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Congratulations! You have been selected to interview next week with Company XYZ. You only get one chance to leave the right impression; so take the time to do your homework and research the organization, and you will increase your chances of leaving a positive impression. What should you know in advance?

Before the Interview

What to Know

Know Yourself - Careful self-assessment and advance planning will help you make the most effective presentation and persuade the employer you are the right person for the job. Know your resume and be prepared to talk about your achievements.

  • Analyze your skills, interests, personality and values.
  • Make decisions about your 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 work experiences that relate to the position.
  • Determine the work environment that is important to you.
  • Be ready with specific examples that show how your positive traits will be an asset to the company.
  • Demonstrate your ability to get along with others, leadership skills, and group interaction skills by discussing involvement with clubs, fraternities, sororities, intramural, sports, etc

Know the Company - Learning about the company and the job that is available is essential to a successful interview. Failure to do your homework before an interview can quickly turn off recruiters.

Know the Job - Analyze the job description and try to match your experiences, skills and interests. Talk with people who have worked in similar positions. Understand the nature of the job, the level of education necessary, future potential and other pertinent details.

The Importance of Practicing

  • Write out answers for typical interview questions.
  • Use a friend, or tape-record yourself answering questions. Practicing out loud is important!
  • Meet with your program coordinator in the Office of Co-op and Career Services to either review your answers or conduct a mock interview.

Dressing for an Interview

It is as important to consider what you will wear and how you will look during the interview, as it is to prepare for the interview questions. Here's a video explaining office fashion do's and don'ts (

  • An interviewer should remember what you said, not what you wore. Do not wear anything that distracts attention from what you have to say.
  • Good personal grooming is equally vital
  • Do not overdo cologne or perfume
  • Make sure nails are well groomed
  • Hair should be neat and not distracting
  • Limit the amount of jewelry you wear
  • Remove body piercings and cover tattoos


  • Wear a suit, tailored dress, classic cardigan with slacks or skirt.
  • Avoid low cut necklines, flimsy fabrics, or tight fitting clothes
  • Avoid short skirts
  • Wear conservative heels
  • Makeup should be light and natural looking
  • Nail color, if worn, should be neutral


  • Wear a suit or dress pants and jacket of conservative shirt and tie
  • Wear shined dress shoes that match your suit pants - do not wear sneakers
  • Facial hair should be well groomed
  • Wear dark dress socks, not white athletic socks
  • Remove earrings

Recommended Reading
5 Steps To Professional Presence: How to Project Confidence, Competence, and Credibility at Work
The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Look
Details Men's Style Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Making Your Clothes Work for You
Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work
When the Little Things Count . . . and They Always Count: 601 Essential Things That Everyone In Business Needs to Know
Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style

Materials to Bring

As appropriate, you should have copies of the following with you at every interview: resume, transcript, references, portfolio, work sample and performance evaluations from previous employers (if you have them). Make sure you can leave the copies with the interviewer because they will not have time to read them during the interview.

During the Interview

A Few Rules to Consider

  • Address the interviewer as Mr. ___ or Ms. ___, unless he/she says otherwise
  • Do not smoke or chew gum
  • Make frequent eye contact, but don't stare down your interviewer
  • Use specific examples that describe your strengths and assets
  • Say "yes" instead of yeah and avoid expressions such as "you know"
  • Never contradict, interrupt, or argue with your interviewer
  • Be alert, act interested, and focus on the positive
  • Never say anything bad about a former employer or professor
  • If you want the job, you must state your interest unequivocally
  • Avoid discussions of salary and perks until late in the hiring process
  • Always find out what happens next
  • Get the interviewer's business card

The Typical Routine

Most interviews can be divided into four major sections: the introduction, the employer sell, the candidate sell, and the closing. The employer will usually control the flow of the interview while you should be trying to control the content.

Interview Ethics

  • Interview only when sincerely interested in a position with the employer
  • Provide accurate information on your qualifications and interests. Never falsify data such as GPA, academic major, coursework completed or extracurricular activities on a resume or during an interview
  • Notify the Co-op and Career Services Office, at least 24 hours in advance, if you cannot make an on-campus interview or employer presentation. Either call the Co-op Office at (585) 475-2301 during business hours or leave a message
  • Acknowledge invitations for on-site interviews promptly, whether you accept or reject them
  • Notify employers well in advance if you must postpone or cancel an on-site interview

How Candidates are Evaluated

When asked what they look for in potential employees, many employers respond by mentioning all or most of the following traits:

  1. Ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing
  2. Sense of responsibility for carrying out assignments
  3. Ability to follow directions
  4. Ability and willingness to work with others
  5. Interest in continuing to learn through both formal programs and informal opportunities
  6. Ability to deal with change
  7. Comprehension of the technology of the specific field
  8. Problem solving ability

In determining the level to which you have developed these traits, employers will use interviews and the documents that you submit during the application process to take a hard look at what you have done with your life to date (your successes and failures); how you are presenting yourself now; and your goals or the direction your career seems to be headed. You will then be evaluated against the criteria established for the job and the other candidates under consideration.

