Job Interview Guide
Preparing for the Interview
Making a good impression at your interview can be as simple
as doing a little homework beforehand.
Major interview types and how to approach each one.
Making a Good Impression
Simple steps to putting your best foot forward.
Common Interview Questions
How to answer typical questions from prospective employers.
Illegal Interview Questions
Questions you don't have to answer.
Make the interview a two-way street.
How not to impress an employer.
How to Prepare
for a Job Interview
Make a good impression at your interview by doing
a little homework beforehand.
Research the Company and the Position
The more you know about the company and the job you
are applying for, the better you will appear in the
interview. An interviewer will be impressed by your
interest and motivation, and you will be able to
explain what you can do for the company.
Find out as much key information as you can about
the company, its products and its customers. If
possible, talk to people who work at the company.
There may be other sources of information on the
Web, especially if the company is publicly traded.
Search for the following:
|Products and services
|Financial info, including salary and stock|
Prepare for the Actual Interview
|Practice your answers to Common Questions.
Likewise, prepare a list of questions to ask the
employer. Most interviews follow this pattern:
First, you answer questions about your
experience and qualifications, then you ask
questions about the job.
|Rehearse your interview with a friend. You
should be able to convey all pertinent
information about yourself in 15 minutes. Tape
yourself to check your diction, speed, and body
|Prepare your interview materials before you
leave. Bring several copies of your resume, a
list of references, and, if appropriate, any
work samples. Make sure they are all up-to-date.
|Dress professionally and comfortably. You will
be judged in some respects by what you wear.
When in doubt, dress conservatively.|
|A straight-forward business suit is best.
|Wear sensible pumps.
|Be moderate with make-up and perfume.
|Wear simple jewelry.
|Hair and fingernails should be
|A clean, ironed shirt and conservative tie
are a must.
|A simple jacket or business suit is a good
idea as well.
|Shoes should be polished.
|Face should be clean-shaven; facial hair
should be neatly trimmed.
|Hair and fingernails should be
|Use cologne or after-shave sparingly.|
|Bring pen and notepad to jot down any
information you may need to remember (but don't
take notes during the interview).|
Job Interview Types
There are different types of job interviews you may
participate in during the hiring process. Here are the major
ones and tips on how to handle them.
Stress interviews are a deliberate attempt to see how you
handle yourself. The interviewer may be sarcastic or
argumentative, or may keep you waiting. Expect this to
happen and, when it does, don't take it personally. Calmly
answer each question as it comes. Ask for clarification if
you need it and never rush into an answer. The interviewer
may also lapse into silence at some point during the
questioning. Recognize this as an attempt to unnerve you.
Sit silently until the interviewer resumes the questions. If
a minute goes by, ask if he or she needs clarification of
your last comments.
In a one-on-one interview, it has been established that
you have the skills and education necessary for the
position. The interviewer wants to see if you will fit in
with the company, and how your skills will complement the
rest of the department. Your goal in a one-on-one interview
is to establish rapport with the interviewer and show him or
her that your qualifications will benefit the company.
A screening interview is meant to weed out unqualified
candidates. Providing facts about your skills is more
important than establishing rapport. Interviewers will work
from an outline of points they want to cover, looking for
inconsistencies in your resume and challenging your
qualifications. Provide answers to their questions, and
never volunteer any additional information. That information
could work against you. One type of screening interview is
the telephone interview.
The same rules apply in lunch interviews as in those held
at the office. The setting may be more casual, but remember
it is a business lunch and you are being watched carefully.
Use the lunch interview to develop common ground with your
interviewer. Follow his or her lead in both selection of
food and in etiquette.
Committee interviews are a common practice. You will face
several members of the company who have a say in whether you
are hired. When answering questions from several people,
speak directly to the person asking the question; it is not
necessary to answer to the group. In some committee
interviews, you may be asked to demonstrate your
problem-solving skills. The committee will outline a
situation and ask you to formulate a plan that deals with
the problem. You don't have to come up with the ultimate
solution. The interviewers are looking for how you apply
your knowledge and skills to a real-life situation.
