Preparing for the Interview

Know yourself
Be able to discuss your career goals, skills, strengths, and accomplishments. Prepare specific examples of your experiences that demonstrate how your background, skills, and interests match the organization’s needs.

Research the employer
In addition to reviewing the employer’s website, useful information can be found by searching recent news and articles of the organization from one of our recommended Career Exploration Websites such as Glassdoor or Hoover’s Online and Business Source Complete, available through the ZSR Library’s online databases. Knowing the employer thoroughly will help set you apart during the interview process. Finding the employer’s age, size, products or services, organizational structure, reputation, competitors, divisions and subdivisions, parent company, number of employees, sales, assets, earnings, new products or projects, locations, and accomplishments are all excellent areas to guide your research.


When Interviewing

Arrive early.
Arrive 10-15 minutes early.

Body language.
Offer a firm handshake in greeting and at the close of the interview. Maintain eye contact. Avoid nervous mannerisms, such as fidgeting or touching your hair or face. Don’t cross your arms or hold things in front of your body. Sit up straight. Speak in a strong, confident tone of voice.

Try to ascertain why particular questions are being asked before responding. If needed, ask for clarification.

Answer questions.
Employers commonly ask general questions and behavioral questions. When answering these questions, emphasize your strengths, what you have learned from past experience, and how you solved problems in response to challenges.

Ask questions.
Ask questions to show that you have researched the organization and have a willingness to learn more about it.

Be enthusiastic!
Enthusiasm is the most important part of the interview. Be excited about the opportunity. Speak positively regarding your past work and educational experiences as well as past employers. Smile!

After the interview
Follow-up with a thank you letter.


General Interview Questions

Be prepared to answer these common, general questions.

Tell me about yourself.
Answer this question as if the interviewer has asked, “Why are you here today?”. Present your significant professional and academic qualities for the position. Do not include personal information such as your age. Be concise. Let the interviewer ask for further detail if necessary.

Why are you interested in working for us?
Express your knowledge of the organization and the position and how your experience and background matches it.

Why are you interested in this particular career field?
Express your knowledge of the career field based on your research. Mention the experience and skills you’ve developed through academics, internships, part-time jobs, and/or volunteer work that relate to the field. 

What are your long-range goals?
Express your commitment to the profession, maturity, foresight, and realistic outlook.

What is your greatest strength?
After you have stated your strength, support your claim with examples.

What is your greatest weakness?
The interviewer is looking for any red flags that might signal your inability to perform the job or to be managed. Always end your answer on a positive. Some options:

  • Use a weakness from your past and show how you overcame it.
  • Use a weakness that can be seen as a positive characteristic.
  • Use a minor part of the job where you lack knowledge but could quickly learn with experience.

Why should we hire you?
Recap the job description, meeting it point by point with your skills. Keep your answer concise, highlighting areas from your background that related to the company’s current needs. Emphasize your unique qualities that set you apart from other candidates.


Behavioral Interviews

The most common form of job or internship interview is a behavioral interview, which helps the interviewer determine your skill level and cultural fit for the organization. Most commonly, interviewers determine what skills are ideal for the job position and then ask questions to determine if the candidate has those skills. Examples of behavioral interview questions include:

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to meet a deadline. How do you manage a fast approaching deadline?
  • What was the most difficult task you performed on your internship last summer?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
  • Give me an example of how you manage your time. What factors do you consider? How do you track your progress?
  • Describe the most significant or creative presentation that you have had to complete.
  • Give me an example of a project you planned and managed.
  • Give me an example of an important goal you set for yourself and how you accomplished it.
  • Tell me about a time when your opinion was challenged. How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a situation at work in which you experienced conflict and how you resolved it.
  • Describe a situation in which you led a group of people.
  • By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations, or environments.
  • Tell me about the toughest group you have had to work with. What made the group tough? How did you handle the situation?
  • Give me an example of effective teamwork.
  • Give me an example of a time when you took initiative.
  • Describe your presentations skills and experience.


Knowing what kinds of questions to expect in your interview is only half the battle because you have to be able to answer the questions, too. The most effective way to answer behavioral questions is the STAR method. Highlight the Situation or Task you encountered, the Action you took, and the Results you achieved. To practice answering behavioral interview questions, check out our STAR Interview Approach Worksheet.


Case Interviews

Case interviews are used by consulting firms to evaluate your analytical thinking skills and your poise under pressure. Typically a case focuses on solving a business problem and your goal throughout the interview is to discuss and analyze the problem with the interviewer and provide a recommendation based on quantitative and qualitative reasoning. The purpose of the interview is not necessarily to get the “right” answer, but to show that you can think critically and logically, remain calm under pressure and that you understand fundamental business concepts. In addition to a case, you might also be asked brainteaser or math based questions.

If you have an interest in consulting as a career or will be interviewing with a firm that conducts case interviews, take a look at the resources below to begin your preparation. To be a successful case interviewer you will need to prepare in advance and practice many “live” cases before the real interview.

