Congratulations! You have been offered an interview! There are many things you must know to be prepared for your first interview.
- Know Yourself
- Know the Company
- Know the Job
- The Importance of Practicing
- Types of Interviews
- Interview Questions
- Responding to Behavorial-Based Interview Questions
- Questions You Can Ask During an Interview
- Dressing for an Interview
- Material to Bring to an Interview
- The Interview - a Few Rules to Consider
- After the Interview
- Review the Interview
- Informational Interviewing
- Why do an Informational Interview?
- Who to Contact and How to Find them
- What Motivates Professionals to Grant Informational Interviews?
- How to Set Up an Informational Interview
- How to prepare for the Informational Interview
- Sample Questions to Ask
- Suggestions during the Interview
- Follow-up After the Interview
- How to Prepare for Technical Interviews or Questions
- What you should know
- What are they looking for
- During the Interview
- How to Answer When You Don't Know the Answer
- Post Interview
- How You Are Being Evaluated
- Brain Teaser Questions
- General Interview Preparation
This requires serious self-reflection. It means understanding who you are, and what you can and can’t do. Self-knowledge helps tremendously when you’re faced with questions like, “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses?”
- Make decisions about your current career goals; what you want to do, why you want to do it, and where you want to do it.
- Prepare yourself to discuss any courses you’ve taken and any project or work experiences you’ve had that relate to the position.
- Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and be ready with specific examples that show how your positive traits will be an asset to the company.
- Become comfortable talking about your involvement with clubs, fraternities, sororities, intramural sports, and other activities. This is a great way to demonstrate your leadership skills and ability to work effectively with others.
Know the Company
Interviewers love to ask the questions, “Why are you interested in working for us?” and “What do you know about our company?” To prepare for these questions, learn everything you can about the company. Visit their website and become familiar with the company’s history; products and services; current customer base; and potential new products, services, and markets. Review their competitors’ websites. Search LinkedIn, Internet and online journals or news articles for recent company news.
Know the Job
Know the job description inside and out. Picture yourself doing the daily tasks that the job requires. This will help you ensure your skills, experience, and interests are a match with the job, and get you ready for questions like, “Why do you think you’re a good candidate for this position?” It’s also helpful to talk to others who have worked in similar positions. They can tell you things that you would never learn from searching the company website.
The Importance of Practicing
- Write out your answers to typical interview questions (a list is available in this handout). Be concise and to the point with your responses, using specific examples that demonstrate your strengths and assets.
- Practice out loud – this is critical! Practice with a friend or use a webcam to record yourself answering questions.
- Meet with your Career Services Coordinator in the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education for a mock interview.
- The Initial/Screening Interview: For an employer, this is a way to quickly narrow the candidate pool and screen individuals via phone, on-campus or at the company’s site.
- Telephone Interviews: This is often done when the company is long distance or in the initial interview screening phase.
- Online (Webcam) Interviews: This is becoming more and more popular for long distance interviewing and the methods used could be Skype or a recorded video option.
- On-Site Interviews: This is often conducted during the final stages of the interviewing process and is usually at the company’s site. It may involve a large portion of the day.
Regardless of the type of job you want, you’re bound to run into some of the interview questions below. Prepare yourself by reviewing these common questions and developing answers that showcase your skills and abilities that are relevant to the position you’re seeking.
Tell me about yourself.
Why did you choose to interview with our organization?
What do you consider to be your strengths? Weaknesses?
Have you ever had any failures? What did you learn from them?
Of which accomplishment are you most proud?
What motivates you most in a job?
Have you had difficulty getting along with a former professor/co-worker? How did you handle it?
What do you know about our organization (products or services)?
How do you think a friend, professor, or former supervisor would describe you?
Tell me about a time when you had to solve a difficult problem.
Give me an example of your experience working as part of a team.
Describe how you are able to work on several assignments at once.
Why did you choose your major? Why did you choose RIT?
In which campus activities did you participate? What did you learn from them?
Which classes did you like best? Least? Why?
Do your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why or why not?
What job-related skills have you developed?
What did you enjoy most about your last job? Least?
Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
Give an example of a time in which you worked under deadline pressure.
What kind of boss do you prefer?
Responding To Behavioral-Based Interview Questions
This method of interviewing is based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar circumstances. The interviewer will ask how you did behave rather than how you would behave.
- Recall recent situations related to your coursework, projects, work experience, and extracurricular activities that demonstrate favorable traits and behaviors (for example, leadership, teamwork, initiative, problem solving, and communication skills).
- Be honest. Do not embellish any part of the story.
Tip: Use the “STAR” approach to structure your response:
Situation: State the situation. Talk about a specific event and provide enough detail for the interviewer to understand the circumstances.
Tasks: Explain the tasks involved. What were you trying to accomplish?
Actions: Discuss the actions you took. Even if you’re talking about a group project, keep the focus on what YOU contributed, and use the word “I” rather than “we” in your explanation.
Results: Describe the results - Be sure the outcome reflects positively on you.
Example of a “STAR” Response
Question: Have you ever been a member of a group where one of the members was not contributing? How did you handle this?
(Situation) During my job last summer at a local credit union I was part of a four person group responsible for increasing credit union membership.
(Task) We had a goal of increasing membership by 10% by the end of August, and decided to create a radio ad promoting the credit union that would air on local stations from July to August. Unfortunately, the one member in the group who had experience with creating ads and was in charge of writing the script for the radio ad wasn’t meeting our project deadlines.
(Action) I spoke with my group member and found out she was tied up with other high-priority projects, and offered to assist her with writing the ad.
(Results) We completed the ad on time, and credit union membership increased by 12%, exceeding our initial goal. I also learned a tremendous amount about writing effective ads.
Examples of Behavioral-Based Interview Questions
Decision making/problem solving: Give me an example of a time when you came up with a creative solution to a problem.
- Describe a time when you had to use logic and analytical thinking to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time when you successfully motivated others.
- Tell me about a time when you set a goal for yourself and were able to accomplish that goal.
- Have you ever had to "sell" an idea to a group? How did you do it? Did they buy it?
- Have you ever been a member of a group where two members did not work well together? How did you handle this?
- What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give a specific example.
For information on Technical Interviewing, please see the “Technical Interview” handout. For information on Case Study Interviewing, please see the “Case Study” handout.
Questions You Can Ask During an Interview
Interviewers expect candidates who are really interested in their opportunity to ask them questions as well, an interview is a twoway
conversation! Do your research in advance so your questions are intelligent and well thought out. Avoid asking questions
that could easily be answered by checking out the company’s website or other online resources. You may not have time to get all
of your questions answered, so prioritize your questions and have your top 3-5 questions ready.
- What type of training is given to a new employee – on the job, classroom, and individual?
- Are employees ever transferred to other geographical locations or other fields?
- Who will be my manager and how much contact will I have with him/her?
- Is any travel expected?
- Why is this position open? (Fired, resigned, new…)
- How is performance measured and evaluated for this position?
- What are the best aspects of this job? And the worst?
- What are your most important product lines? (Don’t ask the obvious. Do your homework first.)
- What positive changes have you seen company-wide and what do you see for the future?
- What type of turnover do you see company-wide?
- What is the company culture?
- What type of employee fits well with the company?
- What do you like most about the company and your job?
For more information about interviewing see the web content. http://www.rit.edu/emcs/oce/student/interviewing
Dressing for an Interview
When in doubt, wear a suit. Neutral suit colors such as black, navy, and gray are always safe.
Women – Suits with skirts or pants are acceptable. Stay away from distracting prints. Skirts should fall to the knee when you’re standing; longer skirts are also professional as long as they’re not extremely tight or billowing. Avoid extremely high heels and strappy sandals and keep makeup and jewelry conservative.
Men – Wear a long-sleeved dress shirt and a tie that complements your suit and isn’t overly busy. Do not wear white socks, and instead opt for a pair that is dark colored and mid-calf length. Leather dress shoes are the best option for footwear.
