Interviewing Guide

The Career Services Center is available to help you prepare for an interview. Our friendly staff have experience working with students and alumni with a range of interviewing experience and skills.

Interview Basics

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:

  • Can you successfully perform this job? (Your ability and suitability for the job)
  • Will you fit into the organization? (Your suitability for the company)
  • Will you stay for a reasonable amount of time? (This means three or more years)
  • What is your willingness to give time and quality effort to the job?

You, the interviewee, might also be seeking some answers:

  • Will this position's responsibilities fit well with who I am?
  • Will I be happy working in this industry?
  • Will I be a good match for this particular organization/department/manager?

Types of Interviews

Screening: This is a general interview aimed at identifying those students who meet the job requirements or who fit well with the organizational culture. It is common for screening interviews to occur over the phone, see Appendix A for more information on phone interviews.

Selection: A selection interview is a longer, more thorough interview geared toward identifying more qualified candidates. It is often an entire day incorporating three to five people. Most likely this type of interview is held on site including a tour of the facility.

Preparing for the Interview

Research each organization with whom you are interviewing.

Consider gathering information such as:

  • History of the organization
  • Types of products/services offered
  • Size and organizational structure
  • Current industry trends/issues
  • Mission and vision of the organization

Potential resources for employer information:

  • The organization's website
  • Company page on LinkedIn

Current news about the organization and/or industry gathered by internet search, setting up a news alert, or industry publications

Be prepared to discuss how you fit with the role, organization, industry, and team

Review your skills, abilities, knowledge, and personal characteristics that relate to the role for which you are interviewing and be able to give examples from your experiences

Prepare examples which you share that demonstrate your skills/traits/abilities. These are usually examples from after you started your education at Marquette. The examples could be from internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work, class projects, or any examples of situations that will help an employer understand the skills and experiences that you would bring to their organization.

For instance, the example could demonstrate:

  • How you work with a team
  • How you managed conflict
  •  How you worked your way through a difficult situation
  • Your communication skills
  • Which illustrate leadership experience

A good practice is to use the S.T.A.R. method for describing your experience. S.T.A.R. stands for Situation. Task. Action. Result. This is described in the Behavioral Based Interview section of this guide.

Common Interview Questions

  • How and why did you select Marquette University?
  • What led you to this major and what courses did you like most/least?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me what you know about our organization.
  • Why are you seeking a position with our company?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • How do you think a friend or professor who knows you well would describe you?
  •  What are your skills or strengths?
  • In what areas do you need to improve?
  • 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 motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  •  What two or three things are most important to you in your work?
  • Why did you choose this particular career field?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  •  Is there any additional information you feel would help me in thoroughly evaluating you for this position?

Behavioral Base Interview Questions

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.

Examples of behavioral based questions:

  • Tell me about the position that has given you the most satisfaction
  • Tell me about a time:
    • When you had a major problem and explain how you dealt with it.
    •  When you made a poor decision and how you corrected it.
    •  When you worked on a project with someone who came from a different cultural background than
      yourself.
    • When you had to adapt to a difficult work situation.
    •  When you worked with someone you disliked and how you handled the situation.
  • What is the toughest challenge you have faced? Why?
  • Give an example of how you worked effectively with people to accomplish an important result.

Using the STAR Method to Answer Behavioral Based Questions

To maximize the effectiveness of your answers, try using the STAR system.


Situation = Describe a situation (one-two sentences)
Task = Talk about the task (one-three sentences)
Action = Explain the action you took (one-four sentences),
Result = 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 demonstrated 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).”

Addressing Question About Salary

 Interview questions about compensation such as - What are your salary expectations? - are common. Create a plan for addressing these questions before your first interview. Conduct research on the market salary range for the type of position you are applying to. Consider the industry, geographical area and your experience level in addition to the job title. Below you will find resources for conducting this research, as well as, strategies for answering these questions.

Potential resources for salary information:

Strategies for addressing salary questions:

One strategy is to avoid providing specific numbers and answer in one of the following ways:

  • Stress your primary interest is finding a role that fits with your skills and interests and you have confidence the organization will provide a competitive salary
  • State that you want to learn more about the specific responsibilities of the job before giving a number
  • State that the salary is negotiable

If you are pressed for more specific information, provide a range based on your research, rather than a specific figure. A sample answer might look like this:

  • According to my research, someone with my experience can expect to make between $38-45K based on the role and responsibilities.

In some cases, you may be required to provide a specific number. We recommend choosing a number in the middle of your range.

Finally, don’t mention salary or benefits first. It is not considered proper business etiquette to bring up these topics before the employer does. 

Questions to Ask the Interviewer(s)

The questions you ask the hiring team are an important element of the interview and demonstrate both your interest in the organization and your initiative. Before the interview, prepare 10-15 questions and bring them along in your folder or organization. Craft questions that are important to you and will help you determine if the organization is a good fit.

Additionally, it is also customary to ask when you can expect to hear back from an interviewer regarding their decision, and request the contact information of interviewers. Many times this information is offered, but if it’s not, be sure to ask.

Your questions might address:

  • Major challenges of the position
  • Evaluation and feedback – how and when delivered
  • Skills successful employees possess
  • Some of the department’s ongoing and anticipated special projects
  • What employees like best and least working here/why do they stay
  • New employee training and professional development opportunities
  • Long-range possibilities for employees in similar positions who consistently perform well
  • Who co-workers and/or supervisor are
  • Culture of the organization (how they “do things around here,” type of behavior that is rewarded, etc.)
  • When can I expect to hear from you about your hiring decision?”