  • Read Case in Point by Marc Cosentino to learn about case interviews, frameworks to solve cases, and practice cases. Also, review this PDF for case interview tips compiled from Case in Point.
  • Visit Marc Cosentino’s website Case Questionsto quiz yourself on math drills, learn strategic frameworks, and practice interactive cases.
  • Log on to and use their Case Interview guide to find more practice brain teasers and problems.
  • Giving a case interview to someone else can be just as beneficial as practicing them yourself.


Questions to Ask the Interviewer

As your interview wraps up, the interviewer will more than likely ask you, “Do you have any questions for me/us?” This is your chance to express continued interest in the company, get any specific questions answered, and learn more about the company and the interviewer(s). Always be prepared with 4-5 questions to ask – however, keep in mind that you may not have time to ask them all.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are opportunities for professional growth within the company?
  • How would you describe the work environment?
  • What do you enjoy most about working for this organization?
  • What is the typical career path for someone in this position?
  • How would you describe the management style in this organization?
  • Describe the typical first-year assignments for someone in this position.
  • What influenced your decision to work for this company?
  • What is a typical day like for you at this company?
  • I saw on your website that your company does (fill-in-the-blank).  Can you tell me more about that?
  • What is your timetable for making a decision about the position? OR When should I plan on hearing back from you?

*Do not ask questions about salary, benefits, or anything that the interviewer has already answered for you throughout the interview itself.


Video and Telephone Interviews

Video Interview Tips
Video interviews using software such as Skype or WebEx are becoming increasingly popular.

Here are a few tips for video interviews:

  • Interview in a quiet place. Remember that the interviewer can see what is behind you, so try to have a solid background. Sitting in front of a blank wall is least distracting to the interviewer.
  • Make sure your computer, webcam, and VoIP software are working properly before the interview begins.
  • Dress in interview attire.
  • Maintain eye contact by looking at the camera and not at the computer screen. Don’t lean in too close to the camera. Sit up straight and don’t fidget or touch your face or hair.
  • Relax and speak clearly. Smile and be enthusiastic.
  • If the connection is lost during the interview, remain calm and simply call the interviewer back and explain what happened.


Telephone Interview Tips
Employers often conduct first interviews by telephone.

Here are a few tips for telephone interviews:

  • Interview in a quiet place.
  • If possible, use a landline phone and temporarily disable call waiting.
  • Keep these items at hand: copies of materials you have sent the interviewer (resume, cover letter, writing samples, etc.), information you have received from the organization, a “cheat sheet” of research information you have gathered about the organization, a list of your significant experiences and skills that you wish to communicate, a list of your questions about the organization and the position, pen and paper.
  • Consider standing throughout the interview. It will help you project energy and reduces the risk of sounding too casual over the phone.
  • Smile and be enthusiastic.


Interview Attire

Did you know that an employer will make their first impression about whether or not to hire you based on the first 30 seconds of your interview? For this reason, dressing appropriately and conservatively for an interview is vitally important.

Business Formal is the standard dress code for a job or internship interview. Business formal attire could include the following:

  • Skirt suit (preferably in a dark color), which includes knee-length skirt, tailored jacket, and solid (or subtle patterned) blouse/top.
  • Pant suit (preferably in a dark color), which includes tailored pants and jacket, and solid (or subtle patterned) blouse/top.
  • Two-piece, single-breasted, and dark (solid color or conservative pinstripes) suit with white dress shirt and with a white undershirt and conservative tie (no bowties, bright colors, or bold patterns).
  • Closed-toed shoes with no more than 1-2 inch heels or dark, polished shoes and matching socks
  • Post earrings (not dangling or large), minimal jewelry such as rings, bracelets, or necklaces.
  • Small to medium size purse
  • Portfolio, pen, and extra copies of your resume.
  • Subtle make-up, with conservative, tidy haircut.
  • Avoid perfumes and cologne.

Business formal interview attire

Business Casual is often the dress code in many offices, depending on your work environment and day-to-day responsibilities. While this type of attire is too casual for an interview, you may ask your new supervisor and/or human resources representative about the dress code or judge the work environment once you’ve landed the job or internship. Business casual attire could include the following:

  • Jacket, blouse, cardigan, or conservative top with pants or a knee-length skirt.
  • Simple, knee-length dress with mid-to-high collar or pants (dark or khaki).
  • Collared button up shirt with a white undershirt or a collared knit polo shirt.
  • Closed or open-toed shoes, leather shoes (no sneakers or flip flops).
  • No jeans or casual sundresses.

More Resources


Before applying for a job, it is important that you brush up on your interview skills. The interview is often the final hurdle for job applicants to overcome. For many candidates, this proves to be a stumbling block. Whether they have failed to prepare for the interview, or failed to practice crucial interview questions and answers, they underestimate the importance of creating a great impression. It doesn’t matter what qualifications you have, or how experienced you are, if you cannot impress the interviewers then you won’t be getting your dream job. Luckily, we are here to help! Using this fantastic resource guide, you can gain a detailed insight into how to answer certain questions, how to behave, body language and more. Using our tips, you can make the best possible impression at your interview, and secure the job that YOU deserve. Read more…