UW-L Career ServicesJob Interviewing for the Experienced Professional

An interview is an exchange of information.  It is important to remember to leave the interview with as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision when the job offer is made.

BASIC GUIDELINES

  • Be prepared! Review information on the organization and the position well in advance of the interview. Be prepared to talk about your assets and how they relate to the organization and position.
  • Be comfortable discussing everything on your resume, some interviewers will use it as their only guide for the interview.
  • Practice! Have a friend ask you common interview questions.
  • Dress appropriately. A positive first impression gets the interview off to a good start. If you do not know what is appropriate dress, ask the employer what is appropriate dress for an interview with their organization. Many employers now have a business casual work environment; however, most prefer professional dress for interviews.
  • Utilize nonverbal communication to show your interest.
  • Be positive. Keep answers to questions positive and upbeat; do not dwell on negatives.
  • Use examples from professional work experience, projects, achievements, and community involvement. Interviewers often hear the same answers from several candidates, but the stories your tell are unique to you.
  • Listen attentively to the interviewer. If you do not understand a question, ask to have it restated.
  • Let the interviewer control the questions while you control the answers. Controlling the answers means that you will be deciding what to say and what examples to give as a result of your interview preparation.
  • If you do not know the answer to the question, don't be afraid to admit it.
  • If you think your answer may have been too short, ask the interviewer if you answered the question or if he or she would like additional details. If you think your answers are too long and the interviewer does not maintain eye contact with you, stop and ask if you are answering the question.
  • Be honest. Any information you give is subject to verification.
  • Being nervous is normal; denying it will make you more anxious. If you are interested in the position whether it is a promotional opportunity with your current employer or a new employer, you will be nervous. You will be making an important decision based on the interview. The interviewer is interested in getting to know you and as a rule, will try to relieve your anxiety.
  • At the conclusion of the interview, if you are still interested, politely reaffirm your interest in the position.

RESEARCH THE EMPLOYER

  • Don't expect the employer to educate you about what they do! Identify the organization's products or services, investigate its history and growth, and learn what you can about the positions for which you are applying. If you cannot find any specific information about the organization, then learn something about the industry or field.
  • Request a copy of the job description for the position you are considering. It will help you identify your strengths as they relate to the position.

QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED TO ANSWER

Many of the questions interviewers ask are included in this section. No two interviews or interviewers will be alike. Questions generally take three forms, situational which asks an applicant to respond to a given situation; observational where an applicant is asked to reflect upon the actions of a third party or conceptual where an applicant is asked about their personal philosophy or future goals. However, you should be prepared to answer the following questions in any interview, including the behavioral interview questions that follow in the next section.

  • Please give me an overview of your qualifications. This is the most frequently asked question in interviews. Always be prepared to summarize your background as it relates to the position for which you are interviewing. It is a wonderful opportunity to sell yourself and you should look forward to this question. Tell the interviewer where you plan to start. You may want to go back to high school if you feel it is relevant, or start with college. Briefly comment on items highlighted on your resume.
  • What are your career goals? This question tests whether you've determined your career goals, and whether your goals match what the organization has to offer. Sound clear and definite about your goals and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization.
  • Employers are concerned about loyalty and staff turnover. Emphasize the fact that you are being very thorough with your job search to assure that you find the right match.
  • Why do you want to work for our organization? This is your opportunity to demonstrate what you know about the organization from your research. Reasons might include the reputation of the organization or department in terms of products or service; the company's rapid growth, or positive information you have received from employees of the organization.
  • Why are you specifically interested in this position? Comment on the skills and experiences you possess that relate to the position. If it is a promotional opportunity, discuss why you are interested in the challenge and how you have prepared yourself for the additional responsibilities.
  • What are your strengths? Your strengths may be your leadership experience, your academic achievement, your career commitment, your relevant experience, or personal traits such as motivation and dependability. Don't be afraid to repeat or emphasize items on your resume or items that may have already been discussed in the interview.
  • What are some areas of expertise you feel you still need to develop as a professional? Comment on areas that you continue to improve upon such as your computer knowledge or your time management. If you obviously don't meet one of the qualifications for the position, address that issue and discuss how you will acquire that knowledge or skill.
  • Tell me what you learned from your previous work experiences. Be prepared to spend the majority of the interview on this topic. Be ready to give more detail on your responsibilities. Discuss what you learned and observed, and how you grew professionally. Give examples of what you accomplished. Relay positive feedback given to you by co-workers and supervisors.
  • Please discuss your personality strengths as they relate to this position. Make a list of 6-8 of your personality traits that you believe are assets. Write down experiences and examples that demonstrate these traits and be prepared to relay them in the interview.
  • What additional comments do you wish to make regarding your application? This question usually comes at the end of the interview. If there are important experiences or skills and abilities that you have not had the opportunity to discuss, mention them now. Encourage them to contact your references. Tell them how interested you are in the position.

