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Best Practices for Interviewing Webster University | Career Planning & Development Center

An interview is your opportunity to prove to a potential employer that you are capable, competent, and qualified. Use this guide to learn how to prepare in advance of an interview, perform well, and follow up appropriately.

Content Overview

  • Scheduling the interview
  • Preparing for the interview
  • Verbal and Non-verbal communication
  • Common interview questions
  • Wrapping up the interview
  • Post interview follow-up

Scheduling the Interview

After applying to a job, the employer will contact you if they would like to invite you to interview for the position. During an initial conversation in which you're scheduling an interview, gather as much information about the interview as possible.

Date and Time: Keep time zone in mind, especially if you will be interviewing by phone or video conference.

Interview Format: Determine what to expect during the interview, including the number of interviewers and the interviewers' names, if possible. Examples of interview formats include:

  • One-on-one: You meet directly with one interviewer.
  • Panel: You meet with several individuals who interview you all at once.
  • Group: You and other candidates are interviewed at the same time. The interviewer(s) are interested in observing how candidates interact with one another.
  • Special types: For certain industries, you may be asked to complete other tasks, such as giving a presentation or taking a test, as a stage in the interview process.

Modality: Interviews are conducted in a variety of settings. Keep in mind that you may have multiple interviews with one organization, each using a different method to connect.

  • In-person: You meet with your interviewer(s) face-to-face. This usually includes you visiting the organization’s office space, but you might also meet with the interviewer at a coffee shop, restaurant, or other public location.
  • Telephone: For phone interviews, find a quiet location and speak clearly. Because you can’t view the non-verbal communication of your interviewer(s), ask clarifying questions such as, “Did I answer your question fully?” as needed.
  • Video Conference: Live video interviews conducted are often used for a long-distance job search. Find a quiet space with a clean backdrop to conduct the interview.
  • Recorded: Recorded interviews are typically used as a screening tool. You will be asked to record yourself answering questions. Much like video conferences, conduct your interview session in a quiet and clean location.

Logistics: For interviews at a physical location, determine where to park, if there are any security processes to enter the building, and who you should contact when you arrive. You should plan to arrive 5-10 minutes early, so make sure to account for changing traffic patterns or public transportation availability depending on the time of day your interview will take place.

For phone, video, or recorded interviews, clarify technology requirements, who will initiate the connection at the time of the interview, and identify who you can contact if you encounter issues during the interview. Test your technology to ensure that you can connect at the time of your interview.

Preparing for the Interview

Review the Position Description: Go over the job posting for the position, identifying the skills and qualifications the employer is seeking in an ideal candidate. Learn how to analyze a job description here.

Practice Your Responses: Note examples of your past work, academic, extra-curricular, or volunteer experiences that exemplify the skills the employer requested in the job posting or other skills that you’d like to highlight. Practice telling stories about these examples as well as your responses to common interviewing questions. Complete a mock interview via My Interview Practice and share with a Career Advisor for feedback.

Get to Know the Organization: Gather information about the organization. The Webster University Library houses a variety of databases, publications, and resources to help you find information about organizations. You can also research via testimonial websites (e.g., Glassdoor), LinkedIn, or other online publications.

  • Mission, values, and culture
  • Major players (CEOs, directors, department heads, staff in similar roles)
  • Your interviewer(s)
  • Main functions, services, and/or clients
  • Structure and functions of your prospective department
  • Recent organizational news
  • Public impression on social media

Ready Your Attire: Select your interviewing attire, dressing professionally and in keeping with the standards of the organization you’ll be visiting.

Gather Your Materials: Gather all of the items you’ll need to bring to the interview such as a pad of paper, pens, extra copies of your resume, and any portfolio materials that are relevant to the job. Consider carrying physical items in a padfolio or similar professional organization system. Avoid carrying unnecessary physical items, such as coffee cups or bulky bags, into the interview.

Verbal & Non-Verbal Communication

Maintain an even tone and use a medium rate of speech. Listen and answer the question being asked.

