CATS Career Development - Interviewing Essentials

Arrive on time, if not a few minutes early, for your interview. If you show up to a job interview late, ill prepared, or dressed inappropriately, you could be sealing your own fate. It may sound old fashioned, but a neat, professional appearance is always apropos for a job interview. Walk tall, smile, make eye contact, and present a firm handshake -- this goes for men and women. Bring at least two flat copies of your resume to the interview. Rehearse with a friend, relative, or co-worker a day or two before the interview to sharpen your communication skills. (See )

Answer questions clearly and concisely. Don't get long winded or meander into personal details that are just not appropriate to discuss. Try to keep the interview on target and focused on you. Be prepared to sell yourself in person by highlighting your strengths, your accomplishments on your present or previous jobs, and your eagerness to work for this potential employer. No need to apologize for anything, just accentuate the positive, relevant information instead.

Display an attitude of "humble egotism.? Psyche yourself up into creating the impression that "I'm great, I know I'm great, but I know I have more to learn" and "I want this job more than anything else in the world and if I don't get a job offer, I'm just going to lay down and die". Show your enthusiasm, dedication, and ambition through your words and body language. If you come in with an attitude of "show me why I should work for this company" and halfway through the interview you think you might want to, it's too late. The most important goal of the job interview is to get a job offer. You can always think it over and turn it down later, but the name of the game is to get that job offer above all other candidates!

Try not to fidget in your chair, pick at your cuticles, hum, chew gum, tap your foot or do anything else that might give the impression that you are a nervous, neurotic mess. If the interviewer asks an open-ended question, "How do you feel about status reports?" try to narrow down the focus by asking a more specific question in return, "Would you like to know how I handle deadlines and maintain an organized data base"? An interview is not the appropriate place to haggle over money -- it's best to conduct salary negotiations only when you actually get the job offer as well as ask questions about benefits, personal days, or vacation time.

When the job interview is concluded, stand up and extend your hand, and thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration of you as a qualified candidate for this position. Leave gracefully -- you may ask when the decision is anticipated but don't offer to call back or give your cell phone and pager numbers -- just walk out as confidently as you entered.

The person who gets the job is not necessarily the most qualified, but perhaps the one who knows HOW to get a job.

These interview tips can help you but we do strongly recommend that you use our service to truly see the results of being better prepared. If we could give you one word of advice, it would be "be yourself" this has never been more important than in the job hunting process. Examine your best attributes and HOW to sell yourself to the marketplace.

Employers are looking for energy, ambition, good personality, confidence, competency, maturity and professional appearance.

Research the company--I can't stress this enough. Find out as much as possible about this industry, it's changes, who the president is and the number of years in business. If you can help the company solve problems, you are that much closer to getting hired.

  1. Practice mock interviews with a career coach or friend pinpointing your weaknesses and working to improve them. Practice.
  2. Dress for success for an immediate favorable first impression. Don't underestimate this. Shine your shoes, as many candidates forget this.
  3. Shake hands firmly and don't take a seat until offered. Don't slouch, and always maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s).
  4. Bring at least three copies of your professionally prepared resume, as well as a list of references on matching letterhead.
  5. Talk in a firm, confident voice and always present a positive attitude.
  6. Always remain professional before, during and after the interview. Relax and be yourself, but don?t forget the person sitting on the other side of the desk could be your future employer.
  7. Follow up on interviews within three business days. Enthusiasm and interest make a difference.
  8. Always send a thank you note the day following the interview.
  9. Ask relevant questions during the interview, which should be a two-way communication. It's important to develop a rapport with the interviewer.
  10. Understand that nervousness is normal, so prepare for it in order to convey a calm appearance.
  11. Don?t bad mouth your present or former employers. Limit your comments to those necessary.
  12. Let the interviewer bring up salary first. The person who talks about salary first will lose.
  13. Allow the interviewer to describe the position and its responsibilities early in the interview so you can apply your accomplishments to that position.
  14. Always send a thank you and follow up letter--an important step in the job search process.

