Sarah Schoenleber

Career Counselor

CSUSM Career Center


What are the main types of interviews?

  • Formal Interview - A standard, stereotypical, structured interview.

  • Informal Interview - During normal times, this would be an interview where you might go out to coffee or have a meal. The purpose is for the interviewer to get to know you a little better.

  • Panel Interview - This is where there is more than one interviewer. A good way to approach this kind of interview is to realize that if there are more people in the room, there are more opportunities to connect with at least one of them. This person will probably advocate for you during the decision-making process.

  • Group Interview - This is where there is more than one candidate being interviewed at once. The purpose is to assess how a candidate interacts with potential colleagues. Interviewers will be watching for how candidates collaborate with each other and how respectful they are.

  • Performance-based Interview - This is where you will be asked to perform some task or solve a problem that is relevant to the position. Interviewers will typically notify you in advance if it will be a performance-based interview.

What are some general interview tips?

  • Treat all interactions with an employer like an interview.

  • Know that the interview process typically involves multiple rounds, so you might do several types of interviews before getting an offer.

What are interviewers actually looking for?

  • Can you do the job and do it well?
    • To assess this, interviewers will be listening for examples of your knowledge, skills, and work ethic.
    • Keep in mind that employers know that you won't have all the job knowledge going in, so this is where promoting your work ethic really comes into play.
    • Promote your work ethic by sharing examples that help you express that you will be putting your best foot forward to consistently deliver to the best of your ability.
  • Will you be a good fit?
    • This is very important. More often than not, when a person quits or is let go, it's because it wasn't a good fit.
    • Make sure you're assessing this as much as they are. Make sure you see alignment between yourself and the company. This means having a compatible work style, similar priorities and values, and a bottom line that is the same as their bottom line.
  • Every question the interviewer asks is a chance for you to demonstrate evidence of how you can do the job well and how you'll be a good fit.

What are some interview prep best practices?

  • Review and analyze the position's description.

    • Use it as a guide for determining exactly what they're looking for.

    • Use it to organize your ideal responses to potential questions.

    • Pull out key roles and responsibilities.

  • Review your resume and cover letter.

    • Cherry-pick key pieces that correspond most closely to the position description and ask yourself what are some stories and examples that you can share as evidence.

  • Research the employer.

    • Scour their website, LinkedIn, social media, and press releases.

    • Know their mission, vision, and values.

    • Understand their culture.

    • Get familiar with their products and services.

    • Figure out what they're most concerned about -- their bottom line.

    • Connect the dots between who you are and what you have to offer, and who they are and what they need.

    • If you do all of the above, you'll come into the interview already speaking their language, which helps you show that you are going to be a good fit.

  • Create an interview cheat sheet.

    • Research common interview questions and draft your ideal answers.

    • The idea isn't to memorize this list, it's to help you feel confident by knowing you have responses ready.

    • It will also help you identify exactly what you want to communicate when asked certain questions, as well as the specific story or example you would like to use in your answers.

    • Check out this document for a starting point.

    • Use the STAR strategy as a framework for crafting your cheat sheet answers.

  • Practice talking through your answers out loud to get comfortable with articulating your responses. You could do this by yourself, with a friend or family member, or you could set up a mock interview appointment with the Career Center via Handshake.

  • Use an online tool like Big Interview.

    • Big Interview lets you simulate an interview so you can record your responses and self-critique.

    • Big Interview also provides AI-powered feedback regarding your eye contact, body language, tone, and more.

  • Try to cultivate a positive frame of mind beforehand.

    • Remind yourself that you have a lot to offer, that you will work hard, and no matter what happens, you know you would be a good fit and a good candidate.

  • Prepare a reference page.

    • This is a page of people that can vouch for you.

    • List each person's name, title, email, phone number, and one bullet point that describes the nature of the relationship (former supervisor, current professor, etc.)

What are some special considerations for virtual interviews?

  • Make sure you're comfortable with the platform (Skype, Zoom, Teams, etc.).

    • Practice with the platform before the interview, make sure you know how to mute and share your screen.

  • Make sure you have the meeting link/id/password in advance.

  • Block out an hour before the interview to help you get ready.

  • Also block out an hour after the interview so you can do a brain dump.

    • A brain dump is where you write down everything they asked you during the interview. This will help you prepare for future interviews because you'll have a better idea of what to expect.

  • Make arrangements with the people you live with to make sure your internet connection will be good. Ask them to avoid bandwidth heavy activities during your interview.

  • Review your interview setup.

    • Make sure you have good lighting.

    • Make sure you have a tidy background. Remember you can use a virtual background with many video conference platforms.

  • Earphones are a good idea to help you focus on the interviewer.

  • Remember to dress professionally from top to bottom!

    • Stick to muted and basic colors: black, white, navy blue, grey. You want the interviewer's attention on what you're saying, not what you're wearing.

    • Go subtle with your jewlery and makup.

    • Avoid revealing clothing.

  • Put your phone on silent so it's not a distraction. Don't just put it on vibrate.

What actually impacts and influences interviewers?

  • Surveys and research show that it's 7% the content of what you say, 38% is how you say it, and 55% is your body language.

    • Keep in mind how you present yourself, how you carry yourself, and how you sound.

    • Big Interview is a great tool for assessing yourself.

How do you nail your interview?

  • Be early. 10 minutes is a good target, you can usually hang out in the virtual waiting room.

  • Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera.

  • Listen carefully.

  • Try to channel what being positive and happy looks like for you.

  • Remember to focus on what you can do for them when giving responses. Answer everything in light of what they are going to gain, not just what you are going to gain.

What are some good approaches to typical questions?

  • Tell me about yourself - Focus on your professional and academic background. Highlight the experiences and skills you have to offer and show them how they connect with what they're looking for.

  • Why this job - Show off that you've done research. Connect something that's personal and true to you to some of the organization's work. Show a connection that's really motivating for you.

  • Strengths/Weaknesses - Talk about your top three strengths that are relevant to the position. As for your weakness, be honest and talk about one that would not affect your job performance.

  • What is an example of conflict you've dealt with - Keep the focus on how the conflict was resolved. Remember to use the STAR strategy.

  • Do you have any questions - One great approach is to ask a question that's specific to the research you've done about the company. This shows your interest and that you're going above and beyond by doing research of your own.

What should happen before you leave?

  • Make sure you understand the next steps of the process.

  • Restate your interest in the position.

  • Thank them for their time and consideration.

What should you do after the interview?

  • Remember to send a thank you email with 24 hours, this is key. Restate your interest, note something specific from the interview, and add anything that you might have forgot to say.

  • If you don't hear back within a week or two -- unless told not to -- call or email them to check your status and to restate your interest.

  • Don't wait for a reply, continue your job search while you wait.

  • If you accept another offer before you hear back, make sure to communicate that immediately. You want to be transparent and put out a positive image to the industry.

  • After recieving an offer it's appropriate to talk about compensation and benefits, not before.

    • Neogtiation is acceptable at this point, make sure to do your reasearch to find out the avarage salary for the position and make sure to ask for something that's competitive but within reason.

  • Know the difference between declining a job offer and reneging on an offer.

    • It's okay to decline an offer.

    • It's not okay to accept an offer and then change your mind, this is called reneging and should be avoided at all costs.

                     Visit the Career Center website for career services!


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