Interviewing Tips

Quick Start Links:

The Purpose of the Interview

From your (the applicant’s) perspective, the purpose of an interview is to:

  1. Determine whether the organization, culture, and the job align with your values/goals.
  2. Receive a job offer.

From an organizational standpoint, the purpose of the interview is to answer:

  1. Is the candidate able to do the job effectively?
  2. Would the candidate fit within the culture of the organization?

You and the interviewer each have distinct purposes for the interview. So, interviewing is a two-way street. The interview is as helpful for you in finding out about the employer as it is helpful for the employer to find out about you.

Pre-Interview Research

Before your interview, learn what you can about the format of interview and the people you will be meeting, either by asking the person setting up your interview directly or by researching the organization online.

  • Will you first have a telephone screening interview with the recruiter?
  • Will you be interviewed on site or remotely?
  • How many people will be questioning you – one, two, or a panel?
  • What will be the duration of the interview?
  • Will they want you to give a presentation or take an assessment?
  • Are you going to be expected to have a meal with the interviewing team?

If possible, find out the interviewers’ names and job titles.  Most of this information will be available from the person who contacts you to schedule the interview – and don’t hesitate to ask if it is not provided. Remember, this is your interview, and the more you know beforehand, the more confident you will feel. Keep in mind that many employers require more than one interview as part of their hiring process.

In addition to learning what you can about the interview, research the company itself.  During interviews, a common question is “What do you know about our company?” You want to be prepared with information about the organization’s mission statement, their products and services, and even about their competition or current challenges.

Types of Interviews:

  • Telephone Interviews: Typically “screening” interviews to determine whether the company wants to bring you in for an in-person interview. Establish a good phone connection and a quiet place for your interview. The interviewer can’t see you, so it is important to speak clearly and to verbally communicate that you are interested in the position and company.
  • Video or Skype Interviews: Increasingly popular, particularly when you are interviewing in another state or country.  Ensure that you have a good internet connection, that your background looks professional and uncluttered, that there are no noise distractions, and that you look at the camera rather than the monitor so you are making “eye contact” as opposed to appearing to be looking down.
  • Group/Panel Interviews: When more than one person is interviewing you, introduce yourself to everyone. Regardless of who is asking you the question, engage each interviewer by making eye contact. Bring copies of your resume for each person.
  • On-Site Interviews: Interviews occurring at the company, especially if they are second round interviews, can be often a few hours long. Your visit may include a tour, lunch, the opportunity to meet potential co-workers, and interviews with multiple staff members and supervisors.

Interview Attire

Dressing appropriately for your interview is essential. Research the organization you are interviewing with to get a sense of employees’ normal dress code. However, even if the organization has a more casual dress code, it’s always better to be overdressed. You should dress as if you are giving an important presentation to a group of professionals. Remember, you are a professional, so make a professional first impression!

Professional interview attire includes:


  • Suits
  • Button-down dress shirts and dress pants
  • Ties
  • Dress shoes with matching dress socks
  • Dresses
  • Knee-length skirts
  • Blouses
  • Sweater with a blazer
  • Flats or low heels

Always wear clothes that are clean and wrinkle-free.


  • Trimmed facial hair
  • A simple, neat hairstyle

Jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Overall, it is important to project your true self, while not becoming overly distracting.

Interview Preparation

  • Research the organization(s) to learn the mission, philosophy, or products.  Determine how your skills, education and experience would be of value to the organization.
  • Research the names of the people on the hiring committee.
  • Practice your Bumper Sticker and/or Elevator Pitch as well as answers to the most commonly asked interview questions. Practice out loud. (see The “Elevator Pitch” and “Bumper Sticker”)
  • Plan a few questions you want to ask the interviewer.
  • Plan your schedule and route so that you arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your interview appointment.
  • Bring your portfolio, if appropriate, and extra copies of your resume.
  • Consider interviewing initially for a high volume of jobs to “practice” and gain confidence. Reflect on each interview afterward. In the best case, you could receive an offer which you can either accept or use for leverage if you get other offers, and in the worst case, you will decline the offer but you will still have expanded your network.


  • Poor personal appearance
  • Arriving late
  • Displaying a lack of interest
  • Over-aggressiveness
  • Displaying a lack of career goals
  • Vaguely describing skills, experience, education
  • Displaying nervous behaviors [crossing arms, tapping feet, biting fingernails, avoiding eye contact, etc.]
  • Displaying a lack of self-confidence
  • Over-emphasis on salary
  • Not following up via thank you communication
  • Being rude

Using The “STAR” Response To Sell Yourself In Interviews

A STAR response provides a logical approach to answering any interview question by using specific examples of your past successes.

The four steps are:

  1. S = Situation
    Describe a specific event/situation and provide enough detail for the interviewer to understand. The situation can be from a previous job, a volunteer experience, or any other relevant experience.
  1. T = TASK
    Describe the task, project or objective you completed.
  1. A = Action
    Describe the actions YOU took to complete the task, project or objective. Keep the focus on you, even when you are discussing a group project or effort.
  1. R = RESULT
    Describe the outcome: what happened, what you accomplished, what you learned.

Sample STAR response to: “Tell about a time you were responsible for a positive outcome.”

Situation: During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing various events.

Task: I noticed attendance at these events dropped by 30% over the past 3 years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.

Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go out to the local community businesses. I also included a rating sheet to collect feedback on our events and organized internal round table discussions to raise awareness of the issue with our employees.

Result: We utilized the wonderful ideas we received from the community, made our internal systems more efficient and visible and raised attendance by 18% the first year.

Additional Resources:

© 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement