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Marquette University
Career Services Center

Holthusen Hall, First Floor
1324 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-7423
Fax: (414) 288-5302
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Interviewing SKILLS

Even if a candidate has had some experience with interviewing, it is still recommended that preparation be done by going over typical interview questions and doing a practice interview based on behavioral interviewing-type questions.

  1. Common Interviewing Concerns
  2. What Employers want to know
  3. Preparing for the Interview
  4. What You Need to Know About the Employer
  5. Behavioral Based Interviewing
  6. Frequently Asked Interview Questions
  7. Additional Interviewing Tips and Resources

COMMON INTERVIEWING CONCERNS

Students and experienced professionals alike are commonly concerned about the term “selling yourself” during an interview and may be thinking, “… but I’m not much of a salesperson.” Other common concerns are that an interviewee may be perceived as “self-centered” or “bragging” if they talk about themselves. While these concerns are understandable, the heart of these concerns is typically that you are coming across as someone you are not. Selling yourself in the context of a job interview involves talking about yourself in a way that effectively communicates your well-earned and genuine skills, accomplishments and talents that relate to your fit for a position. Knowing yourself and what you genuinely have to offer employers will help you to confidently articulate your attributes during an interview. Additionally, it is important to know what employers are seeking in a candidate.

Employers want to know

  1. Can you successfully perform this job? (Your ability and suitability for the job)
  2. Will you fit into the organization? (Your suitability for the company)
  3. Will you stay for a reasonable amount of time? (This means three or more years)
  4. What is your willingness to give time and quality effort to the job?
You, the interviewee, must also be seeking some answers.
  1. Will this position's responsibilities fit well with who I am?
  2. Will I be happy working in this industry?
  3. Will I be a good match for this particular organization/department/manager?

THE KEY TO AN EFFECTIVE INTERVIEW PREPARATION

Being unprepared for an interview indicates to an employer that you would probably be unprepared with your work assignments as well. Recruiters tell us that the main reason candidates fall short in an interview is that they don't inspire confidence that they can or are willing to do the job. Confidence is rooted in knowledge, which is, in turn, rooted in preparation.

What should you prepare?
  1. Knowledge of Yourself
  2. Knowledge of the Organization
  3. Verbal Communication Skills
  4. Non-verbal Communication Skills
  5. A Professional Appearance

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE EMPLOYER

Every employer expects you to know how to do research as a result of your education. Therefore, it is expected that you know as much as possible about his/her company. Research coupled with being able to ask pertinent questions and discuss the organization and field with some degree of familiarity will reflect your ability to be a self-starter.

Areas you could research include:

    -History of the organization -Philosophy
    -Types of products/services offered -Prospects for growth or change
    -Reputation -Major competitors
    -Locations -Promotional activities
    -Size and organizational structure -Current industry trends/issues
    -Financial stability -Mission and vision of the organization

 

 

 

 

 

Behavioral Based Interviewing-- A Common Interviewing Technique

Behavioral based interviewers believe that past behavior is an accurate predictor of future behavior. They concentrate many of their questions on situations that candidates have encountered in the past. What they want to hear is an illustration of your behavior. Typical questions focus on understanding a specific situation or challenge that you have faced that will demonstrate a particular quality or skill that is relevant to the position. To maximize the effectiveness of your answers, try using the STAR system.

    S= Describe a situation. (one-two sentences)
    T= Talk about the task.
    A= Explain the action you took. (one-four sentences)
    R= Talk about the positive results, quantifying if possible. (one-three sentences)

An example of the STAR system:

Question: Tell me about a time when you have shown initiative.

Answer: I worked for a summer in a small warehouse. I found out that a large shipment was due in a couple of weeks and that there was very little space available for it (situation). The rear of the warehouse was disorganized and the inventory system was outdated (task), so I came in on a Saturday, figured out how much room was needed, cleaned up the mess in the rear and catalogued it all on new inventory forms (action). When the shipment arrived, the truck just backed in. There was even room to spare and the new inventory system saved us a good deal of time (results).

 

Frequently Asked Interview Questions

*Indicates a behavioral question

Education

How and why did you select Marquette University?

The important section of this question is in the word how. The manner in which you make large decisions is vital information for an interviewer who believes that you probably will be quite consistent in your decision-making mode.