Fifty Standard Entry Level Interview Questions

1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What do you want to do with your life?
3. Do you have any actual work experience?
4. How would you describe your ideal job?
5. Why did you choose this career?
6. When did you decide on this career?
7. What goals do you have in your career?
8. How do you plan to achieve these goals?
9. How do you evaluate success?
10. Describe a situation in which you were successful.
11. What do you think it takes to be successful in this career?
12. What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?
13. If you had to live your life over again, what would you change?
14. Would your rather work with information or with people?
15. Are you a team player?
16. What motivates you?
17. Why should I hire you?
18. Are you a goal-oriented person?
19. Tell me about some of your recent goals and what you did to achieve them.
20. What are your short-term goals?
21. What is your long-range objective?
22. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
23. Where do you want to be ten years from now?
24. Do you handle conflict well?
25. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How did you resolve it?
26. What major problem have you had to deal with recently?
27. Do you handle pressure well?
28. What is your greatest strength?
29. What is your greatest weakness?
30. If I were to ask one of your professors to describe you, what would he say?
31. Why did you choose to attend your college?
32. What changes would you make at your college?
33. How has your education prepared you for your career?
34. What were your favorite classes? Why?
35. Do you enjoy doing independent research?
36. Who were your favorite professors? Why?
37. Why is your GPA not higher?
38. Do you have any plans for further education?
39. How much training do you think you'll need to become a productive employee?
40. What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
41. Why do you want to work in the _____ industry?
42. What do you know about our company?
43. Why are you interested in our company?
44. Do you have any location preferences?
45. How familiar are you with the community that we're located in?
46. Will you relocate? In the future?
47. Are you willing to travel? How much?
48. Is money important to you?
49. How much money do you need to make to be happy?
50. What kind of salary are you looking for?


You successfully presented yourself in your initial interview, and you receive a phone call or a letter inviting you to a second interview (also known as the office visit, on-site interview, or plant interview). You now know that an employer is very interested in you and you are one of the finalists in the selection process!

You may ask what the structure of the second interview will be when you call to confirm your interview. During your second interview, a variety of things may happen. You could be answering and asking questions for two hours or all day. You might interview on a one-to-one basis with three or more different individuals. You could have a panel of interviewers, two interviewers at once, aptitude testing, role-playing, a plant or office tour, reception, and a meal.

When invited to a second interview, verify the time, date, and location of the interview, along with the name and titles of the people who will interview you. Be sure you know where you are going if the interview is in town. Verify travel arrangements, hotel accommodations, and how expenses will be covered for interviews held out of town.

Review what you researched about the employer prior to your first interview, and see if you need to conduct more in-depth research. Also, review what was discussed about you and the job in the first interview. Practice describing situations in which you demonstrated your strongest skills and best accomplishments. (Don't use all of the same examples from your first interview.) Practice answering questions you expect to be asked. Prepare questions you will ask about the job and the employer.

The people conducting the interviews could be human resources representatives, department managers, potential supervisors, and partners or owners of the business. Whether you interview with one person or ten, you must "sell yourself" to every person you meet. Maintain your enthusiasm as you answer some of the same questions repeatedly.

If lunch or dinner is included, remember that you are still in an interview situation and the employer may be evaluating your social graces and etiquette. Practice your best table manners: order something easy to eat, keep your elbows off the table, pass to the right, cut one bite at a time, keep your napkin in your lap until you leave the table, and avoid controversial topics in your conversation.

The second interview provides an opportunity for you to present your qualifications and evaluate the employer. What do you need to know to decide if you want to work for this employer? Does the employer meet your criteria? Make it easy for each interviewer to see why you are the best match for the job.

It is common for an employer to interview all the finalists before extending job offers. If offered a job during the final interview, ask when the employer needs to know your decision. If a job is not offered at the time of the interview, ask when they will make their decision, and when you can expect to hear from them.

Close each interview well by summarizing your qualifications, stating your desire for the job, and thanking the interviewer. Send a thank-you letter to everyone you interviewed with, or to the one person who seemed to be most in charge of hiring.

Keep in mind the skills and qualifications that the employer is looking for in a candidate. Every time you talk in an interview, you are selling yourself. It is important to communicate why you believe you are the best match for the available position. Practice talking about yourself so you will be able to articulate your skills, accomplishments, and career goals concisely and effectively in an interview.

Asking Questions

At the end of the first interview and during the second interview, you may be asked if you have questions for the interviewers. Ask questions! The interviewers will not be offended if you ask them good questions. The following list provides examples of the types of questions that are appropriate.

Don?t be afraid to take notes during this time. Take a pad of paper (with your questions already written) and jot notes from the interviewers? responses to your questions. Continue to make eye contact as often as possible to show the interviewers that you are listening. If their answers are unclear, ask them to clarify their points.