A group interview is usually designed to uncover the
leadership potential of prospective managers and employees
who will be dealing with the public. The front-runner
candidates are gathered together in an informal,
discussion-type interview. A subject is introduced and the
interviewer will start off the discussion. The goal of the
group interview is to see how you interact with others and
how you use your knowledge and reasoning powers to win
others over. If you do well in the group interview, you can
expect to be asked back for a more extensive interview.
Telephone interviews are merely screening interviews meant
to eliminate poorly qualified candidates so that only a few
are left for personal interviews. You might be called out of
the blue, or a telephone call to check on your resume might
turn into an interview. Your mission is to be invited for a
personal face-to-face interview. Some tips for telephone
Anticipate the dialogue: Write a general script with answers
to questions you might be asked. Focus on skills,
experiences, and accomplishments. Practice until you are
comfortable. Then replace the script with cue cards that you
keep by the telephone.
Keep your notes handy: Have any key information, including
your resume, notes about the company, and any cue cards you
have prepared, next to the phone. You will sound prepared if
you don't have to search for information. Make sure you also
have a notepad and pen so you can jot down notes and any
questions you would like to ask at the end of the interview.
Be prepared to think on your feet: If you are asked to
participate in a role-playing situation, give short but
concise answers. Accept any criticism with tact and grace.
Avoid salary issues: If you are asked how much money you
would expect, try to avoid the issue by using a delaying
statement or give a broad range with a $15,000 spread. At
this point, you do not know how much the job is worth.
Push for a face-to-face meeting: Sell yourself by closing
with something like: "I am very interested in exploring
the possibility of working in your company. I would
appreciate an opportunity to meet with you in person so we
can both better evaluate each other. I am free either
Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. Which would be
better for you?"
Try to reschedule surprise interviews: You will not be your
best with a surprise interview. If you were called
unexpectedly, try to set an appointment to call back by
saying something like: "I have a scheduling conflict at
this time. Can I call you back tomorrow after work, say 6
Making a Good Impression
on Job Interviews
Here's what you should keep in mind the day of the interview
and immediately afterward.
Before the Interview
|Be on time. Being on time (or early) is usually
interpreted by the interviewer as evidence of your
commitment, dependability, and professionalism.
|Be positive and try to make others feel comfortable. Show
openness by leaning into a greeting with a firm handshake
and smile. Don't make negative comments about current or
|Relax. Think of the interview as a conversation, not an
interrogation. And remember, the interviewer is just as
nervous about making a good impression on you.|
During the Interview
|Show self-confidence. Make eye contact with the
interviewer and answer his questions in a clear voice. Work
to establish a rapport with the interviewer.
|Remember to listen. Communication is a two-way street. If
you are talking too much, you will probably miss cues
concerning what the interviewer feels is important.
|Reflect before answering a difficult question. If you are
unsure how to answer a question, you might reply with
another question. For example, if the interviewer asks you
what salary you expect, try answering by saying "That
is a good question. What are you planning to pay your best
|When it is your turn, ask the questions you have prepared
in advance. These should cover any information about the
company and job position you could not find in your own
|Do not ask questions that raise red flags. Ask, "Is
relocation a requirement?", and the interviewer may
assume that you do not want to relocate at all. Too many
questions about vacation may cause the interviewer to think
you are more interested in taking time off than helping the
company. Make sure the interviewer understands why you are
asking these questions.
|Show you want the job. Display your initiative by talking
about what functions you could perform that would benefit
the organization, and by giving specific details of how you
have helped past employers. You might also ask about
specific details of the job position, such as functions,
responsibilities, who you would work with, and who you would
|Avoid negative body language. An interviewer wants to see
how well you react under pressure. Avoid these signs of
nervousness and tension:
|Frequently touching your mouth
|Faking a cough to think about the answer to a question
|Gnawing on your lip
|Tight or forced smiles
|Swinging your foot or leg
|Folding or crossing your arms
|Avoiding eye contact
|Picking at invisible bits of lint|
After the Interview
|End the interview with a handshake and thank the
interviewer for his or her time. Reiterate your interest in
the position and your qualifications. Ask if you can
telephone in a few days to check on the status of your
application. If they offer to contact you, politely ask when
you should expect the call.