Material to Bring to an Interview
As appropriate, you should bring the following items with you to every interview: Resume (multiple copies); Portfolio and/or work samples; Transcript; List of References; Notepad and pen; Performance evaluations from prior employers (if you have them) and anything that will help you stand out.
The Interview — a Few Rules to Consider
- Know the exact time and place of, and parking for, on-site interviews and arrive 10-15 minutes early. For online interviews, test your webcam and the software or site you’ll be using well in advance.
- Cover tattoos, and if you have lots of piercings, leave most of them at home.
- The interview starts the moment you arrive at the company – be friendly and professional.
- Ty to find out ahead of time the name and title of the interviewer(s).
- Address the interviewer as Mr. ___ or Ms. ___, unless he/she says otherwise.
- Have a firm handshake, but not a death grip!
- Make frequent eye contact with your interviewer.
- Sit upright and avoid nervous mannerisms (e.g., finger tapping, cracking your knuckles).
- Be alert, act interested, and focus on the positive.
- Be concise and to the point with your responses, using specific examples that demonstrate your strengths and assets. If necessary, ask for clarification.
- Pause briefly and collect your thoughts before responding to questions if needed.
- Say “yes” instead of “yeah,” and steer clear of expressions such as “like” and “you know.”
- Show your personality - your interviewer is trying to assess if you’ll be a good fit for the organization!
- Ask your own questions to evaluate the job and company.
- Avoid discussions of salary and benefits early on in the interview process.
- Always find out what the next steps are in the hiring process.
- Have your cell phone on or answer your cell phone during the interview.
- Bring with you a coffee or soda. Don’t chew gum.
- Sit down until the interview indicates to do so, or until the interview has done so first.
- Say “um” or “uh” repeatedly.
- Contradict, interrupt, or argue with your interviewer.
- Say anything bad about a former employer co-worker, or professor.
- Lie about or exaggerate any aspects of your education or experience.
- Ask questions that you already know or could easily find the answers to.
After the Interview
Even though the interview is over, your work is far from complete. You need to send a thank you email to the person(s) who interviewed you within 12 - 24 hours after the interview. In addition to thanking your interviewer for his or her time, use your letter to reinforce your interest in the position and separate yourself from the other candidates by restating your key relevant
Most employers will tell you when you can expect to hear from them. If you do not hear by that date, it is appropriate for you to call them. If the employer requests additional materials, such as an application, transcript, or reference list, send them as soon as possible. If you are no longer interested in the opportunity, inform the employer of that fact as soon as possible.
Review the Interview
After each interview mentally review the questions asked by the interviewer and your responses to them. Were you caught “offguard” by any questions? Could you have answered a question better or in more detail? Quiz yourself after each interview and take notes. This assessment will improve your future interview efforts.
Informational interviewing is the process of talking to people about their professions or areas of expertise. It is a very helpful way of gaining information about an occupation or potential employer directly from a person who has insider knowledge about the field. Informational interviewing can be as easy as striking up a conversation with friends or others about their occupations, but taking full advantage of this career exploration tool benefits from a more methodical approach.
The purpose of an informational interview is not to get a job. The goal is to find out about jobs that you might like and to see if they fit your interests, skills, and personality.
Informational interviews can help you:
- Learn more about the specifics of working in a particular occupation
- Decide among different occupations or choose an occupational specialty
- Focus career goals
- Discover occupations that you did not know existed
- Observe a work environment first hand and perhaps arrange a shadowing experience
- Find various ways to prepare for a career
- Gather ideas for volunteer, seasonal, part-time, and internship/coop opportunities related to a specific field.
- Learn more about an organization or place of employment that you might consider working for in the future
- Polish your communication and interviewing skills and gain confidence for a later job interview
Utilizing connections you already have (friends, family, professors, career counselors, social network connections, the RIT Career Center’s Professional Network of alumni, professional associations, professional clubs or organizations, LinkedIn, etc.), look for people to interview who:
- Work in career areas that you are interested in
- Work in settings that you like
- Work in specific jobs or in specific organizations that appeal to you
- Share a common interest, enthusiasm, or involvement in some activity or lifestyle that appeals to you
- Get a name and phone number or e-mail address for individuals you would like to contact for an informational interview. If possible, find out more about these individuals though LinkedIn or a web search.