What led you to this major and what courses did you like most/least?

Let the love of your favorite subject matter show! If your major or classes that you enjoyed the most do not seem to have a direct connection to the position you are interviewing for, concentrate on the skills that these classes developed. If the main reason that you didn't like coursework was the professor, the interviewer will wonder about your ability to be productive in the occasional difficult work situations that are common to any professional position.

How has your education prepared you for this job? In which respects are you best prepared or most knowledgeable?

Your education has given you much. Be prepared to discuss three areas - theory/facts via coursework, hands-on experience (labs, internships, projects, co-ops) and the total experience of an MU education (include your major, the core curriculum and your volunteer activities).

What is your GPA and how does it reflect your academic abilities?

All employers wonder if you are mature, if you will be a hard worker or if you will prefer to do the minimum that is required. This question is a test of those qualities. What is your maturity level? How would you describe your work ethic? If your GPA is low, be prepared to talk about it. Hopefully, it will have been rising each semester and will be highest in your major.

Skills/Achievements

Tell me about yourself. How would you describe yourself? How would others describe you?

Do not get rattled by this question, and do not go into your life story. These questions are meant to probe not only your ability to do the job but also your preparation for the interview. Your preparation (or lack of it) will be immediately showcased. Have you thought about and are you able to give illustrations of your skills, knowledge bases and traits that match the position? Think of the qualities that employers look for: Do you have an example of how you demonstrated some of these qualities? If you do, then state that. If that doesn't work for you, then qualify the question. Ask "What area of my background would be most relevant to you?" and take it from there.

Why should I hire you?

This is where you should really sell yourself. Highlight areas from your background that relate to the company's needs. Recap the interviewer's description of the job, matching it with your skills.

How do you think a friend or professor who knows you well would describe you?

Of course, be honest. Think about any compliments you have gotten on projects or activities. Don't just discuss characteristics, but include examples of why friends or professors would describe you that way.

What are your skills or strengths?

Share a short list of 3-5 transferable skills (not personality traits) that are critical to performing this position well. A good way to assess which skills are most important is to study the job description and the ad. Usually the responsibilities are listed in order of importance and require specific skills to perform them well. Then design at least one story in STAR format (situation, task, action, result) that will illustrate this strength. Isolate high points in your background. Always back your answers with specific examples. You do have at least three strengths. Your biggest mistake here is to sell yourself short!

In what areas do you need to improve?

What do you consider your biggest weakness?


Everyone has weaknesses, but a careless answer can virtually end your consideration as a candidate, so prepare this answer thoughtfully before you arrive. The interviewer is trying to find out 1) are you aware of your weaknesses, 2) have you thought about how you might improve, and 3) are your weak points going to jeopardize how you perform? There are three ways to approach this question. If there is a minor part of the job about which you lack knowledge but will gain it quickly, use that. Be careful using this one. Put the weakness in the past. You had it once, but now you are over it. Design the answer so that your weakness is ultimately a positive. This one is your best move. You may also discuss something that you have not yet learned but intend to.

Think about something you honestly wish you did better. "I really wish I felt more comfortable speaking in public. Through my classes I have given a lot of presentations and each time I feel more confident. But there are others who seem to be really good at it. I really hope to be able to speak very comfortably and effectively in front of groups someday."

What accomplishment has given you the greatest satisfaction?*

What is the toughest challenge you have faced?* Why?


In your story, include the skills, traits and knowledge that aided in this achievement. Use the STAR system and be certain to end with positive results. Make sure you are proud because of something you accomplished rather than being proud of someone or something else of which you had no contribution.

As we make our decision about your fit for this position, what do you want us to remember about you?

Is there any additional information you feel would help me in thoroughly evaluating you for this position?


These are typical wrap-up questions at the end of an interview. Always be ready to give a summary of your qualifications in two to three sentences. This could be your skills, personal traits, work ethic, or passion for the career. Make the answer short and spirited.

Can you work under pressure?* How do you work under pressure?*

Don't just give a yes or no answer; elaborate. Explain why. Give an example of a time when you felt that you were working under pressure. Talk about how you successfully dealt with the pressure.

Multicultural Competence

Tell me about a time when you worked on a project with someone who came from a different cultural background than yourself?

Describe a time when you supervised or worked with someone older than you.