BEHAVIOR-BASED/TARGETED INTERVIEWS

Some employers believe that the best predictor of future success is past success. In behavior-based interviews, you will constantly be asked to give examples or stories, to provide evidence that you have the skills required for the position. In fact, the interviewer will not continue until you have provided a specific example. Success in behavior-based interviews requires preparation and practice. You must be able to recall many experiences quickly, select the most appropriate one, and then describe it effectively. Create a list of 15-20 experiences that demonstrate a variety of your skills and abilities. Draw upon your college experiences, academic and extracurricular; volunteer and work experiences, and when appropriate, personal experiences. Practice telling about these experiences.  When answering behavior-based questions, be certain to answer the question completely. One way to do this is to follow the STAR acronym in planning and presenting your answers.

Situation or Task Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand.
Action you took Keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did--not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you achieved What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish?

Here is a list of sample behavior-based interview questions that may help you practice:

Teamwork/Cooperation

  • Please give me your best example of working cooperatively as a team member to accomplish an important goal. What was the goal or objective? What was your role in achieving this objective? To what extent did you interact with others on this project?
  • Describe a project you were responsible for that required interaction with people over a long period of time.
  • Describe a time when you contributed to a team's achievements.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.

Customer Orientation

  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to address an angry customer. What was the problem and what was the outcome? How would you assess your role in defusing the situation? 
  • Describe a service that you have provided or experienced that you believe represents a concern for the customer.

Creativity/Innovation

  • Describe the most significant or creative presentation/idea that you developed/implemented.
  • Can you give me an example of how you have been creative in completing your responsibilities?

Flexibility/Adaptability to Change/Continuous Learning/Development

  • Tell me about a decision you made while under pressure.
  • Give me an example of how you react in a pressure situation. How did the situation come about? How did you react? What made you decide to handle it that way? What effect, if any, did this have on your other responsibilities?
  • Describe a decision you made or a situation that you would have handled differently if you had to do it over again.
  • Tell me about a time when your supervisor/co-workers gave you feedback about your work/actions. What did you learn about yourself?
  • Give me an example of something you have done that was unique to further your own professional development in college.
  • Tell me about a time when you were asked to complete a difficult assignment even though the odds were against you. What did you learn from that experience?

Leadership/Initiative

  • Give me an example of a time when you went beyond the call of duty in order to get the job done.
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to approach things your way. What level was the person you had to persuade?
  • Describe a leadership situation that you would handle differently if you had to do it over again.
  • Tell me about a time when you reached out for additional responsibility.
  • Tell me about a project/suggestion that you initiated. Explain how you communicated the project/suggestion.
  • Give me an example of what you have done in your present/previous job that goes beyond what was required?
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Give me an example of something you've done in previous jobs that demonstrate your willingness to work.

Supports Diversity and Understands Related Issues

  • Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a wide variety of people by accepting/understanding their perspective.
  • Give me an example of something you have done to further your knowledge/understanding of diversity.
  • Tell me about a time that you successfully adapted to a culturally different environment.
  • Tell me about a time that you evaluated your own beliefs or opinions around issues or difference.

Honesty/Fairness/Integrity/Trust

  • Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem which challenged fairness or ethical issues.
  • Give me examples of how you have acted with integrity (walked your talk) in your job/work relationship.
  • Can you tell me about a time when you chose to trust someone? What was the outcome?

Planning/Organization/Goal Setting

  • Describe a time when you set high standards for the quality of your work.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • Are you better at working on many things at a time, or are you better at working on and getting results from a few specific things? Please give me two examples that illustrate this.
  • Describe one of you best accomplishments, including where the assignment came from, your plans in carrying it out, how you eventually did carry it out, and any obstacles you overcame.
  • Problem Solving/Judgment/Stress Management
  • Describe an instance when you had to think quickly to free yourself from a difficult situation.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give an example of a challenging problem that you are proud you solved.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.

