Interview Preparation Guide

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The University of Scranton- Center for Career Development 
Campus Recruiting Program

Playing Fair
This site contains Principles for Professional Conduct created by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers).
  • What you can expect from your career center
  • What you can expect from employers
  • What's your part

Employers make judgments and form opinions of candidates within the first minute of an interview. You really never get a "second chance to make a first impression". It is essential to present yourself in a neat, business-like and professional manner.
Conservative, two-piece, darker color or muted plaid business suit.
White shirt
Contrasting tie
Polished shoes with matching dress socks. Dark brown or black business shoes are mandatory!
Hair trimmed, neatly groomed, and dry - the same with facial hair
Light on cologne
Conservative, simple jewelry - no earrings!
Business suit, skirted or pants, dark in color or muted plaid
Simple style blouse, white or soft color - no low necklines
Polished pumps or medium heels in a color that matches your outfit. Appropriate hosiery is mandatory.
A hair style that does not distract from your professional image

Light on perfume
Minimal jewelry
Understated natural makeup
Clear or lightly tinted nail polish - fingernails should be no longer than medium length
What's "business professional" and "business casual"? - The Center for Career Development strongly recommends that students wear suits for interviews on and off campus as well as at job fairs. 
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To prepare effectively for the job search, you need to know as much as possible about the organizations that interest you. Employers perceive "researching the company" as a critical factor in the evaluation of applicants because it reflects interest and enthusiasm. In the interview, it shows that you understand the purpose of this process and establishes a common base of knowledge from which questions can be asked and to which information can be added, thus enabling both applicant and interviewer to evaluate the position match more accurately.
The following items of basic information should be located prior to the interview:
  • name & title of the interviewer
  • organization's age
  • services or products provided
  • competitors within the industry
  • growth pattern
  • reputation and current news
  • divisions and subsidiaries
  • location/length of time established there
  • size number of employees
  • sales-assets-earnings
  • new products or projects
  • foreign operations

To locate the above information first visit the Center for Career Development and pick up or review recruiting information provided by the companies. The reference desk at the library may have numerous resources available.
The key references to begin with are: 
Million Dollar Directory Dun's Marketing Services
Thomas Register of American
Standard and Poor's 
Register of Corporations, 
Directors and Executives.
Gale Research Inc. Ward's Business Directory 
Also, review national newspapers and review trade journals in the industry you are pursuing to keep abreast of current trends and new developments in the industry. If you cannot find information about the company for which you will be interviewing, it is appropriate to contact the company to ask that company literature be sent to you for review. Researching companies and organizations is a crucial step in your interview preparation.
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You need to be ready to handle a variety of interview formats, from the highly structured to the unstructured type.
Most initial, 30 minute interviews are semi-structured and include:
Ice breaking 2-5 minutes
Interview questions 10-12 minutes
Applicants questions 8-10 minutes
Closing remarks 2-3 minutes
(Source: Penn State Career Development & Placement Services Interview Skills handout)

1. Career Goals and Objectives
2. Type of work desired - Job expectations
3. Knowledge of company
4. Personal qualifications
5. Reason for career choice
6. Qualifications for the job
7. Educational choices
8. Geographical preferences
9. Achievement and accomplishments

