What to Expect During an Interview Confidence and calmness comes from preparation

Use your interview to elaborate on your education, experience and skills, and how they fit into what the employer is looking for. He/she can finally put a face to the name and resume. Use your interview to make connections. Even if this interview doesn’t land a job, they may reach out when another position becomes available.

  • Research the employer. Do they publish what they look for in employees? What is their mission, their goals and expectations? If your interests lie in renewable energy, a petroleum company might not be the best fit for you. Do they have any exciting initiatives you’d like to be a part of or otherwise support?
  • Self-reflect and know what you'd like to say about your skills and experiences. Prepare examples of how you’ve demonstrated skills that are highly relevant to the position in question. Why did you apply for the last job you had? What are your interests now, and how did you get them? Use approximately 30-second sound bites—just a few sentences, that you can use to expand on your answer to a relevant question. Tailor your answers to be relevant to this employer and this position.
  • Practice! Find resources online from reputable sources about mock interview questions. Practice with friends reading the questions and listening to your answers. Have some fun with it! If you have a friend who likes acting, let them be incredibly excited or horribly disappointed in your answers. Seeing the extreme responses in advance can help you be calmer during the actual interview (because you can expect a professional to not make faces, walk out in the middle, answer a personal call while you’re still talking to them, avoid eye contact). Humor can help relieve tension, stress, and nervousness you might feel.

Types of interview questions

There are a variety of types of interview questions. Open-ended questions give you the opportunity to speak about whatever comes to mind (e.g., "What interests you about this job?"). Other examples are open-ended, behavior-focused questions (e.g., "When was a time that you had to handle a disagreement with your supervisor? How did you handle it?”), and more technical questions or case studies.

You can still prepare for open-ended questions! Find resources with mock interview questions, and think about how you might answer them. Even if you’re asked a different question than what you’ve explicitly practiced, the self-reflection and answer-crafting you’ve done will help you.

For case studies and technical questions, most don’t actually have a “right” answer. Even if it’s presented as a skills-based exam, the review of your answers will likely focus on your thought process while stressed and/or how you would respond with incomplete information. If you’re offered a note sheet, use it to jot down thoughts as they come to you. Listen carefully to the questions as they’re asked, and re-read them if they’re presented in text. Focus on key, broad issues first, then get more specific with your answer. If you can, suggest specific steps rather than just theory. Especially for case studies, be conscious of resources involved in the question and answer. If you’re with an interviewer, ask them if there’s a budget, capital, or personnel available to solve the problem at hand.

Seven tips for preparing for the interview

  1. Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early to catch your breath and allow time to find parking, check in, and find the interview room. If you are not familiar with the area, use mapping services to find a good route and account for traffic.
  2. Dress professionally. If the interviewer provides a dress code, be sure to follow it. Look for reputable sources online or at your academic institution for tips on how to dress appropriately.
  3. Bring extra copies of your resume, samples of relevant work, references, and a pen. Keep your documents fresh and neat in a professional folder or carrying case. Take notes for questions when you have a chance to ask them.
  4. Silence any electronic devices you have on you before the interview starts.
  5. Offer a handshake and maintain eye contact. Be polite and professional with everyone you interact with. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity.
  6. Ask questions when you are offered a chance! Prepare a few in advance, and add questions using the information they give you during the interview. Ask about things that aren’t available on the company’s website (e.g., what’s challenging, why does the interviewer enjoy working here, what are some immediate priorities for someone entering this role, what’s the expectation for time being trained, etc.).
  7. Thank them for their time!