Throughout your interview, project positivity, confidence, and openness through your non-verbal communication (aka body language). Greet your interviewer(s) with a handshake, if acceptable in your culture. Use a pleasant expression, make good eye contact, and lean forward slightly to indicate interest in the conversation.

Interview Questions

Structured vs. Unstructured: Structured interviews require that the interviewer ask a specific set of questions to each candidate. The format will usually follow a “question, response” pattern. Unstructured interviews tend to be more conversational and free-flowing.

Common Types of Questions

Getting to Know You Questions: In an effort to understand your professional identity and motivation, interviewers will likely ask questions about your professional background, strengths/weaknesses, and interest in the position and organization. Here are some examples of "Getting to Know You" questions that you should be prepared to answer during most interviews:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What made you interested in this job?
  • Why do you want to work for our organization?

Behavioral Questions: Behavioral interview questions allow the interviewer to understand your past behavior. You will be asked to describe situations from your past experience that exhibit certain skills that are important for your prospective job.

Address behavioral questions by crafting narrative examples using the STAR technique.

STAR Technique Examples

Tell me about a time when you worked in a team setting to complete a project or task:

Describe a time when you had to deal with a dissatisfied customer:

Questions about Negative Situations

You may be asked about your weaknesses or challenging situations in your past. For these types of questions, discuss what you learned, what you’ve improved, or what you would do differently next time.

Wrapping Up the Interview

Asking Questions: You'll be given the opportunity to ask questions. Have several questions prepared to show that you’re thoughtful and interested in learning more about the role and the organization. These sample questions should be adapted to the specific industry or organization for which you’re interviewing. Here are some examples of questions to ask an interviewer:

  • How does this position fit within the organization’s structure and/or mission?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges facing this position/department/organization?
  • How is performance/success evaluated for this position?
  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • Can you tell me about the team dynamic?
  • How long have you been with the organization? What do you like about working for this organization?

Next Steps: Your last question should be focused on obtaining information about what will happen next in your application process. Ask what you should expect after the interview and when you should plan to receive the next communication from the organization. Gather contact information as needed.

After the Interview

Thank Your Interviewer(s): Send separate, individualized thank you emails to anyone who participated in your interview. Personalize the note by including information about specific questions they answered or information they gave you that was helpful. This is your opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position.

Here’s a simple template to get you started. Again, don’t forget to include personal, specific details from your conversation to show that you were engaged and paying attention.

Hi Name,

Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed learning more about your team, and the [job title] role. I’m very excited about the opportunity to join [company name] and help to [responsibilities you’d be handling].

I look forward to hearing from you about next steps soon. Please feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions in the meantime.

Have a great day!

Best regards,

[Your name]

Follow-Up: At the end of your interview, you asked for a time frame for the organization’s next steps. If that time frame has passed, politely call or email your contact within the organization to request information about your status and determine whether there’s been a change to the organization’s timeline for making their hiring decision. If additional follow-up is needed, limit your outreach to three attempts to obtain a progress report.

The Career Planning & Development Center (CPDC) assists individuals with exploring and defining their personal career goals while developing the skills and confidence necessary to succeed.

Explore additional resources, tools and services on the CPDC's website.

Individual career advising is available for current Webster University students and recent graduates. Request an appointment with a career advisor through Handshake.

Credits:

Created with images by Freedomz - "Interviewer or Board reading a resume during a job interview, Employer interviewing a young female job seeker for recruitment talking in modern office, employment and recruitment concept" • fizkes - "Happy young indian businesswoman using computer sit at office desk" • Monkey Business - "Businesswoman Interviewing Male Job Candidate In Seating Area Of Modern Office" • Prostock-studio - "Female HR manager extending hand for handshake after successful job interview" • kerkezz - "Business people shaking hands after meeting" • Freedomz - "Interviewer or Board reading a resume during a job interview, Employer interviewing a young female job seeker for recruitment talking in modern office, employment and recruitment concept"