1. What are your long/short range goals and how are you preparing yourself to achieve them?
2. What specific goals, other than those related to your occupation have you established for yourself for the next ten years?
3. What do you see yourself doing in five years from now?
4. What are your long range career objectives?
5. How do you plan to achieve your career goals?
6. What do you expect to be earning in five years?
7. Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?
8. Which is more important to you, the money or the type of job?
9. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
10. How would you describe yourself?
11. How do you think a friend or professor would describe you?
12. What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
13. How has your college experience prepared you for a career?
14. Why should I hire you?
15. What qualifications do you have that you think will make you successful?
16. How do you determine or evaluate success?
17. What do you think it takes to be successful in a company like ours?
18. In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
19. Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and subordinates?
20. What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
21. Describe your most rewarding college experience.
22. If you were hiring a graduate for this position, what qualities would you look for?
23. Why did you select your college or university?
24. What led you to choose your field of major study?
25. What college subjects did you like best? Why?
26. What college subjects did you like least? Why?
27. If you could do so, how would you plan your academic study differently? Why?
28. What changes would you make in your college or university?
29. Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree?
30. Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic achievement?
31. What have you learned from participation in extracurricular activities?
32. In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
33. How do you work under pressure?
34. In what part-time work are you interested? Why?
35. How would you describe the ideal job for you following graduation?
36. Why did you decide to seek a position with this company?
37. What do you know about our company?
38. What two or three things are most important to you in a job?
39. Are you seeking employment in a company of a certain size? Why?
40. What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
41. Do you have any geographical preference? Why?
42. Will you relocate? Does relocation bother you?
43. Are you willing to travel?
44. Why do you think you might like to live in the community in which our company is located?
45. What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it?
46. What have you learned from your mistakes?

Includes the Mission, History and Character of The University of Scranton.

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The employer's goal in an interview is to evaluate successfully your skills, experiences, and personal characteristics.  One way to do this is through a process of behavioral interviewing. Behavior-based interviewing is a method of asking questions which focuses on specific examples of past behavior as a menas of predicting future behavior.  For example:
Behavioral questions:  Tell me about a time when you demonstrated intiative. Describe a time when you had to work with others on a project.  What did you do?
Non-behavioral questions:  What are your long range career goals? What's your ideal job?
What's the best way to answer behavior-based questions? Use the STAR Method!
Think about a Situation you were in, the Task or problem that confronted you, the specific Action you took, and the Results of your actions.  This is called the STAR method.  You need to address each part of the STAR to answer behavior-based questions fully.  Here's an example:

Tell me about a time when you feel you gave exceptional customer service.
Situation: When I was working for the university's catering office, I was responsible for booking reception rooms for special events.   A woman called two weeks before her daughter's wedding to cancel her reservation for the reception room.  A death had occurred in the family, and the wedding was being postponed until further notice.
Task:  This customer was obviously very upset about these unfortunate circumstances, and I decided to do as much as I could to put her mind at ease about the reception arrangements.

Action:  I knew that it wasn't too late to book another party for that room, so I checked with the manager regarding the possibility of refunding her deposit.  We were able to return her full deposit, and I assured her that we could book another room for her when the family was ready to make plans.
Results:  The customer wasn't expecting to get any money back and was pleasantly surprised, as well as relieved that canceling the reception plans wasn't a hassle.  My manager complemented me for taking the initiative with this customer.
(Source: Larry Beck (1995). Behavior-based Interviewing Handout)

Behavior Based Interviewing
- from Career Services at UWEC
  • What is behavior based interviewing?
  • What do employers evaluate in a behavioral interview?
  • How are behavioral questions different from other types of interviewing questions?
  • How can I best answer behavior based questions?
  • Can you give me an example of a complete PAR story?
  • A quiz on questions.
  • How can I prepare for a behavioral interview?

This site has examples of some illegal questions and the options you have should you be asked an illegal question.

Interviewers expect candidates to ask intelligent questions concerning the organization and the nature of the work. Moreover, you need information and should indicate your interest in the employer by asking questions. Consider asking some of these questions if they have not been answered earlier in the interview:
*Tell me about the duties and responsibilities of this job.
*How does this position relate to other positions within this organization?
*Is the person who had this position still with the company?
*What would be the ideal type of person for this position: Skills? Personality?Working Style?
*Will I be responsible to answer to just one person, or will I have a multitude of bosses?
*Are openings for better positions generally filled from within?
*If I do an exemplary job, when might I expect to be promoted?
*What am I expected to accomplish during the first year?
*Based on your experience, what type of problems would someone new in this position likely    encounter?
*What do most employees like and dislike about working in this organization?
*When do you expect to make a hiring decision relevant to this position?

