The "interview" is the most significant part of your job search. It is important for you to understand how various employers view the interview process because it gives you insight into your role and what will be expected of you during the employment interview.
All of your efforts prior to the interview can be considered "marketing and research", and now you are entering the "sales" portion of the job search. Remember that almost all of the other candidates have similar academic backgrounds to you, but it will be the interview that determines who will be offered employment. You must learn what the employer is seeking in an applicant and match your strengths to those needs.
The Sam M. Walton College of Business Career Development Center offers Optimal Resume's Online Interview Trainer, an exciting online tool that helps you practice and develop your interviewing skills. Using this trainer will allow you to view videos of tough questions from professional interviewers which you can answer yourself to practice for a real, upcoming interview. This is an online interview training system which allows you to login and develop your interviewing skills at anytime. With over 1,800 interview questions, answers, and tutorials to choose from, you can be confident that Optimal Resume's Online Interview Trainer can help you become interview ready. To access Optimal Resume's Online Interview Trainer, please follow these instructions:
New Users: If you have never logged in to Optimal Resume, go to: http://waltoncollege.optimalresume.com/validate_user.php. Enter your University of Arkansas student ID number and click "Continue". After your account is created, you will be prompted to create a password and complete a profile with your information.
Returning Users: Go to: http://waltoncollege.optimalresume.com and login using your full UARK email address.
For help with using Optimal Resume Online Interview Trainer, read through the available Guide and Tips Sheet.
It is important to research the organization prior to an interview. You will likely be asked what you know about the company and/or why you would be a good fit for the position. Researching the company before the interview will help you answer these questions. Find out everything you can about the organization – What is their business? Who are their major competitors? What projects/initiatives are they currently working on? The more you know, the more interested and motivated you will appear. Read through the organization’s website to learn more about their mission and values. Also, the University Library offers several databases to assist with your research, including LexisNexis, which provides an in depth report of many large organizations.
The most important communication during a job interview is often the unspoken kind. Body language, or nonverbal communication, can let interviewers know more about you than what you tell them.
The initial nonverbal impression of the candidate comes through the handshake. Don't be timid, slide you palm all the way in and deliver a firm, confident handshake.
If there are several seating options to choose from, ask your interviewer for instructions. Do not just assume and take a seat.
How to Sit
Slide close to the back of the chair and sit tall and straight. Sitting on the edge of the seat can make you look eager, but also scared and nervous. Women should not cross their legs and instead seat with their legs together. Men should avoid sitting with their legs too wide apart or crossed with the ankle on top of the knee. Always maintain a comfortable space, about 3 feet from the interviewer. Shortening that space can feel invasive and inappropriately intimate.
You can sit with your hands clasped together or hold on to a small briefcase organizer through the interview. Avoid steeping your fingers, particularly in the upright position, when answering a question. This can be perceived as arrogant. Hand habits, like nail biting, hair twirling, touching your face and hand twitching, can distract the interviewer and convey nervousness and insecurity.
Eye contact conveys confidence and respect, but staring at the interviewer is not appropriate. Avoiding eye contact, especially while answering a question, can convey dishonesty.
The best way to get rid of bad nonverbal habits is to become aware of them. Practice the interview with a friend or family member. Using a video camera to tape a mock interview can be even more helpful. Get your mock interview partner to ask you tough questions that would make you nervous and susceptible to bad body language. Notice what you do under pressure and be conscious of it.
Evaluating the Interviewer's Body Language
Don't just listen to what your interview is saying, watch his/her body language. It can reveal how the interview is going. If the interviewer touches his/her nose, he/she is disapproving somewhat of what you are saying. If he/she looks at the watch or shuffles papers, you are not on the right track. If the interviewer leans towards you, he/she is interested in what you are saying and is listening to you. If he/she is leaning back on the chair, she is evaluating you with a critical eye. If she/he suddenly moves from relaxing in the chair to sitting upright, you have said something that needs to be evaluated from a different perspective. You can tell if a difficult question is coming if the interviewer places his/her fingertips together in an upright steeple-like position. If the interviewer stands up, the interview is over.
For more information on interviewing, please review the following articles:
While the college campus may be the perfect forum in which to exhibit your flair for the latest in fashion style, the interview is not the place to do so. With very few unusual exceptions sandals and sweatshirts are out. Dress shirts, dress shoes and business suits are still in. Many people do not like to wear neckties or heels, but you need to dress appropriately to make a great first impression. Even though many companies have relaxed the internal company dress code, interviews still follow the conservative standard.
Campus fashions and work fashions are two different worlds.
