During the Interview

When You Arrive

  • Arrive for your interview at least 10 minutes early. Smile and be polite to receptionists or anyone who greets you. This is an important part of making a good first impression!
  • Know the interviewer's name and how to pronounce it. (Note that there may be multiple interviewers.) Also know the names of top management of the organization.
  • If you're unsure about when to shake hands and when to sit, follow the interviewer's lead. Use a firm grip when shaking hands. Smile. Introduce yourself using your first and last name (even though they know it).
  • Look your interviewer in the eye—don't gaze at the floor, ceiling, or papers on the table. Your non-verbal communication sends a message. Make it one of enthusiasm and confidence!
  • Wait for the interview to begin. Let the interviewer lead the conversation.

The Questions & Answers

  • Understand that it takes time to develop a rapport. Listen carefully to the questions. Ask for clarification if you need to. Don't be afraid of pauses or taking time to think. Some silence is ok (and likely feels longer to you than to them).
  • Answer questions as completely as you can. Emphasize your skills and how they relate to the position. Don't exaggerate or lie, but don't undersell your qualifications either. You have many talents to offer!
  • Give specific examples to illustrate your skills. Describe things you've done and how that made a difference for a coworker, classmate, organization, etc. Emphasize what you can do for this organization. (Some of the top traits employers looks for in a candidate are communication skills, leadership experience, and problem-solving or conflict-resolution abilities.)

Interview Strategies

  • Listen for clues the interviewer's questions or statements provide. They'll give you a sense of what skills and qualities matter most. Focus on your skills that match that focus.
  • You should ask questions too. Base them on your research about the position and organization, and ask the things you want to know about them. This will demonstrate your interest, and it'll help decide if this is a place you'd like to work. You are both being interviewed.
  • Don't apologize or offer excuses for shortcomings. Instead, emphasize your willingness to learn new things and develop these skills.
  • When asked questions about something negative (like a weakness or a mistake), don't avoid the topic. Choose what you share carefully, then focus on a positive aspect. For example, explain how you managed a challenge, what you learned from a mistake, or what you'd do differently next time. This leaves them seeing that you are self-aware and able to manage problems.
  • To a certain extent, you control the interview. Don't let the interviewer dominate it too much. Look for opportunities to insert accomplishment stories that highlight your skills and background. Prepare some of these in advance.
  • It's best to wait for a formal offer before discussing salary and benefits. Politely avoid this question if it comes up during the interview.
  • Consider bringing a portfolio that demonstrates your qualifications and accomplishments. This is a great interview tool for people in all career fields. Contact the CLA Career Services office for portfolio information.

Ending the Interview

  • Be alert to signals from the interviewer that it's time to end.
  • End with a statement that summarizes your strongest skills and enthusiasm for the position. Prepare this in advance.
  • As you finish, ask about future contact. For example, "What is the next step in the interviewing process?" or "What is your timeline for the rest of the hiring process?" Say "Thank you for your time and consideration" and that you look forward to hearing back from them.
  • Ask for a business card (so you can send a thank-you note). If you're being interviewed by more than one person, get cards from each person.