The following is a compilation of traits or characteristics that many companies look for, or avoid. Which ones describe you? Are they strengths or weaknesses? Use those that are strengths to your advantage, and take whatever steps are necessary to improve upon your weaknesses.
People who set personal and professional goals
People who seek opportunity vs. security
People who generate enthusiasm
Honesty, sincerity, believability
Assertiveness Maturity, emotional independence
Optimism Persistence
Strong listening skills
People who learn from their mistakes
People who admit and accept limitations
People who express thoughts clearly and concisely.
Poor personal appearance
Lack of confidence and poise
People who are unrealistic
People who ask poor or no questions
People interested in best dollar offer only Inflexibility
Unwillingness to relocate or travel
People who are indifferent
People who show lack of preparation
People who ramble
People who show a lack of career direction or planning - no goals
People who display a lack of knowledge in area of career interest
People who are over-aggressive, conceited, cocky.

(1) Arrive at least ten minutes early.
(2) Greet the interviewer in a friendly, open manner.
If the recruiter starts the interview late - Please note it is not done intentionally. It is not appropriate for you to make a comment regarding his/her lateness.
(3) Don't sit down until you are asked to do so
(4) Look directly at the interviewer when talking
(5) Never criticize others
(6) Relate your qualifications and experiences readily
(7) Stress your strong points
(8) Answer questions in detail rather than "yes" or "no". Use of examples from previous experiences is suggested
(9) Show interest in the job
(10) Express appreciation for the interview 

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  • Keep your answers to 1 1/2 to 2 minutes long.
  • Speak in a clear, audible voice. Listen to how quickly you speak and look for    moderation.
  • Use good grammar and diction. Say "yes", not "yeah". Don't punctuate sentences with "you know", "like", "see", or "okay".
  • Maintain eye contact, but don't stare. Your aim should be to stay with a calm, steady, non-threatening gaze.
  • Be aware of your body language/non-verbal communication. Give a firm handshake, sit up straight, avoid folding your arms, keep your hands away from your face. Smile naturally when the opportunity arises.
  • Demonstrate active listening by giving complete answers to the questions being asked. Do not start your answer until the interviewer has completed asking the question.
  • Give specific examples when answering questions. Use illustrations, descriptions, and statistics to support your claims.

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This is one of the most important yet least used tools in a job search. Thank you letters should be sent to the interviewer the same day, if possible. At the very latest, within a week. Make your letters warm and personal, and use them to:
* Reemphasize your strongest qualifications
* Reiterate your interest in a position
* Draw attention to the good match between your qualifications and the job requirements
* To express your sincere appreciation

2913 Baxter Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23465

January 25, 1996

Dr. Julia Edmonds, Director Technical Design Group Atlantic Engineering Systems, Inc.
1220 Warwick Avenue
Newport News, VA 23607

Dear Dr. Edmonds,

I want to thank you very much for interviewing me yesterday for the associate engineer position. I enjoyed meeting you and learning more about your research and design work.

My enthusiasm for the position and my interest in working for AES were strengthened as a result of the interview. I think my education and cooperative education experiences fit nicely with the job requirements, and I'm sure that I could make a significant contribution to the firm over time. I want to reiterate my strong interest in the position and in working with you and your staff. You provide the kind of opportunity I seek.

Please feel free to call me at (804) 685-5555 if I can provide you with any additional information. Again, thank you for the interview and your consideration.

(Written signature)
Frederick Bryan
(Source: Job Choices, 39th Edition, 1996)

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This site looks at the factors that affect starting salaries.  It provides salary ranges for Associate Degree Candidates, Bachelor's Degree Candidates, and Selected Master's Degree Candidates.

The ranges are provided to give you a rough idea of salary potential for a variety of majors, but keep in mind the factors that affect salary offers - and remember your starting salary may be higher or lower.


NACE discusses the 7 most important factors you should consider before making your final decision:  Job Content, Your Boss, Salary & Benefits, Your Co-Workers, Typical Work Week, Location, and Organizational Flexibility.  Also listed are additional factors to consider and 3 job offer options are explained. This resource has 5 steps to use when negotiating salary and information about considering fringe benefits.