|Send a "Thanks for the Interview" note. After
the interview, send a brief thank-you note. Try to time it
so it arrives before the hiring decision will be made. It
will serve as a reminder to the interviewer concerning your
appropriateness for the position, so feel free to mention
any topics discussed during your interview. If the job
contact was made through the Internet or e-mail, send an
e-mail thank-you note immediately after the interview, then
mail a second letter by post timed to arrive the week before
the hiring decision will be made.
|Follow up with a phone call if you are not contacted
within a week of when the interviewer indicated you would
Common Job Interview Questions
By rehearsing interview questions, you'll become more familiar with
your own qualifications and will be well prepared to demonstrate how you
can benefit an employer. Some examples:
|"Tell me about yourself."|
Make a short, organized statement of your education and professional
achievements and professional goals. Then, briefly describe your
qualifications for the job and the contributions you could make to
|"Why do you want to work here?" or "What
about our company interests you?"|
Few questions are more important than these, so it is important to
answer them clearly and with enthusiasm. Show the interviewer your
interest in the company. Share what you learned about the job, the
company and the industry through your own research. Talk about how
your professional skills will benefit the company. Unless you work in
sales, your answer should never be simply: "money." The
interviewer will wonder if you really care about the job.
|"Why did you leave your last job?"|
The interviewer may want to know if you had any problems on your last
job. If you did not have any problems, simply give a reason, such as:
relocated away from job; company went out of business; laid off;
temporary job; no possibility of advancement; wanted a job better
suited to your skills.
If you did have problems, be honest. Show that you can accept
responsibility and learn from your mistakes. You should explain any
problems you had (or still have) with an employer, but don't describe
that employer in negative terms. Demonstrate that it was a learning
experience that will not affect your future work.
|"What are your best skills?"|
If you have sufficiently researched the organization, you should be
able to imagine what skills the company values. List them, then give
examples where you have demonstrated these skills.
|"What is your major weakness?"|
Be positive; turn a weakness into a strength. For example, you might
say: "I often worry too much over my work. Sometimes I work late
to make sure the job is done well."
|"Do you prefer to work by yourself or with others?"|
The ideal answer is one of flexibility. However, be honest. Give
examples describing how you have worked in both situations.
|"What are your career goals?" or "What are
your future plans?"|
The interviewer wants to know if your plans and the company's goals
are compatible. Let him know that you are ambitious enough to plan
ahead. Talk about your desire to learn more and improve your
performance, and be specific as possible about how you will meet the
goals you have set for yourself.
|"What are your hobbies?" and "Do you play
The interviewer may be looking for evidence of your job skills outside
of your professional experience. For example, hobbies such as chess or
bridge demonstrate analytical skills. Reading, music, and painting are
creative hobbies. Individual sports show determination and stamina,
while group sport activities may indicate you are comfortable working
as part of a team.
Also, the interviewer might simply be curious as to whether you have a
life outside of work. Employees who have creative or athletic outlets
for their stress are often healthier, happier and more productive.
|"What salary are you expecting?"|
You probably don't want to answer this one directly. Instead, deflect
the question back to the interviewer by saying something like: "I
don't know. What are you planning on paying the best candidate?"
Let the employer make the first offer.
However, it is still important to know what the current salary range
is for the profession. Find salary surveys at the library or on the
Internet, and check the classifieds to see what comparable jobs in
your area are paying. This information can help you negotiate
compensation once the employer makes an offer.
|"What have I forgotten to ask?"|
Use this as a chance to summarize your good characteristics and
attributes and how they may be used to benefit the organization.
Convince the interviewer that you understand the job requirements and
that you can succeed.
