Perfect) Practice Makes Perfect

By the time you make it into the interview chair, you've potentially beat out hundreds of other applicants. On average, job postings from midsize or large corporations can pull in more than 250 resumes, but only half a dozen or so people get called in for interviews.  Preparing to answer interview questions is one of the best ways you can help ensure you're the one who gets hired for the job.

Resources for Practice Interviews (Mock Interviews)

1. Practice Interviews with Business Career Services Advisors

Be sure to schedule a live or virtual practice interview appointment with Business Career Services.

2. .Case Interview Practice

You can schedule a live or virtual practice interview appointment with the Case Interview Trainers in Business Career Services.   We also offer a fantastic resource for comprehensive CASE interview prep called Management Consulted.  Sign up for your FREE!!! ($900 value) account here to have access to over 500 cases.

3. Virtual Interview Training Course and Virtual Mock Interviews through Big Interview.

Big Interview is a resource provided to you by BCS (again, FREE!!!) for step-by-step system for job interview preparation. When preparing for a job interview, it’s not enough to only read advice – you need to put that advice into practice! That’s why Big Interview isn’t just a training course. You’ll also get hands-on practice with mock interviews tailored to your specific industry, job and experience level.



6 Steps to Interview Preparation

1.

Research the Organization

Do your homework first!

This will help you understand the products, services, and client base of the organization and make you stand out as a candidate. Utilize Handshake @ Illinois, the Company's Website and social media sites to learn about the company from different perspectives. You can also:

  • Look at the company's Facebook page. Facebook is often a medium for families, clients and current and former employees to keep up with company happenings, events, etc.
  • Search the following in Google- site:companywebsite.com "company culture" This will populate Google search results with any page on their site that contains the words, "company culture."
  • Read the "about us" or equivalent page on their website.
  • Look on LinkedIn for connections who work where you're applying and reach out.
  • If you don't have any connections who work at that company, look at the company's current employees and see if you have mutual connections with any of them. This way you can reach out to a mutual connection and say something like, "Hey Karen, looks like we both know Steve! I am applying to your company and would love to hear what you think about ..."

3.

Practice Your Storytelling

Do you struggle to give concise answers to interview questions? Are you unsure how to share your accomplishments during an interview without sounding boastful?

Utilize the STAR technique to make sure your stories make an impact.

The STAR interview response method is a way of answering behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interview questions are questions about how you have behaved in the past. Specifically, they are about how you have handled certain work situations. Employers using this technique analyze jobs and define the skills and qualities that high-level performers have exhibited in that job.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Using this strategy is particularly helpful in response to competency-focused questions, which typically start out with phrases such as, "Describe a time when..." and "Share an example of a situation where...."

See below for more details.

5.

Use great verbal and non-verbal communication skills

You only get one chance to make a great impression!

Be at your best during the entire experience. You never know who is weighing in on the hiring decision.   Shake hands, smile and radiate your interest and enthusiasm throughout the interview.

Sit up straight, smile, establish eye contact, use a firm handshake, and listen attentively.

When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, the answer is YES. Asking questions is one way to show interest in the opportunity.   One of the most important questions is to find out what is the next step in the process.  See below for more  examples.

2.

Review the Job Requirements

Make sure you understand the job you are applying for!

One of the most important things you can do when job searching is to show companies how well you’re qualified for the jobs you're applying for.

Job postings are typically broken into several sections.

  • Information about the company
  • Details on the desired qualifications of applicants
  • A description of the responsibilities involved in the role

The next step is to make a connection between your skills and the employer's requirements by creating a list of the preferred qualifications for the ideal candidate for your target job. If a job advertisement is well-written and detailed, you might be able to assemble much of your list straight from the ad.

Extract any of the keywords describing skills, qualities, or experiences that the employer has listed as required or preferred. Also, review the job duties and make some assumptions about the qualifications needed to carry out those duties.

For example, if the ad mentions that you would organize fundraising events for potential donors, you can assume that event-planning skills would be highly valued and should be added to your list.

4.

Plan how to get there, what to bring and wear

Prepare ahead to reduce stress on interview day!