After the Interview

Just because the interview is over doesn't mean your work is complete.

It is advisable to send a thank you letter to the person(s) who interviewed you within 24 hours after the interview. Not only is this a courtesy, but it reinforces your interest in the position. It can also serve as an additional opportunity to separate you from the other candidates by recalling a notable topic or attribute discussed in your interview.

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 a completed application, transcript, or references, see that they are sent as soon as possible. If something will be delayed, inform the employer of the reason.

If an employer showed an interest in pursuing things further with you, but you are no longer interested in the opportunity, inform him/her of that fact as soon as possible.

Contact Log

It is important to maintain current records on all your job search activities. Record all contact and address information for each organization to which you apply, updating the log with each follow-up call or letter, interview, etc. Accurate records can help to remind you about the status of each job opportunity you are seeking, as well as when a follow-up query is appropriate.


After each interview mentally review the questions asked by the interviewer and your responses to them. Were you caught "off-guard" by any questions? Could you have answered a question better, in more detail, or in a more focused manner? Quiz yourself after each interview and take notes. This will enhance future interview efforts.

Questions Asked by Employers

There are standard areas of questioning by interviewers. Review the following examples so you are prepared to answer the most common questions.


  • 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 three accomplishments are you most proud?
  • Have you had difficulty getting along with a former professor/supervisor/co-worker? How did you handle it?
  • Have you ever spoken before a group of people? How large?
  • Why should we hire you rather than another candidate?
  • What do you know about our organization (products or services)?
  • How do you think a friend, professor, or former supervisor would describe you?
  • How do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
  • How do you solve difficult problems?
  • Give me an example of your experience working as part of a team.
  • What are your career goals?
  • Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
  • Describe how you are able to work on several assignments at once?
  • How do you feel about travel?
  • How do you feel about the possibility of relocating?
  • Describe your ideal job.


  • Why did you choose your major? RIT?
  • Do you think you received a good education? In what ways?
  • 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?
  • Do you plan to return to school for further education?


  • What job-related skills have you developed?
  • What did you learn from your work experiences?
  • What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
  • Have you ever quit a job? Why?

The 26 Most Popular Behavior-Based Questions

Tell me about the time when you...

  • Worked effectively under pressure
  • Handled a difficult situation with a co-worker
  • Were creative in solving a problem
  • Were unable to complete a project on time
  • Persuaded team members to do things your way
  • Wrote a report that was well-received
  • Anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures
  • Had to make an important decision with limited facts
  • Were forced to make an unpopular decision
  • Had to adapt to a difficult situation
  • Were tolerant of an opinion that was different with yours
  • Had to deal with an irate customer
  • Delegated a project effectively
  • Surmounted a major obstacle
  • Set your sights too high (or too low)
  • Prioritized the elements of a complicated project
  • Got bogged down in the details of a project
  • Lost (or won) an important contract
  • Made a bad decision

Responding to Common Interview Questions

  • "What are you strengths?" - Describe your strengths relative to the ideal candidate, and in order of importance to the position for which you are applying.
  • "What are you weaknesses?" - This is a genuine trick question. Your weaknesses must be strengths in disguise. Here is an example: "I am very detail-oriented. Sometimes I will spend hours getting something just right. But as you can see from my recommendations and transcripts, I still manage to get plenty of work completed, too. As a matter of fact..." Turn it into a positive! Or, cite a minor weakness and explain how you are overcoming it.
  • "What are your career goals?" - It is your job as a candidate to know what that typical career path is. Contrary to what some think, excessive ambition is not really impressive to employers. Saying, "I want to be making $250,000 within five years," is probably going to cause the interviewer to think you are naive or immature or both. Saying, "I want to be employed in a manufacturing environment and working part-time toward my Master's Degree," is probably a lot smarter.

Questions You Can Ask During the Interview

Go to the interview prepared with some of the following questions:

The Job

  • Can you tell me what a typical day is like for someone in this position?
  • Will this position be helping one of your staff or working on a special project?
  • Will I move around during my co-op assignment to work in different positions or departments?
  • 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?
  • Why is this position open? (Fired, resigned, new…) Tell me more about this?
  • What are the best aspects of this job? And the worst?

The Company

  • What are your most important product lines? (Be sure you've done your homework before you ask this question - do not ask the obvious)
  • 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?
  • Do you have co-op students working for you?
  • How long have you employed students?
  • Do you re-hire your co-op students for subsequent co-op work periods?
  • What other jobs have you held within the company?
  • What do you like most about the company and your job?

The Geographic Area

  • What is the housing market like in this area?
  • What are the best features about the city/area? The worst?
  • Is public transportation adequate?

Types of Interviews

The Initial Interview

This interview takes place on-campus, at the company (on-site), or over the telephone and usually lasts about a half-hour or less. The interviewer is trying to narrow the candidate pool so first impressions are extremely important during this interview. Some employers may make a hiring decision based on this interview only

On-Site Interviews

This interview is used to assess your "fit" with the organization. Interviews are offered to the most promising candidates and usually involve a good portion of the day. During such a visit, you may meet with one person or many people from a variety of departments. You will have the opportunity to discuss job responsibilities, your qualifications and interest, salary, and benefits. This is an excellent opportunity for you to evaluate the job, atmosphere, and people with whom you would be working. Some organizations also administer tests of various types currently.