Here are some other job interview questions you might want to
|What can you do for us that someone else can't do?
|What qualifications do you have that relate to the position?
|What new skills or capabilities have you developed recently?
|Give me an example from a previous job where you've shown
|What have been your greatest accomplishments recently?
|What is important to you in a job?
|What motivates you in your work?
|What have you been doing since your last job?
|What qualities do you find important in a coworker?|
Your Career Goals
|What would you like to being doing five years from now?
|How will you judge yourself successful? How will you achieve
|What type of position are you interested in?
|How will this job fit in your career plans?
|What do you expect from this job?
|Do you have a location preference?
|Can you travel?
|What hours can you work?
|When could you start?|
Your Work Experience
|What have you learned from your past jobs?
|What were your biggest responsibilities?
|What specific skills acquired or used in previous jobs relate to
|How does your previous experience relate to this position?
|What did you like most/least about your last job?
|Whom may we contact for references?|
|How do you think your education has prepared you for this
|What were your favorite classes/activities at school?
|Why did you choose your major?
|Do you plan to continue your education?|
Various federal, state, and local laws regulate the questions a
prospective employer can ask you. An employer's questions--on the job
application, in the interview, or during the testing process--must be
related to the job for which you are applying. For the employer, the focus
must be: "What do I need to know to decide whether or not this person
can perform the functions of this job?"
Options for Answering an Illegal Question
You are free to answer the question. If you choose to do so, realize that
you are giving information that is not job-related. You could harm your
candidacy by giving the "wrong" answer. You can refuse to answer
the question. By selecting this option, you'll be within your rights, but
you're also running the risk of coming off as uncooperative or
confrontational--hardly the words an employer would use to describe the
Your third option is to examine the intent behind the question and
respond with an answer as it might apply to the job. For instance, if the
interviewer asks, "Are you a U.S. citizen?" or "What
country are you from?," you've been asked an illegal question.
Instead of answering the question directly, you could respond, "I am
authorized to work in the United States." Or, if your interviewer
asks, "Who is going to take care of your children when you have to
travel?" you might answer, "I can meet the travel and work
schedule that this job requires."
QUESTIONS AND THEIR LEGAL COUNTERPARTS
|Are you a U.S.
Where were you/your parents born?
What is your "native tongue?"
authorized to work in the United States?
What languages do you read, speak or write fluently? (This
question is okay, as long as this ability is relevant to the
performance of the job.)
||How old are you?
When did you graduate from college?
What is your birthday?
|Are you over the
age of 18?
Who do you live with?
Do you plan to have a family? When?
How many kids do you have?
What are your child care arrangements?
|Would you be
willing to relocate if necessary?
Travel is an important part of the job. Would you be willing to
travel as needed by the job (This question is okay, as long ALL
applicants for the job are asked it.)
This job requires overtime occasionally. Would you be able and
willing to work overtime as necessary? (Again, this question okay
as long as ALL applicants for the job are asked it.)
||To what clubs or
social organizations do you belong?
||Do you belong to
any professional or trade groups or other organizations that you
consider relevant to your ability to perform this job?
||How tall are you?
How much do you weigh?
|Are you able to
lift a 50-pound weight and carry it 100 yards, as that is part of
the job? (Questions about height and weight are not acceptable
unless minimum standards are essential to the safe performance of
||Do you have any
Please complete the following medical history.
Have you had any recent or past illnesses or operations? If yes,
list and give dates.
What was the date of your last physical exam?
How's your family's health?
When did you lose your eyesight?
|Are you able to
perform the essential functions of this job with or without
reasonable accommodations? (This question is okay if the
interviewer thoroughly described the job.)
NOTE: As part of the hiring process, after a job offer has
been made you will be required to undergo a medical exam. Exam
results must be kept strictly confidential, except medical/safety
personnel may be informed if emergency medical treatment is
required, and supervisors may be informed about necessary job
accommodations, based on the exam results.
||Have you ever
||Have you ever
been convicted of _____? (The crime should be reasonably related
to the performance of the job in question.
||If you've been in
the military, were you honorably discharged?
||In what branch of
the Armed Forces did you serve?
What type of training or education did you receive in the