Questions to Ask Interviewers

  • Do you have a copy of the detailed job description?
  • What do you see as the priorities for someone in this position?
  • Would you be able to describe a typical day on the job?
  • What would be a typical first-year assignment?
  • What training programs do you have available for your employees?
  • What level of responsibility could I expect in this position?
  • What qualities do you look for in new employees?
  • Is there a typical career path for a person in this position?
  • How are employees evaluated and promoted?
  • What is a realistic timeframe for promotion?
  • Does the company have a promotion-from-within policy?
  • What are the company's plans for the future?
  • What do you see as the greatest threat to the organization?
  • What/where are the greatest opportunities for the organization
  • How would you describe your organization's management style and working environment?
  • What do you like most about your organization?
  • Why is this position available? (Is it a new job or where did the former occupant go?)
  • I feel confident that I would be able to do your job well, but do you have any doubts about my suitability?
  • How many people have held this job in the last five years?
  • Was the person who held this position promoted?
  • What do you like most about the company? Least? What are the biggest challenges you face?
  • What are some examples of the best results produced by people in this job? How many people are you interviewing?
  • What do I have to do to be promoted?
  • What are the company?s future plans and goals? What qualifications are you looking for in the person to fill this position?
  • What would you like to have me accomplish in this position?
  • Do you have any questions about my qualifications?

Prepare for Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral based interviews are very popular with employers. These involve questions where you will be asked for examples of past situations which demonstrate you have the job skills and work behaviors the employer wants. The questions are unpredictable. It is easier to answer behavioral based questions if you analyze the job description and know what skills are required. Then you can identify situations where you have demonstrated the required skills and work behaviors. Give specific examples in three part story-like form, describing the situation/challenge, your actions/behavior, and the results or outcome.

The types of behaviors and skills evaluated in behavioral interviews include: teambuilding, solving problems, flexibility, resolving conflicts, time management, accepting feedback, communication, learning from mistakes, showing nitiative, learning new things quickly, leadership, learning from successes, decision-making, working under stress, achievement orientation, and analytical reasoning.

Examples of behavioral interview questions:

  • Describe a time when you put a lot of effort into a project. What did you learn?
  • Tell me about a time when you performed well in a crisis. What did you do?
  • Would you approach that problem in the same way today?
  • Describe a time when you did not get along with a co-worker. What did you learn?
  • Describe a time when you had to think on your feet to solve a difficult problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you were not satisfied with your performance.
  • Provide a recent example of when you exceeded expectations.
  • Describe an accomplishment. What did you do to make that happen? Be specific.
  • Describe a situation when you dealt with rapid changes. How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you were responsible for directing other people.
  • Describe a time when you were really motivated to do your best.

Meal Interview Do's and Don'ts

You may find yourself on a breakfast, lunch, or dinner interview (or "eating meeting") during your company-site visit. This is usually a good sign that you are under strong consideration. Following are some of the basic do's and don'ts:


  • wait for your host to gesture the seating arrangement
  • place your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated
  • remember everything your Mom taught you about table manners
  • order light; you are there to interview--eating is only the sideline
  • know what you are ordering; avoid exotic items
  • chew and swallow before you speak; no airborne food particles, please
  • be polite to waiters and waitresses, but not chatty
  • keep your elbows off the table
  • thank your host for the meal


  • bring your briefcase; your portfolio is plenty
  • open your menu until your host has
  • become lax in your presentation style; it is still an interview
  • drink alcohol, even if your host offers
  • be indecisive in ordering--make a decision and stick with it
  • begin eating until everyone is served.
  • attempt to pay the bill or split the cost; it will be covered by your host
  • smoke, even if your host does
  • criticize the meal or the restaurant
  • order a doggy bag

    During an interview it?s not only your answers that are being evaluated. Your appearance, attitude and manners also get the once over. So if you finally get your foot in the door and get an interview, don?t let something as small as dirty fingernails be your undoing. Here?s a list of other factors that may knock you out of consideration:

  • Inappropriate or sloppy dress
  • Overbearing or conceited attitude
  • Mumbling
  • Bad grammar
  • Lack of interest or enthusiasm
  • Over emphasis on money
  • Evasiveness
  • Indecision
  • Lack of tact and maturity
  • A shopping around attitude
  • Low moral standards
  • Intolerance
  • Inability to take criticism
  • Over familiarity with interviewer
  • Little sense of humor
  • Emphasizing who you know