The Day of the Interview

What to bring:

  • Several copies of your resume on quality paper.
  •  A copy of your references.
  • A pad of paper on which to take notes (notes are optional). To look even more professional, invest in a leather organization. Keep your questions, paper for notes, and a nice pen inside.
  • Directions to the interview site.

What to wear:

First impressions are often the lasting impression. When interviewing, it is important to project a professional image; presenting your best self. Dressing business professional is usually the expectation for an interview, even if the employees of the organization are not wearing suits or the job for which you are interviewing doesn't require it. Some employers prefer interview candidates to dress in alignment with the company culture; do your research ahead of time so that you can decide on the best interview attire for the position. Either way, you want to be sure that the interviewer(s) sees and remembers you more than what you were wearing.

In addition to appropriate hygiene, here are a few suggestions of things to do and things to avoid when preparing your interview attire:

Do wear:

  • A conservative suit (navy, gray, black)
  • Clothing that fits appropriately
  • Neat, pressed, clean clothing without tears, rips or hanging threads
  • All buttons, snaps, or hooks should be on the garment and hems sewn in place
  • Clean professional shoes you feel comfortable walking in

Avoid:

  • Casual clothing (denim, twill, knit T-shirts)
  • Flashy, trendy, cartoony tie
  •  Athletic socks
  • Distracting jewelry

Additionally:

  • If wearing a tie, make sure it matches and extends below the belt line
  • If wearing perfume, cologne, or aftershave, make sure it is subtle
  • If wearing accessories (necklace, earrings, and bracelets), make sure you keep it minimal
  • If wearing nail polish, make sure it isn't chipped

Please Note: Choosing interview attire is an individualized process. Each person's unique identity and culture can influence what is worn to an interview. Considering who you are and the company’s expectations, this can sometimes be a difficult decision. If you have questions or concerns about interview attire, please schedule a career counseling appointment.

View the Career Services Center Pinterest board for Interview Attire 

Quick Tips for When You Arrive

  • Arrive early — enter the building 10 minutes before your appointment.
  • Treat receptionist with respect. If he or she is not formally part of the search committee, you can bet the
    receptionist is informally.
  • Smile and greet everyone with a firm handshake. Make eye contact and use names when introduced.
  • Review your prepared stories and answers.

After the Interview

Thank you notes:
Always send a thank you note within 24 hours after the interview. Your thank you note can be sent in the body of an email, in a handwritten thank you card, or through a typed thank you letter using letterhead that matches your resume heading

Options for what to include in a thank you note:

  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
  • Indicate something that you enjoyed learning about as a result of the interview.
  • Additional information that you wanted to mention, but didn’t have the opportunity to.
  • Reiterate interest in the position.

See Appendix B for example thank you note.

Phone call follow-up:
It is okay to follow up with a phone call to the hiring manager regarding their decision one to two days after the decision-making deadline you were provided has passed.

Appendix A: Phone Interview Tips

Consider the following tips to make a great impression over the phone.

Use a land line if possible. Cell phone signals can be choppy. Take advantage of a land line to minimize the risk of disconnection. You can call the CSC at (414) 288-7423 to request use of a land line (based on availability). If a cell phone is your only option, be sure that your phone is fully charged and that you are in a location with excellent reception.

Minimize distractions. Take the call in a place where you will be uninterrupted. Be sure to avoid public places to minimize potential noise. Communicate to your roommates that you will be completing a phone interview in advance so they can make appropriate adjustments to provide you with a quiet space if needed. Alternately, call the CSC at (414) 288-7423 to see if an interview room is available for you to use.

Consider time. Prior to the interview find out how long the call is expected to last. Then allocate an additional 30 minutes beyond this time in your schedule just in case the interview goes long. Be prepared to answer the phone 10 minutes ahead of schedule in the event that the interviewer calls early.

Utilize notes. Your interviewer cannot see you. Jot down notes and print a copy of your resume and the job description. This way you can easily reference any of these items as you speak.

Answer the phone with your name and a smile. Providing your name makes it clear that the interviewer is speaking to the correct person. Appropriate greetings include "Hello John Doe speaking" or "Good Afternoon this is John Doe". Smile as you speak to create a pleasant tone of conversation. Taking this approach demonstrates your professionalism and creates an aura of positivity.

Dress up & sit up. Even though the potential employer cannot see you, dressing up for the interview can help you to get in the right frame of mind. Such confidence can only improve your performance. Additionally, don't forget to sit up or stand up straight during the interview to help stay alert and professional.

Be cognizant of pauses. Because the interviewer cannot see you, he/she cannot take cues from your body language as to whether you have paused momentarily or have completed an answer. Keep this in mind as you speak.

Get the name and contact info for the interviewer. This will enable you to promptly follow up with a thank you note.

Appendix B: Thank You Note Sample

As a reminder, thank you notes can be sent in the body of an email, in a handwritten thank you card, or through a typed thank you letter using letterhead that matches your resume heading.

Dear Ms. Jones:


Thank you for meeting with me last Thursday for the account representative position with the ABC Agency. I was excited about the interview but became even more enthusiastic about the position after learning I would be responsible for building and maintaining my own customer base in your new test market.


As you may recall, I enjoy connecting with and meeting new people. As president of XYZ association I was able to successfully promote our organization’s new goals and recruit 17 new members in one semester. As a result, we have one of the most active student organizations on campus. Furthermore, my fundraising internship experience at Children’s Place provided practical marketing, fundraising, and communication skills necessary. All should prove to be of value in early productivity within the position.


I look forward to hearing from you by March 18, as you mentioned. If, in the meantime, you have any further questions, please call me at 414-288-7423.

 


Sincerely,

Grace J. Goodwin