Make sure you have copies of your resume and a professional padfolio and pen to take notes for an in-person interview.

If you are interviewing on location, print out a map with directions, secure a parking location and time out your drive.  You don't want to be late to an interview because you got lost or couldn't find a parking spot!

In the case of a virtual interview, prepare your notes, check your technology and ensure that you are in a quiet location without distractions in the background.

For both in-person and virtual interviews: Dress professionally, ideally in a suit.   Different companies may have different interview dress standards, If you're unsure how formally to dress, it's better to err on the side of more formal than less. Check with your interview liaison about interview dress attire if you’re seeking further instruction.

6.

Follow Up

Say thank you to leave a great impression!

After the interview, send a thank you card or email to all interviewers within 24 hours.

If you do not receive an update on your status within 2-3 weeks or the time frame designated in the interview, you should follow up.  Send an email to the hiring manager (or whomever you have been communicating with) expressing your continued interest in the opportunity and requesting a status update.   Be polite and friendly!

If this doesn't result in a status update, a 3rd email can be sent, 2-3 weeks later.



STAR Technique

Sample Question:  Tell me about a time you showed initiative on the job.

Situation

Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work. For example, perhaps you were working on a group project, or you had a conflict with a coworker. This situation can be drawn from a work experience, a volunteer position, or any other relevant event. Be as specific as possible.

Situation: Last summer, I was interning as an account coordinator, supporting the social media marketing team for a client at an ad agency. My boss had an accident and was sidelined three weeks before a major campaign pitch.

Task

Next, describe your responsibility in that situation. Perhaps you had to help your group complete a project within a tight deadline, resolve a conflict with a coworker, or hit a sales target.

Task:  I volunteered to fill in and orchestrate the presentation by coordinating the ideas pitched by the media team.

Action

You then describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or coworker did. (Tip: Instead of saying, "We did xyx," say "I did xyz.")  Highlight technical skills you utilized if relevant.  (Tip: I Utilized SQL to do....)

Action:  I called an emergency meeting and facilitated a discussion about  media plans, and the roles of various team members in relation to the presentation.

I was able to achieve a consensus on two priority concepts that we had to pitch, along with related media strategies.

Result

Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken. It may be helpful to emphasize what you accomplished, or what you learned.

Result: The client loved our plan and adopted the campaign.

Interview Questions

Traditional Interview Questions

Traditional interview questions are those that employers are most likely to ask, and practicing the answers to these questions will help you seem well-prepared and confident during the interview. While you don't want to memorize specific answers — an employer may not ask the exact questions you anticipate, and memorized answers sound less sincere--practicing your stories is crucial in order to effectively answer questions about your interests, goals and strengths.  Keep reading to learn about the STAR technique and other interview prep tips.

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interviews look at past behavior to find indicators of how you will perform on the job. Behavioral interviewing focuses on a candidate’s past experiences by asking candidates to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities. Answers to behavioral interview questions should provide verifiable, concrete evidence as to how a candidate has dealt with issues in the past.  Many interviews are a combination of Behavioral and Traditional Interview Questions.

Example Interview Responses

Tell me about the last time your workday ended before you were able to get everything done.

Example: "In my last internship, we had a client who wanted us to deliver new social media content to them by Wednesday of each week to get it scheduled for the following week. One week they requested double the content in order to increase their online activity in advance of a big launch. I decided to stay late the night before the deliverable was due to be able to complete my part of the project. I also let the manager know that we might be a few hours behind for our content that week.   A coworker and I went in early the next morning, together, made our deadline."

Give me an example of a time you made a decision that was unpopular and explain how you handled implementing it.

Example: "I took over management of a gym where the trainers were allowed to cover one another's shifts without the knowledge or approval of management. I didn't like the uncertainty involved, because if someone failed to show up for a class, there was no way to know which trainer was supposed to be there. I implemented a new policy that required trainers to go through management to make schedule changes. I also explained the problem with the previous approach and how this would resolve any possible issues.  At first, it took awhile for the trainers to adapt to the new policy, but eventually everyone came around and realized that this practice actually made the process of finding a sub easier, it also allowed me to see some of the scheduling issues we were having and adjust the schedule to work better for the team."