Unfortunately, most college grads are woefully under prepared with proper interview dress. They feel they can “get by” with what is already in their wardrobe. Usually not. Dress for the world outside college is quite different from the campus scene. Remember that stylish is typically not conservative. Conservative is “in” for interviewing. Why? Because you should be doing the talking, not your clothes.
This is not to say that you need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Go for quality over quantity. One or two well-chosen business suits will serve you all the way to the first day on the job and beyond. Then, when you are making some money (and have a chance to see what the standard “uniform” is for the company), you can begin to expand your workplace wardrobe. For now, no one will fault you for wearing the same sharp outfit each time you interview. If you desire some variety within a limited budget, you might consider varying your shirt/blouse/tie/accessories as a simple way to change your look without breaking your wallet.
Please remember, you have a resource available to you where you can get FREE business casual and business professional attire to keep. The Walton College Career Closet is a resource for you to get access to the clothes you need for interviews, career fairs, business meetings, and all other activities where you need to look your best. Please visit the Career Closet page for more details.
For those of you who need a quick review of the basics, follow these guidelines for successful interview dress:
All clothes should be expertly pressed and clean for your interview day.
If you are still not sure how to dress for the interview, call and ask! That’s right—call the employer. But this is one time when you do not want to call the Hiring Manager—instead, ask to be put through to Human Resources and say:
“I have an interview with _____ in the _____ department for a position as an _____. Could you please tell me what would be appropriate dress for this interview?”
While many work environments have shifted to business casual as the workday standard, business suits are still the interview standard. When in doubt, it is almost always better to err on the side of conservatism (Source: Collegegrad.com).
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.
- Tell me about a difficult problem you solved.
- Give me an example of a time when you calmed an irate customer.
- Would you describe yourself as a self-starter?
Sometimes the questions sound a lot like the open-ended questions discussed earlier. However, the employer is looking for specific content in your responses. To respond effectively to behavioral interview questions, it is necessary to tell a story. There is a formula you can us that will ensure that your response is complete - The STAR Formula:
- S = Identify the situation you were in.
- T = Explain what the task was that needed to be done.
- A = Describe the specific action you took.
- R = Detail the result of your action.
Below is an example of a behavioral question and response. The elements of the STAR formula are indicated in parentheses so you can see how they provide the structure for the candidate’s response.
Employer: Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.
Candidate: I’d be happy to. (Situation) Last year while I was working for the multimedia department of a large ad agency, we were developing the homepage for one of the company’s biggest clients. The site was to be interactive and animated so it was pretty cutting-edge. I headed the design team and was coordinating efforts with the programmers, who were supposed to actually write the code that would make our design work. The problem was, they couldn’t do it. They tried, but they didn’t have the specialized technical knowledge for the project, and there wasn’t enough time for them to learn. (Task)We were coming close to our design review deadline, and we needed to have a prototype to show the customer. (Action) I made the suggestion that we go outside the company and hire someone with the specific technical know-how to bring our design up. When I got the approval, I went looking for the person myself and brought her onboard for the project; (Result) we delivered the prototype on time for the design review meeting with the customer. There were some all-nighters involved, but we met the deadline. The customer was pleased, and our VP was elated.
This exchange contains all the elements of the STAR formula, it tells an engaging story, and it gives the employer a vivid snapshot of the applicant’s capability. Practice using the formula to answer several behavioral interview questions. You won’t necessarily be able to predict the questions you’ll be asked, but if the formula has become second nature to you, you’ll probably tell great stories when the questions are asked.
Source: Hayes, K.H. (1999). Managing career transitions: Your career as a work in progress (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
If you successfully complete the screening phase and first interview, you may be invited back for a second interview with the organization. A second interview is another opportunity to market your skills and potential. But remember, the selection process is narrowing and the company is trying to impress you too!
Tips to prepare for a second interview:
Second interview format:
A typical second interview may begin with the director of human resources. You may be given a tour and be introduced to at least one senior officer of the company, the person who would be your immediate supervisor, and some of your future colleagues. You may also have lunch with some of these people. The director of human resources usually acts as the master or mistress of ceremonies for the day and will be the last person you see, often in his/her office during a wind-up chat. The visit or interview may last for most of the workday. In addition to taking an entire day, the second interview may include pre-employment testing. Some hiring organizations use written tests while others simulate on-the-job situations in order to assess your decision-making abilities. Interviews also test your poise, stamina, enthusiasm, and knowledge. Keep the following suggestions in mind during your visit/tour of the office/plant:
Other tips to remember:
Source: Michigan State University Career Services Network