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It is likely that every job opportunity that you apply for will include an interview process. While there are different types of interviews, a behavioral interview is the most common for entry level candidates and will involve a conversation between yourself (the candidate) and your interviewer(s). Questions will focus on examples of your past performance, current qualities and future goals in order to demonstrate your qualifications and work style. 

Before the Interview & Preparation

Preparation is key to success in an interview! Set yourself up for success by following the below steps to ensure you are confident and prepared going into your upcoming interview.  

Before the interview, you should fully understand the opportunity and job description. You should be able to ask specific questions about the role and its operations, including major projects, events, clients, or other relevant information.

Understand the company you are applying for, what they do, and any major developments within recent news. You may also want to conduct research on your interviewers to understand how they fit in to the company and your potential team. The company website, LinkedIn, and Google are all good options for conducting pre-interview research.  

Your resume got you the interview, so be confident in speaking about your experiences. Your resume will likely be used by your interviewer as a tool to prompt questions and dig deeper into your skills. Before your interview, review each section of your resume and be prepared to elaborate and provide details.

Think through the top 5-10 things you want the recruiter to know about you before you leave the interview. This may be major experiences, skills, class projects, attributes, or anything else that will indicate how you are a fit for the role. Practice talking about these items to avoid getting stuck at a curveball question.  

Most employers believe that past behaviors are the best predictor of future performance. In an interview, it is a better use of their time to ask you questions about past scenarios to evaluate how you may fit in with a future role. Example: “Tell me about a time you disagreed with a co-worker and what was the outcome of the situation?” View additional Common Interview Questions to practice.

Tips for answering interview questions:

  • Answer questions fully, but also be concise. Do not add unnecessary information (be mindful of this if you get nervous during interviews and practice!)
  • Don’t undersell yourself! Present your strengths confidently
  • Use “I” language – focus on YOU and your achievements specifically
  • Don’t make negative comments about previous employers, professors, teammates, coworkers, etc.
  • Provide enough background information for context, but don’t get lost in describing the story and lead-up
  • Utilize the STAR method (situation, task, action, results) to ensure you answer the question thoroughly

The best way to overcome nerves and get better at interviewing is by participating in interviews. Rather than using real opportunities, participate in a mock interview. We offer live mock interviews with a Career Advisor (in-person or via zoom) as well as self-recorded where you can review your own answers.

During the Interview

Your interview will likely be the first face-to-face impression you are making with several (if not all) of your interviewers. Put your best food forward to demonstrate your ability to function in a professional working environment.

Always bring a notebook, pen or pencil, and several copies of your resume. Try to organize into one bag or folder to avoid juggling multiple items.

Ensure you are well-groomed, clean, and dressed professionally. Your clothes should fit well, be wrinkle-free, and lint-free. Avoid strong fragrances, jeans, shorts, sweatpants, flip flops, and slippers. Unless otherwise indicated, always assume business professional is appropriate for an interview. Specifically, business professional dress will include:

  • Dress pants, slacks, skirts, or dresses
  • Button-up, blouse, blazer, cardigan, or suit jacket
  • Dress shoes, flats, heels, or dress boots

You may also want to consider the agenda when picking an outfit. Will you be touring the facility? Walking outside or long distances? Having lunch or coffee? 

Professionalism is one of the most important aspects that a recruiter will be evaluating in their candidate. Behaviors to demonstrate professionalism include:

  • Arrive early
  • Silence your cell phone/devices
  • Treat everyone with courtesy and politeness
  • Smile, firm handshake, consistent eye contact
  • Be mindful of your body language – employers pick up on both positive and negative feedback

You MUST highlight your skills and abilities in an interview. Many students are uncomfortable and do not want to brag, but the only way a recruiter will understand your capabilities is if you share details and examples with them. Think of it as sharing details about your previous accomplishments, rather than simply bragging about yourself.

Think about the strengths that employers will appreciate and consider how you have demonstrated these in the past (TIP: Check the job posting and preferred skills and qualifications sections!). Examples are the best way to demonstrate your strengths in an interview, so always try to provide one. 

  • Remember names and positions as you are introduced. Repeat them if this helps you!
  • Focus on what the person is saying, not on what you want to say next.
  • Take notes if needed – just ask the interviewer if they mind if you take notes before doing so.
  • Make eye contact, nod, smile. Much of active listening is simply letting the other person know that you are listening and making them feel that you are engaged and interested. 

Always ask several questions during your interview. This is one of the best indicators of genuine interest and is a valuable step for both you and your interviewer to learn more. Come prepared with more questions than you plan to ask, as your interviewer(s) will likely answer some of your questions during the interview.
When preparing questions, think about the information that would help you determine if this role is the right fit. You might want to ask questions about the culture, work-life balance, opportunity for team or individual work, etc. Below are some starting examples, but there are many more that you could ask:

  • What does a typical day look like for someone in this role?
  • How is success measured for this role?
  • What are the top qualities that a successful employee in this role will need?
  • Is this mostly individual work, or is there an opportunity to collaborate with others?
  • How much is this role exposed to other areas and projects?
  • Is there an opportunity for remote work on this team?
  • What is the typical schedule for this role?
  • What is the training process and timeline? 

If next steps have not already been clearly communicated, use this as your last question to the interviewers. Avoid assumptions that you will receive the offer, but a simple “what are the next steps?” and/or “what is the expected timeline for this search?” are appropriate questions. 

At the conclusion of the interview, shake the hand of each individual that interviewed you and thank them for their time and the opportunity. 

 After the Interview

Always send a “thank you” e-mail after your interview. Thank each interviewer for their time, reference some specific items you discussed during your time with that person, reference the job as discussed and how your experience/skills will relate and fit, and finally show interest in next steps/job offer.

Connect with your interviewers on LinkedIn if you have not already. This will allow you to keep in touch and demonstrate interest in the role and team. Be sure to interact with their posts (like, comment, repost) to maintain that connection. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) About Interviewing: 

Honor your commitment with the first company you accepted to interview with and explain to your top choice that you are very excited for the opportunity to meet with them but you already have a commitment on that particular day or time. Chances are they will work with you on scheduling and will respect your honesty and commitment (these are probably characteristics they will look for in future hires).

You may be less prepared for the interviews than you think. If you feel you followed the preparation steps to a tee, then perhaps you need to brush up on your interviewing skills. Return to the “Before the Interview & Preparation” section to find more resources on prep. The more you practice the more comfortable you will be.

Do not ask about salary/benefits. If the employer brings this up, be prepared with a thoughtful answer. Check out resources such as Glassdoor and Pamplin Salary Data, or meet with a Career Advisor to discuss appropriate salary ranges. If you have not done any research, indicate that you are open to discussion, and do not throw out numbers as this could affect your candidacy. 

Communicate as early and as transparently as possible. If you have decided to accept another position, reach out ASAP to let your recruiter know that you will no longer be moving forward. Be sure to thank them for their time and connect on LinkedIn to maintain the connection.

An interview over a meal is still an interview – dress professionally, bring your resume, notebook and pen. Avoid ordering overly expensive items and follow queues from your interviewer as to what type of meal you should order (appetizers, dessert, etc.).

An interview in this format is a great opportunity for you to get to know the company representatives in a less formal environment. Take advantage of this by asking a lot of questions, and engaging in non-work conversation if time allows. Some examples of non-work conversation topics might be asking about the area that they live/where the company is located, if they are a Virginia Tech alumni, what they like to do in their free-time, etc. 

First round screening conversations typically happen over the phone or virtually and will include high-level behavioral questions. A final round interview is often with a hiring manager, search committee, and/or potential team members or managers. Be prepared for more in-depth questions about the role and your relevant skills. They may also ask scenario-based questions to gauge how you may handle certain situations on the job.

It is likely that you will be interviewed by different people for each round. If this is the case, it is perfectly fine to repeat examples and accomplishments. You should sell yourself to each interviewer individually, and do not assume they have information from any previous interviews you have conducted with others. 

Virtual interviews will differ from in-person iterviews in that it will be more concise. Zoom eliminates the greeting at the door, the walk to the interview room, and handshakes with introductions. You will need to ensure you appear engaged during the entirety of the interview to make up for this difference. You can do so by:

  • Finding a neutral background with no distractions
  • Sitting still in front of the camera.
  • Use your laptop or computer, NOT a phone
  • Make eye contact with camera – avoid looking off screen; Be sure your camera is as close to eye level as possible
  • Smiling and engaging in small-talk; Don’t appear too robotic, this is still a chance for them to learn your personality

A virtual interview also offers some benefits. You can keep notes next to you during the interview and reference them throughout your conversation. A good tip is to keep your notes on the same screen as your video so you maintain “eye contact” even while checking notes.

TIP: Virginia Tech offers on-campus space for students who have virtual interviews. See more details here: On-Campus Virtual Interview Space