Tell me about a time when you worked with someone whose first language wasn't English.


This is an attempt to get a sense of your awareness, knowledge, and skills in working with people who are different than you. Differences can be defined by race, ethnicity, religion, social background, sexual orientation, age, etc. Think of positive experiences that demonstrate your ability to relate and communicate with people from a variety of backgrounds.

If you cannot come up with an answer NOW is a good time to begin engaging in experiences that offer such skill building. The Career Services Center offers a monthly program called POWER Lunch that might help you develop your multicultural competence.

Work Experience/Environment

Tell me about the position that has given you the most satisfaction.*

What have you learned from your work/internship/co-op experiences?
*

Talk about the most career-related position you can. If you really loved organizing the last homecoming as a student leader, talk about that experience and the skills you used, relating it to your current field. If you loved planting flowers for your grandmother and you're seeking an accounting position, the employer may wonder why you're not pursuing a career as a green thumb.

How have your extracurricular activities provided experience applicable to the workplace?*

All of your life experiences are connected in some way. What skills, traits and work habits have you utilized and strengthened? Ideas for illustrations: positions of leadership, being an active responsible member, adding quality, or designing new programs.

Tell me about your favorite supervisor, your least favorite supervisor.

Describe what you think would be an ideal relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate.

What qualities does a successful manager possess?


In order to assign you to an appropriate manager or section of the company for a second interview, the interviewer needs to know how you want to be supervised. He/she also wants to know what management styles displease you. This is a time for being able to succinctly describe the qualities and attitudes that you would desire in a supervisor. This is not a time for character assassination. Employers are looking for someone who, if there is a problem, will handle the situation maturely. Answer thinking of what you envision as being the relationship between supervisor/supervisee. Don't just make it up. Think about why you would want a supervisor to be supportive or hands-off or a mentor or give autonomy, etc. Be realistic in thinking about whether or not your potential supervisor is asking the question and what his or her style seems to be now. This is a good question to ask of him or her, too.

Tell me about a time...:*
When you had a major problem and explain how you dealt with it.

A good follow up question to this might be: How would you handle the same situation differently now?

When you made a poor decision and how you corrected it.

When you had to adapt to a difficult work situation.

When you worked with someone you disliked and how you handled the situation.


Describe these events as non-judgmentally as possible. Explain difficult situations using facts (not emotions) and be as succinct as possible. Discuss the event in a professional manner and even though the result may not have been ideal, remember to also share what you learned. Possible examples: Differences in work habits, work values, or ethical attitudes.

Will you be willing to relocate?

Do you have a geographical preference or limitation?

How much are you willing to travel?


Tell the truth. State amount of travel in terms of annual percentage. If you are willing to relocate, know what locations the company presently has and refer to them. You may need to ask questions about what type, how much, and to where you would be relocating or traveling. Be as flexible as you can. Remember, though, if you aren't willing to do this, don't accept the position if offered. A bad "fit" is the number one reason for leaving a position.

Traits/Values/Beliefs

What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?

Is it financial reward, work environment, the supervisor, helping others, variety, challenge, etc.?

Employers want to assess this area because they know what factors they can and cannot provide.

What have you accomplished at work or as a volunteer that you consider innovative, that demonstrated initiative that required problem solving skills, that was a collaborative effort, etc.?

How do you determine and evaluate success?

Do you have standards? What are they? What does quality mean to you? How will you know whether or not you are successful? How much do you depend on other people's feedback?

What are your salary expectations?

Until you are offered a position, this question should not be answered. Right now you are searching for a position and a company that are a good match. If you share your ideas, and your expectations are significantly different than theirs (whether low or high), you may no longer be a candidate. If you both come to the conclusion that this could be an excellent situation, then you must be ready to discuss this subject. Before your first interview, conduct research on salaries in the industry, in this type of position, and in the geographical area. What is fair for you in terms of a total package? What do you need vs. what might you desire? Remember to assess benefits as well as the salary.

What two or three things are most important to you in your work?

Be honest here, too. But also be professional and career-oriented. Talk in terms of values such as: helping others, interacting with many different people, making tough decisions, having a variety of responsibilities, having the opportunity for advancement, being recognized for your contributions, making a difference in people's lives, etc. Stay away from those more egocentric reasons such as pays well, great vacation and benefits package, fun social atmosphere, easy commute, cool uniform.