Many people enjoy sharing information about themselves and their jobs with people who are genuinely interested in listening and learning. Some professionals grant interviews because they believe in encouraging newcomers to their profession and others may be scoping our prospects for anticipated vacancies. It is common for professionals to network to exchange favors and information, so do not hesitate to contact people for an informational interview.
- Phone or email to explain your request and ask for an appointment (usually about 20 minutes)
- Introduce yourself, mentioning your mutual connection or referral source, if you have one. For instance, “I am Mary Careersearcher, a first year RIT student. I found your name in the RIT Professional Network data base and am very interested in learning more about the type of work that you do.”
- Schedule a 20-30 minute appointment, preferably in person, at their convenience.
- If it is not possible to meet in person, ask for an opportunity to speak by phone or Skype, or even to ask some questions by email.
To make the most of your time with the person you interview, be well prepared. Know your interests, skills, and how they related to field of the person you will interview. Read about the career field and organization that you are investigating. Use relevant websites and books to find out as much as you can. Use your interview time to gather information that is not readily available elsewhere.
Choose questions that are relevant to you and your situation, or create your own questions. Typically you would plan to ask no more than 10 questions in an interview
- Background: Tell me how you got started in this field. What educational background or related experiences might be helpful in entering this field?
- Work Environment: What are the daily duties of your job? What are the working conditions? What skills/abilities are utilized in your field?
- Challenges: What are the toughest issues you deal with at work? What challenges does the industry as a whole have? What is being done to solve these issues?
- Lifestyle: What obligation does your work put on you outside the work week? How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacations?
- Rewards: What do you find most rewarding about your work?
- Salary: What is salary range for a new employee? What are other benefits or forms of compensation (e.g. bonuses, commissions, securities)?
- Potential and Promotion: How does one move from position to position? Do people normally move to another company/division/agency? What is your policy about promotions from within? How are employees evaluated?
- The Industry: What trends do you see for this industry and/or organization in the next 3 to 5 years?
- Advice: What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours? When the time comes, how would I go about finding a job in this field? What experience, paid or volunteer, would you recommend? What suggestions do you have to help make my resume more effective?
- Demand: What is the job outlook for this occupation? What other types of employers hire people in this line of work? Where are they located?
- Hiring Decision: What are the most important factors used to hire people in this field (education, past experience, personality, special skills)? Who makes the hiring decisions for your department?
- Job Market: How do people find out about job openings? Where are they advertised ? On the web, by word-of-mouth (who spreads the word?), by the personnel office?
- Referral to other sources of information: What professional organizations might have information about this career area? Can you name a relevant trade journal or magazine you would recommend I review regularly?
- Referral to others: Based on our conversation today, what other types of people do you believe I should talk to? Can you name a few of these people? May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
- Do you have any other advice for me?
- Do not exceed your requested time, but be prepared to stay longer if the contact indicates a willingness to talk longer or to give you a tour of the workplace.
- Dress as if this were an actual job interview. First impressions matter.
- Get to you appointment a few minutes early and be courteous to everyone that you meet.
- Take the initiative in conducting the interview. Introduce yourself. Ask open ended questions which promote discussion and can’t be answered with one word.
- Once inside the organization, be very observant. What kind of working environment is present-dress, style, communication patterns, sense of humor, etc.? Is this a place you could envision working? If you are interested, could you set up a longer shadowing experience at this workplace?
- Send a thank you email expressing your appreciation to your contact for his/her time and interest. This should be sent within a day or two of your appointment.
- Evaluate your experience and the information that you gathered. What did you learn about the field? Are you more or less interested as a result of what you found out? Is there information that you still want to learn? How might you find that information? Are there things that you would improve upon or do differently in another interview?
- Follow-up with referrals for additional informational interviews. Hopefully this has been a very valuable experience and you have learned an important tool for networking and information gathering.
As part of the interview process for engineering, computing or other technical positions, you should expect to encounter technical questions as part of the interview or an entire interview dedicated to technical aspects of the job. Employers want to evaluate your knowledge or skills in the areas that are most relevant to the position for which you are being interviewed.