Making Effective Decisions

  • Tell me about an experience in which you had a limited amount of time to make a difficult decision.
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year.
  • Tell me about a decision that you've made in the past that if you had it to do over, you would do differently.

Communicate Effectively

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.

TEACHER PERCEIVER INTERVIEW FOR EDUCATION CANDIDATES

The Teacher Perceiver Process is based on a twenty year study of teachers who stimulate students' learning. The process begins with a person who is concerned about identifying teachers who will truly be helpful to students. This person is referred to as the Teacher Perceiver Specialist. All questions are used with each candidate and the questions are asked in a prescribed manner. The Teacher Perceiver Specialist is encouraged to tape record the interview that takes approximately 45 minutes.

The Teacher Perceiver Themes are:

  • MISSION - Deep underlying belief that students can grow and attain self actualization. Goal to make a significant contribution to other people.
  • EMPATHY - Understanding of the state of mind of another person. Put ourselves into the other person's place.
  • RAPPORT DRIVE - Mutually favorable relationship with each student. Likes students and sees it as a necessary condition of learning.
  • INDIVIDUALIZED PERCEPTION - Thinks about the interests and needs of each student.
  • LISTENING - Spontaneously listens to others with responsiveness and acceptance.
  • INVESTMENT - Capacity to receive satisfaction from the growth of students.
  • INPUT DRIVE - Continually searching for ideas, materials, and experiences to use in helping students.
  • ACTIVATION - Capable of stimulating students to think, to respond, to feel--to learn.
  • INNOVATION - Willing to try new ideas and techniques.
  • GESTALT - Drive towards completeness - is uneasy until work is finished - tends toward personal perfectionism. Even though form and structure are important, the individual student is considered first.
  • OBJECTIVITY - Gets facts and understanding first - responds to the total situation.
  • FOCUS - Has models and goals - moving in a planned direction. Selects activities in terms of goals.
Sample Teacher Perceiver interview questions:
  • What do you want to accomplish as a teacher?
  • How do you go about finding out about students' attitudes and feelings about your class?
  • A fellow teacher offers you the following advice: "When you are teaching be sure to command the respect of your students immediately and all will go well." How do you feel about this?
  • How do you go about deciding what it is that should be taught in your class?
  • A parent comes to you and complains that what you are teaching his child is irrelevant to the child's needs. How would you respond?
  • What do you think provides you the greatest pleasure in teaching?
  • How do you go about finding what students are good at?
  • Do you try a lot of way-out teaching strategies, or do you try to perfect the approaches that work best for you? Explain your position.
  • Do you like to teach with an overall plan in mind for the year, or do you rather just teach some interesting things and let the process determine the results? Explain your position.
  • A student is doing poorly in class. The student tells you that you are the poorest teacher the student has ever met. What do you do?
  • If there were absolutely no restrictions placed upon you, what would you most want to do in life?

POSSIBLE QUESTIONS TO ASK

At some point in the interview, usually at the end, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. You should plan your questions in advance of the interview and perhaps write them down on index cards or a note pad to take with you.  Prepare more questions than you will be able to ask, assuming that some of them will be answered during the interview. Do not ask about salary in an initial interview. Wait for an employment offer to ask about salary and benefits. The following is a list of questions you may want to consider asking:
  • What would be the scope of my job responsibilities?
  • What major challenges and opportunities are facing this organization?
  • What do you believe are the major challenges of this job?
  • How are employees evaluated?
  • What forms of communication exist within the organization?
  • How would you describe the organizational structure?
  • Could you give me some additional information about your training programs/support of continuing education?
  • What skills do you think are important for your employees?
  • If I do my job well, where should I be after years with this organization?
  • How do you feel about community involvement?
  • Why have you chosen to pursue a career with this organization?
  • When do you expect to make a hiring decision?

It is possible that the interviewer will answer all of your questions through the course of the interview. If that happens, inform the interviewer that you had questions coming into the interview; however, he or she has done a wonderful job of providing information and at this time your questions have been answered.

At the conclusion of the interview, thank the interviewer and, if you still wish to be considered, sincerely reaffirm your interest in the position.