If travel is involved in an on-site visit, be sure that you understand the situation before accepting the invitation. Travel arrangements for second interviews are handled in one of the following ways:

  • The employer representative will take care of everything, including expenses.
  • You will be expected to make all or part of the arrangements, and the employer will reimburse you for all or part of the expenses later.
  • You will be expected to take care of everything, including expenses.

Telephone Interviews

Many companies screen applicants over the telephone. How well you do will depend on your preparation for such calls and the impression you make. Here are some tips:

  • Any telephone calls during your job search could be an employer. Answer the phone appropriately every time; first impressions are important.
  • Be sure to inform roommates and parents of the importance of taking careful telephone messages for you.
  • Your greeting on your voicemail should be businesslike.
  • Keep the following items next to your telephone: paper, pen, copy of your resume, date book, a log of companies you have contacted, your own course schedule including major exams/projects, and a copy of the job description.
  • Express your pleasure at receiving the call, but don't act like you have won the lottery.
  • Ask for a minute to turn down the stereo, close the door and set the stage for privacy and quiet.
  • Your voice is your only means to express energy and enthusiasm.
  • Use pauses effectively -- think about what you will answer or ask next.
  • Don't hang up before you know the next step and thank the interviewer for calling
  • Get the interviewer's full name, title and phone number.

We recommend this video: How to Ace a Telephone Interview and Get the Job (YouTube)

Webcam Interviews

Interviewing remotely is becoming more and more common for initial interviews. Keep these things in mind to make the experience a good one!

  • Good video interview software will have a window that shows what you look like to the interviewer. Try to look into the camera when talking instead of the image on the screen. Posture is probably more important in this situation than it is in person. Make sure the area in which you're sitting is neat and nothing strange or interesting is showing that might distract the interviewer or make you look bad.
  • Get your interviewers name and phone number, just in case you experience technical difficulties.
  • Many people haven't done a video interview before and it's okay to tell the recruiter or hiring manager that you are new to the process.
  • Find a quiet place to do the interview.
  • Test your webcam and the software or site you will be using.

  • Make sure your microphone and sound settings are working correctly. Be sure that the microphone is set to a good volume, and that goes for your speaker volume as well. Practice speaking clearly through the microphone; you may find that you need to speak more slowly during a video conference, since there are sometimes lags when communicating over the internet.
  • If possible, practice for the interview with a friend.
  • You might think the situation is informal, but it's not perceived that way by the people interviewing you. Dress-up for the interview, even though it will be conducted over a webcam.
  • Usually better to use an Ethernet connection instead of a wireless connection to reduce the possible video delay or loss of connection.
  • Shut down your mobile phone or any other potential distractions within your control prior to the interview.
  • Avoid leaving the confines of the camera until the interview is completely administered and remember to thank the employer for his/her time and consideration of the interview session. • Go about the interview much the way you would a face-to-face interview. As with any kind of interview, being prepared is the most important thing.

The Office of Co-op and Career Services has facilities you can use to conduct your interview in a quiet and controlled environment. Give us a call if you wish to reserve an interview room.

Behavioral Based Interviews

The basic premise of behavioral-based interviewing is the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar circumstances. Instead of asking how you would behave in a particular situation, the interviewer will ask how you did behave. Below are tips for preparing for one:

  • Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or action (example: course work, work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.)
  • Be ready to describe the situation, your action, and the outcome or result.
  • Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you even if the result itself was not favorable.
  • Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story.

Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Decision making/problem solving: How did you make the decision to come to RIT and major in __?
  • Leadership: Have you ever been a member of a group where two members did not work well together? How did you handle this?
  • Motivation: Give me an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Communication: Have you ever had to "sell" an idea to a group? How did you do it? Did they buy it?
  • Interpersonal Skills: Tell me about the most difficult or frustrating individual that you have ever had to work with, and how you managed to work with that person.
  • Planning /Organization: What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give a specific example.

Informational Interviewing

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.

Why do an Informational Interview?

 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

Who to Contact and How to Find Them

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. 

What Motivates Professionals to Grant Informational Interviews?

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.


How to Set Up 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.”
  • Explain your request to schedule an appointment to gather information about their field of work.  Indicate that you are not applying for a job at this time, but are conducting career research to help you make better decisions.  If the person you are trying to research is not in, you can leave a message or ask when to call back.
  • Try to schedule a 20-30 minute appointment, preferably in person, at their convenience.  If the present time is too busy for the person you contact, ask when would be a better time or ask if he/she could suggest another contact who could provide you with helpful information.  Remember to ask for directions and parking information.
  • 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.

How to prepare for the Informational Interview

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.

Sample Questions to Ask

Many more questions are suggested here than you would ask in a single informational interview.  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?

Suggestions During the Interview

  • 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?

Follow-up After the Interview

  • Follow-up with a thank you note (email is fine), 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.