What do you do when a team member refuses to complete his or her quota of the work?

Example:  "When there are team conflicts or issues, I always try my best to step up as team leader if needed. I think my communication skills make me an effective leader and moderator. For example, one time, when I was working on a team project, two of the team members got embroiled in an argument, both refusing to complete their assignments. They were both dissatisfied with their workloads, so I arranged a team meeting where we reallocated all the assignments among the team members. This made everyone happier and more productive, and our project was a success."

Illegal Questions

You’re sitting in the interview for your dream job, and it’s going great. You’ve knocked the hard questions out of the park, and you and the interviewer are really hitting it off. Then, out of the blue, she asks, “Where is your family from?”

Yep, that’s illegal. And so is any question related to your nationality, gender, race, religion, and more. But unfortunately, these questions get asked more often than you'd think, and before you get to the interview, it’s good to know how to respond if you’re faced with one.

The best approach is to determine why the interviewer is asking the question and whether she has a legitimate concern she’s trying to address.  Then, tailor your answer to speak to that concern, gracefully avoid the illegal part of the question, and turn the conversation back to your job-related strengths. Here are a few of the most common examples, and how to face them.

Questions That You Can Ask at the End of an Interview.

At the end of every job interview, the interviewer will likely ask you if you have any questions for them. At this stage, the answer is always yes. You are expected to ask a few good questions before wrapping up the interview. Keep in mind the interview isn't just about making your potential employer like you. It's also about finding out if you like the company and if you'd be a good fit. By asking genuine questions, you'll show the employer that you're interested and you care about the job.

  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?
  • Can you show me examples of projects I’d be working on?
  • What are the skills and experiences you’re looking for in an ideal candidate?
  • What attributes does someone need to have in order to be really successful in this position?
  • What types of skills is the team missing that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
  • What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
  • What sort of budget would I be working with?
  • Is this a new role that has been created?
  • What are the most important things you’d like to see someone accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job?
  • What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
  • What is the performance review process like here? How often would I be formally reviewed?
  • Where do you see this company in the next few years?
  • What are the current goals that the company is focused on, and how does this team work to support hitting those goals?
  • What gets you most excited about the company’s future?
  • Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  • Who will I report to directly?
  • What are the common career paths in this department?
  • How would you describe the work environment here—is the work typically collaborative or more independent?
  • Can you tell me about the last team event you did together?
  • Does anyone on the team hang out outside the office?
  • What’s your favorite office tradition?
  • *****What is the timeline for the hiring process.  What are the next steps in the hiring process?*****

Video Interview Tips

Taking a video interview, especially for first-timers, can feel a little awkward. So while your video interview may feel different, you can rest assured knowing you are answering the same questions as every other candidate. With a video interview, you get the chance to explain the skills and experiences that make you uniquely qualified.

Create the perfect interview environment:  Virtual interviewing is similar to the video calls we’ve all gotten used to having lately. Since you can interview from anywhere, make sure it’s somewhere where you’re comfortable. Pick a spot free from distractions and noise. Ensure you’ve got the strongest wifi signal possible. And, always, check your lighting. Make sure it’s in front of you; lighting from behind isn’t flattering. It’s best to find a room with natural lighting so your face is visible. If it’s too bright outside, close the blinds. And remember: don’t worry about making eye contact with the camera. Just be natural.

Practice makes perfect: While virtual interviewing isn’t difficult, a little practice can help you prepare. Most on-demand interviews ask you to give your answer in just a few minutes. It’s helpful to think about how you will illustrate your skills clearly in that timeframe, and to practice them out loud.  If you’d like, practice answering questions by recording yourself on a smartphone, tablet, or computer or utilizing Big Interview, before you take your interview to get used to answering on camera.

Be yourself!  Just like an in-person or phone interview, this is your chance to shine and share what you offer. Be authentic and remember to relax, have fun, and let your skills and personality do the talking! Most importantly, be authentic. Just speak and focus in the way that makes you comfortable. Get excited and share your energy with the camera, letting your personality shine.