Preparing for Job Interviews
What is an interview?
An interview is a marketing situation, where you have the opportunity to sell yourself to an organization. The better you know what you are selling, the more successful you can be. Regardless of whether an interview is for full-time work, a summer position, or for professional school, preparation is crucial.
Interviews are a process with before, during, and after components. This page contains information on the ‘before’ component: preparing for interviews. The resources/services listed under “How We Can Help” (see below) contain further tips and information on interview preparation. In addition, they provide information on effective performance during the interview, and post-interview tips to help you make a positive impression to employers.
Preparing for the interview
1. Know yourself and how you fit with the position
- What job-specific skills (e.g., accounting skills, lab skills, editing skills), experience and education do you have that would fit the position? Think of skills you have that match what the employer is seeking. Also, think of concrete examples of when you demonstrated each.
- What transferable skills (e.g., communication, time management, leadership) have you developed in your experiences that you can relate to the position? These skills can be drawn from paid, volunteer, academic, and extra-curricular experiences and accomplishments. Think of concrete examples from your experiences to show how you used each of these skills.
2. Know the organization
Research the company and the industry using the company website and external sites. You can also speak directly to company representatives and individuals working in the industry, by attending panels and career fairs. Our Company Research tip sheet contains further information to help you conduct your research.
3. Prepare answers to typical questions
- Common types of interview questions fall into several categories: open-ended, behavioural, and situational. Here are some sample questions to help you prepare.
- Give examples in your answers to support the points you are making, and the skills you are promoting about yourself. Use the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers to behavioural questions and make them complete. STAR is reviewed in the Career Centre’s Effective Interviews workshop (see below).
4. Prepare questions for Your Interviewer
It is important to come prepared with 3-5 questions to ask the employer at the end of your interview. It is common practice for one of the last questions in an interview to be “Do you have any questions for us?” Coming prepared with questions further demonstrates to the employer your preparedness and interest in this job/company but also gives you the opportunity to learn more about the job/company – beyond what’s in a job description or website.
Feel free to read more about Questions Students Can Ask in Interviews to Tell if a Company Really Cares about Diversity & Inclusion
Questions to Demonstrate Interest
Use your research to develop questions, e.g. new directions or business challenges like: “I read the firm is branching into a new business. Could you tell me more?” or “you mentioned that the department will be taking on project X. Would there be an opportunity for the incumbent of this job to contribute?”
Questions to Decide “fit”
Ask about key tasks and priorities for the role; skills likely to develop; company culture, etc. For example, “What are the key priorities for the position/dept., or the characteristics of successful people in the firm?”
Smile questions are designed to elicit positive information from your employer. You can ask them about what they enjoy most about their role, their team or any other aspects of their work. For example, “what do you see as the strengths of your team”, “what are you most proud about in your work during the last six months”.
Questions to Avoid
Salary, benefits, anything easily answered by reading the job description or company website, next steps.
Instead of asking about next steps, reframe this to end off your question period e.g. “Thank you, I don’t have any additional questions and am ready to hear our next steps.”
Questions to Re-Emphasize or Re-Address Interview Points
Ask for the opportunity to revisit/reclarify a moment in the interview (not the entire interview). For example, “Earlier, I was discussing my experience leading a group project. One detail that I would like to add is ….”. Remember that the goal here is to have the opportunity to provide critical information that you missed. If the omission is minor, you don’t need to point this out during the interview.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
Practice helps you become more confident, and can help you become more comfortable with expressing how your background makes you an ideal candidate.
How we can help
Job search tip sheets
Effective Interviews Workshop
- To learn what questions to expect and how to present yourself positively, see our Events Calendar for workshop dates and times.
Practice Interview appointments
- Book an individual practice interview session where you can practice answering typical questions and receive feedback on how to improve. To book your session, call us at 905-828-5451 or drop by the Career Centre (DV 3094).
Books in the Career Centre Resource Library
- Useful books to help you prepare for interviews include: Nail the Job Interview; Naked at the Interview; Ace the Technical Interview; The Interview Kit; and more.
Wondering what to wear to an interview, info session or networking event? Check out Dress for Success.