How to Prepare for Technical Interviews or Questions
Review the job description: Make a list of the skills and requirements that will be needed as part of the job. Think about your skills and experience in relation to the job description. Where are your strengths? Did you learn and use those skills in a lab or project or on a past co-op? Where are your weaknesses? Can you brush up on those skills prior to the interview? How would you learn those skills before the job starts?
• Study: A technical interview or technical questions are like an exam. Review old labs and projects, keeping in mind the job description. Look for possible technical questions in what you’ve already learned. Search on-line for examples of technical questions and answer them.
• Practice the answering process: In the interview you may be asked to solve problems on paper, a white board or online. Practice explaining the steps needed to solve the problem while you are working through the question.
What you should know
• Multiple programming languages – if they are on your resume they will expect that you know them
• Algorithms, data structures, BigO, sorting, hash tables, trees, graphs
• Discrete Math
What are they looking for
• Ability to demonstrate basic technical skills
• Ask questions; verify the problem before trying to solve it
• Show your work, talk through the problem
• Raw talent, smarts
• Critical/analytical thinking
• Effective communication skills
• You don’t have to have the right answer – they want to see your thought process and analytical skills
During The Interview
Be sure to write the question or problem down, verify your assumptions about the problem and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You must have as much information as you can before you start answering a question. For example, if an interviewer asked you to design a house, you’d ask for verification on how big, how many people will be living there, what style.
Talk through the process of solving the interview question. Even if you aren’t asked to write anything down on the whiteboard or paper, the interviewer needs to hear your thought process. If you are sitting quietly, the interviewer won’t know if you are thinking through possibilities or just stumped.
How to Answer When You Don’t Know the Answer
Never lie about your skills and past experience. A technical interview or technical questions will quickly determine what you know and what you don’t. You can admit that you don’t know the answer to a question. Be straightforward, don’t be overly apologetic or look confused. Next, tell the interviewer what steps you would take to find the answer.
When the interview is over, after you’ve written your thank you notes to the interviewer, evaluate the interview
questions and your answers. Were there some questions that you didn’t answer as well as you could have? Be sure to
look up answers and learn more about that topic in case the company calls you for a second interview. You don’t
want to make the same mistakes twice!
How You Are Being Evaluated
One goal of the technical interview is to find out if you have the skills that match the job requirements. However, the
interviewer is looking at more than just your technical skills. The company is trying to find people who are good
thinkers, have the ability to learn and are innovative. They are also looking at how you handle the stress of the
technical interview itself, how well you articulate your answers and whether or not you possess self-confidence.
There are many examples of technical questions on the Internet. Search what is available and find questions that
mirror the skills listed in the job description. Here is just a short list of examples:
Computer Architecture: For a single computer processor computer system, what is the purpose of a processor cache
and describe its operation.
Validation: What is the difference between = and == in C?
Memory: What types CMOS memories have you designed? What were their size? Speed? Configuration Process
Electronics Hardware: You have 2 switches to control the light in the long corridor. You want to be able to turn the light on entering the corridor and turn it off at the other end. Do the wiring circuit.
Brain Teaser Questions
Brain teaser questions are a special sub-group of technical questions. On the surface, these questions do not seem to
be related to the job or the skills listed in the job description. The interview wants to see how well you analyze the
problem, evaluate your options and come up with a solution. An example would be “Why are manhole covers
To prepare, do an Internet search for brain teaser questions and familiarize yourself with examples. Don’t try to
prepare answers for every question you find. Your goal is to be able to recognize a brain teaser question and have a
process for coming up with an answer. Most of all, stay calm!
General Interview Preparation
Review the information available for interview preparation overall. Rules for being on time, dressing for success,
eye contact and posture, etc. are just as important in a technical interview. Don’t focus on the technical aspect so
much that you forget everything else!
• Google Guide to Tech Development - book
• Cracking the Coding Interview - book
• TopCoder website – tutorials and algorithms
• Project Euler website – tutorials more math based
• Leetcode.com – practice technical questions and have online judging