Career Plans and Goals

Why did you choose this particular career field?

What are your long and short-range goals and objectives?

Where do you see yourself in five years?


These questions are designed to find out: if you set goals, if your goals are related to your profession or industry, and if you have goals of pursuing excellence. People want to hire someone who is self-motivated, who wants to improve, and who has taken the time to establish a vision beyond today. An exact career goal is not necessary nor is a plan that stretches far into the future.

How do you balance the needs of work and school with your personal life?

This is a time to discuss what balance means to you and how you achieve it. Employers are concerned about your physical, mental and emotional health because they believe a well-balanced employee will be productive. You may wish to talk about a few of your activities that you believe promote your well-being. Personal relationships are not of interest to the employer.

Specific to Organization

Why are you seeking a position with our company?

Tell me what you know about our organization.


This is a test! Do you want to work here enough to have done your homework? It is assumed that, as a college student, you have the abilities to learn and to research. Now this company wants to know if you were motivated enough to have utilized these skills in learning about them. Know the company's mission, its competencies and goals so that you can relate honestly to the issues that they believe are important. This question is one of the most important ones that interviewers ask. Interviewers want to know if you care about this company and what it does. They will assume that if you don't care about them as a company, you probably wouldn't care about your co-workers or clients, either.

In what ways do you think you can contribute to our organization?

Be specific. Use your list of strengths and skills developed earlier.


WHAT YOU COULD ASK AND WHAT YOU WANT TO OBSERVE

Interviews are two-way streets, and it is your responsibility to learn as much as possible about the employer. (There are some places where, after a probing interview, you will not want to work!) What information do you need before you can make a good decision? Think about previous work situations and design a picture of an ideal company for you as a professional. Then create a series of questions that will help you understand as much as possible about the company.

Record your questions and bring them along in your folder. Employers want you to care about where you work and will not be offended when you refer to your written set of questions. Your questions will indicate both your level of interest and your amount of preparation.

  1. Major challenges of the position
  2. Mission/goals/philosophy/vision of the organization
  3. Some of the department's ongoing and anticipated special projects
  4. Evaluation and feedback - how and when delivered
  5. How the position fits into the "big picture" of the company
  6. Skills successful employees possess
  7. What employees like best and least working here/why do they stay
  8. New employee training and professional development opportunities
  9. Long-range possibilities for employees in similar positions who consistently perform well
  10. Who co-workers and/or supervisor are
  11. Reason for position vacancy/rate of turnover
  12. Culture of the organization (how they "do things around here," type of behavior that is rewarded, etc.)

Schedule practice interview with a career counselor
Practice interviews are available to coach you through a professional interview and to give you direct feedback on your interviewing skills. Feedback may include information about your answers and your professional presentation.

Learn about interview follow-up
Strong follow-up may be the difference between getting an offer or not. If an employer has two equally skilled potential employees who both fit with the organization, receiving professional follow-up may tip the scales in one’s favor.

A thank you is also a place for you to reiterate your skills or to mention something you may have forgotten or did not have the chance to speak about.

  1. Thank You Emails: Send immediately following the interview (within 24 hours) to all those with whom you met.
  2. Thank You Note/Letter: Drop in mail within two days; send to all those with whom you met.
  3. Phone Call Follow Up: In your interview you should have asked what the timeline was for making a decision. You
    are free to call once a few days AFTER the decision-making date. Call the hiring manager in charge of your interview.
  4. Connect with your contacts via LinkedIn: Not on LinkedIn? Refer to Your Professional Network
    and LinkedIn.

What should you wear to an interview? A pre-meeting? Refer to Building Your Career Wardrobe

 

 

Additional Interviewing Tips and Resources

Informational Interview
Learn about a career field from a professional by taking on the interviewer role.

MU Career Manager: Instructions
Marquette's official interview sign up system.

On-Campus Interviews
View the schedule of upcoming interviews on campus.

Building Your Career Wardrobe
How to provide a positive first impression.

Top Skills Employers Seek (PDF)
Find which of these you possess.

Transferable Skills
Learn how various experiences have been instrumental in providing you with skills that employers value.

Follow Up Letters (PDF)
How to write a follow-up which will tip the scales in your favor.