Congratulations! Your résumé, application, other initial materials, and/or networking have been successful and you now have the opportunity to communicate directly with the employer or graduate program the ways that you are the best candidate for the position.
The interview is a two-way conversation in which you and the organization gather information to decide if you are a good fit for the job or graduate school program and if the job or graduate school program is a good fit for you.
During this phase of the selection process, you are likely competing with between 1 and 7 other candidates who are well qualified and have demonstrated that they have the skill sets that the organization is seeking. During the interview, the organization’s goal is to determine which candidates have the talents and skills that best fit the needs of the organization. What can you do to stand out and how can you answer the underlying question, why you are the candidate of choice?
Preparation is the Key to a Good Interview
Research the Organization
It is important during an interview that you demonstrate how your skills and knowledge base fits the needs of the organization. Carefully review the job posting.
In order to show and demonstrate the relationship between your qualifications and the organization’s needs, you will need to research the organization and be able to talk their language.
Visit the organization’s website to gain valuable information about the goals of the organization or program. Review the strategic plan and learn about the organization’s culture. How does your background, training and experience fit the needs identified? Learn more on our Researching Employers page.
Talk to people who currently or previously have worked there/attended that program.
Tip: Use LinkedIn to identify if your connections or connections of your connections have worked at that organization.
Questions to Expect/Strategies to Prepare
During the interview you will want to promote your skills and talents as they relate to the company needs. Prior to the interview, it will be important to reflect upon your accomplishments and determine which specific accomplishments you want to share and which allow you to demonstrate to the decision makers that your skills, talents, goals, and work values fit with the employer’s or the graduate school’s needs and wants.
It is critical to understand that in an interviewing situation, you, the candidate, are in charge of the information that the interviewers learn about you. During your preparation for the interview, you need to identify the key talking points for your interview and select examples of your work and experiences that demonstrate that you can fill the need the employer or graduate school has.
As you consider the stories and examples that you will be sharing with the interviewers, it is important to remember that every question the interviewers ask is to determine why you are the candidate of choice. The interviewers are seeking the answer to the question: who of the candidates we interview is the top candidate.
It is helpful to know that the questions asked in interviews focus around five key areas:
- Confirming that you have the qualifications, skills, and strengths to do the job/complete the program.
- Determining how this opportunity matches with your short and-long term career goals.
- Determining if, and how, you will complement and add new dimensions to the organization’s/graduate school’s team and fit in with the team.
- Learning what challenges you may create for the current team and how and where you may need to grow as a professional.
- Determining if your salary or financial needs match with the financial resources that are available.
Remember, an interview is a two-way conversation. Both the interviewee and the interviewer are asking and responding to questions. Each of you are seeking to confirm an earlier impression and evaluation of the other.
The interview is usually the best time to determine if the position/program will provide what you want and need to be happy and successful. Making this part of your approach to the interview process will not only help you decide what is a good fit for you, but also shows you are confident in yourself and your abilities. Plan to look for key information and to ask questions that will help you decide.
Determine in advance what you want to communicate when answering questions and what you want to learn during your interview.
Tip: Career advisors are skilled in helping individuals prepare for interviews and for assessing their interview experience. Make an appointment today to get assistance!