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1 in 5 interviewers decide on a candidate in the first 5 minutes and two-thirds of them need only 15 minutes. 

It is critical that you make a confident, professional first impression in every interview. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Arrive 5-10 minutes early and maintain professionalism at all times, including in your interactions with those you meet.
  • Offer information you have learned about the company in your discussions and conversations.
  • Maintain your composure and enthusiasm. You may be asked the same questions several times, but remember that you are meeting new people who haven’t heard the answer yet.
  • Do not smoke while you are on site; refrain from alcohol consumption during your visit.
  • Remember your table manners; companies want employees with social as well as job skills.

General Preparation

An invitation to interview means a potential employer has found qualifications in your application that fit the job position.  Interviews are conversations that allow that employer to determine 2 critical points: how you fit with the organization and how the organization fits you.

  • Research the position, organization, and interviewers. Strong candidates make good conversation and ask intelligent questions based on what they know.
  • Practice in a Mock Interview.
  • Confirm the interview date and time several days before. Find out where to park, where to meet, and how long you should expect to be there.
  • Plan your transportation, including how long it will take you to get there. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Organize extra copies of your resume and cover letter, a list of references, and any work samples that demonstrate your experience for the position.
  • Pack a padfolio and a bottle of water.  Keep your “gear” minimal.

Types of Interviews

While there are different kinds of interviews, they usually boil down to two main points:

  • Will you fit in with this organization?
  • Do your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments support the position?

The best way to prepare for interviews is with thorough research and practice. Review the list of common interview questions and schedule a mock interview with CP&R.

  • Traditional Interviews: Traditional interview questions tend to be more subjective in nature and don’t necessarily have a “right” answer.  Keep your answers related to the position at hand.
  • Behavioral Interviews: Behavioral interviews are based on the premise that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.  Responses should be detailed and specific.  This is a good opportunity to use your Story Bank and follow the STAR Method.
  • Phone Interviews (Pre-Screening): Employers use phone interviews to screen and narrow their candidate pool.  Prepare to answer (or make) the call in a quiet room. Keep your notes easily accessible.  Use a landline if possible and silence your cellphone.  If the timing isn’t convenient, politely ask to reschedule and suggest some alternative times.  Speak clearly and smile.
  • Group Interviews: A group interview might infer a simultaneous interview with other candidates or an individual interview with several representatives from the organization.  Call a few days in advance to confirm the time and ask about the day’s agenda, including who you might expect to meet.  As with any group conversation, acknowledge everyone in the room with a handshake upon entering the room.  Listen well, use strong eye contact, and speak with clarity and confidence.
  • Case Interviews: Case interviews assess a candidate’s problem-solving skills and are most commonly used in business and finance sectors. Case interviews evaluate how you approach a problem and your logic in reaching a conclusion. Though their focus varies with industries, your answers should reflect an ability to draw logical conclusions and illustrate a confidence with numbers. It is critical to practice case interviews before the real thing. Review these case interview tips, provided by McKinsey&Company. 
  • Second/Follow-Up Interview: Second interviews are typically structured as a series of individual and/or group interviews onsite that last anywhere from one hour to a full day. Call a few days in advance to confirm the time and ask about the day’s agenda.

Interviewing is an art form.  Our list of common interview questions is only a start.  Use these in conjunction with your Story Bank and the STAR Method to practice, and then schedule a Mock Interview with CP&R.

Illegal Questions

Some questions are inappropriate and even illegal for employers to ask during interviews. Illegal questions may deal with issues of race, gender, sex, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, native language, age, disability status or prior arrests. Women are often illegally asked questions about family planning and marital status.

However, some personal questions may be legal depending on the organization and duties affiliated with the position. For example, a religious organization hiring for a position which has religious responsibilities can require candidates to be of a certain religious faith.

Review page 2 of our list of common interview questions for more information on responding to illegal questions.

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