FAQs

What is an interview?

What are the different ways of interviewing?

How is the interview process structured?

What types of questions will I be asked?

How can I prepare for an interview?

What is the STAR technique?

How can I be a successful interviewee?

I had a great interview, what happens next?

Featured Resources

GlassDoor

Learn the lastest questions employers have asked of students on Glassdoor!

interviewstream

Video record, view and rate your responses to practice interview questions using InterviewStream (new users must create an account with their Brandeis emails).  Interview sets are available for diverse fields including, business, non-profit, technology, environmental, journalism, lab research, marketing, museums, public health, public relations, social policy,  medical school and more.

spotlight

Browse interview tips by field using Spotlight on Careers, accessible via B.hired > Resources.

interview

Interviewing Effectively

InterviewSuite Expert Tips, which covers:

  • Key Questions - to learn what employers are really asking
  • Interview Tips - like what questions to ask the interviewer
  • Interesting Topics - like how to make the best first impression

Sample Questions to Answer

Sample Questions to Ask

Introduction to Interviewing


An interview is an opportunity to present your background, experience and skills to an interviewer whose goal is to evaluate your qualifications for the position and “fit” (shared values and common vision) with their organization. An interview also allows you to evaluate a potential supervisor and work environment.

You can become an effective interviewee by learning about interviews, how you can prepare, and how you can conduct yourself during and after the interview.  This page is designed to address interviews in which you are the interviewee; informational interviews, where you interview someone else, are addressed in How To: Network.

Interview mediums and approaches vary widely depending on the field, organization, position and interviewer.  In your job search, you may:

  • Interview in different ways or mediums: in-person, over the phone or via Skype
  • Experience different interview structure: single interviews, multi-tiered interviews, group interviews and presentations.
  • Encounter different types of interview questions: general, behavioral, or case

The career and organizational research you have done will help you identify what type of interview(s) you will experience.  Understanding the medium, structure and questions you will be encountering in your job or internship search will help you customize your strategy and preparation.

Interview Mediums

The most common ways in which you will be interviewing is in-person, over the phone or via Skype (video-conferencing).  Each medium has its advantages and disadvantages for which you can prepare.

In-person

Most employers want to meet you for a face-to-face interview if you seem to be a strong fit for a position on paper. In-person interviews may last from a half hour to a full day to help employers get a sense of your personality and style, as well as to be able to ask you about your qualifications, skills, and interests.

When meeting with more than one person at a time, answer questions by responding to everyone in the room. Acknowledge all of the interviewers by using a positive demeanor, relaxed, professional body language, and good eye contact.

If you meet with multiple interviewers back-to-back, know that each person will ask questions related to their own perspective and relationship to the position. There may also be some overlap in questions from one person to the next.  Back-to-back interviews can be tiring so be sure to keep up your energy, motivation, patience, and good humor so that the last interviewer has as positive an impression of you as the first.

Phone

More employers are using a short interview by telephone – usually about a half hour – to pre-screen applicants, after which select candidates are invited for on-site, in-person interviews.  But don’t let the phone fool you; phone interviews are indeed formal, professional conversations.

Find a quiet place to make your call and be sure that you will have uninterrupted service, especially if using a cell phone.  Hiatt offers students the use of two interview rooms with land lines for just this purpose.  Call the Hiatt front desk at (781) 736-3618 to reserve one.

In addition to technical difficulties, phone interviews can have other challenges.  For instance, you can’t see the interviewer(s), so you may lose some of the cues you can get from body language and facial expressions.  It also may be difficult to judge the meaning of silences over the phone.  Be patient; a silence may simply mean the interviewer is finishing her/his notes about your last answer before s/he asks the next question.

On the up side, because you can make a call from anywhere, there’s no need to worry about traffic or a stain on your shirt.  Plus, you can have notes and/or a web browser open in front of you for reference – just don’t type loudly.

Fun tip: If during practice interviews you find that your energy on a phone interview drags, consider dressing up and sitting in front of a mirror.  Even though the employer can’t see you, your confidence, smile and energy will come across in the tone and speed of your speech.

Skype or video-conferencing

If you are not able to meet an employer onsite (i.e., you are abroad, you can’t afford to travel, the employer can’t pay for your travel) you or an employer can request an interview via Skype or another video conferencing system.  This way of interviewing is similar to an in-person interview. Remember to keep your body language and facial expressions natural and congenial. Even though you are looking at a screen, try to maintain eye contact by looking at the interviewer’s image and the system’s camera, not over or beyond the screen.

The obvious advantage of video-conferencing over telephone interviews is that you are able to see the interviewer(s).  However, you may experience delays between the voice and visual transmissions. Speak a little more slowly than normal to make this delay less noticeable, and expect a pregnant pause after your answers, while the interviewer finishes listening to your answer and asks the next question. Also, try to limit rapid hand, head, and body movements, as they may appear blurry on the screen.

Interview Structures

Single interview

If the employer requires only one interview to make a hiring decision, this interview typically lasts one to two hours and will very likely take place at the organization’s offices or, in the case of long distances, be facilitated by video-conferencing.  One or two staff members with authority in the organization will likely conduct the interview.  Their questions will be substantive and explore your abilities, experience, work style, and interests.

Multi-tiered interviews

You may find that an employer will ask you to interview several times for a position before making a decision about your candidacy. Do not get discouraged if this is the case.   Each additional interview indicates that the employer is interested in you and that you are part of a shrinking group of candidates.

Below is an overview of the common steps in this process:

1st round interview

A first round interview may be over the phone; at the organization’s headquarters, branch, or worksite; on campus; or event at a career fair.  It is a screening interview and is usually conducted by a friendly, encouraging individual who is trained to follow a fairly structured but strategic line of general questioning to determine your fit for the position. His or her main task is to make a recommendation about your candidacy.

2nd round interview

A second round interview is a more in-depth conversation that is usually conducted at the place of employment and involves someone with authority to recommend hiring.  The interviewer may require you to respond to technical questions or discuss a case.  During this interview, you may meet with multiple employees and the length of the interview can range from one hour to a full day.

Keep in mind that you are being interviewed and observed throughout the time that you are visiting the organization, not only during the formal office interview. Remain professional at all times, even when you think you are no longer being interviewed, such as when greeting the receptionist and eating with some of the younger employees.  You are technically being interviewed until your departure.

3rd round interview

Occasionally an employer will ask you to return a third time for an additional meeting. The organization may be selecting between two finalists and want high-ranking managers or potential coworkers to participate in the final decision. Or, in the case of technical, consulting, or financial positions, there may be one more rigorous screening meeting.

In any case, a third interview will very likely provide the organization with the information it needs to make the hire.

Although the interview process can be tiring and stressful, remember that the organization is very interested in you as an employee. Maintain your professionalism, enthusiasm, and interest throughout the entire process and you’ll go far.

Group interviews

Employers use group interviews to better gauge how you work on a team.  Groups are often asked to tackle a problem, rank priorities or discuss an issue.  Consider the following tips:

  • Plan to speak up and articulate your opinion to the group.
  • Be careful not to dominate the conversation.
  • Actively listen to your fellow group members; make eye contact with whoever is speaking, nod, etc.
  • Solicit input from group members who have not yet spoken.
  • If you are confronted with a disagreeing opinion, address the conflict respectfully and explore the possibility of a solution or compromise.  If one cannot be found, politely agree to disagree.

Presentation

If you are applying to work in a position that requires presenting and teaching skills, an employer might ask you to do a sample presentation during your interview.  For example, you might be asked to present a 10-minute lesson for a teaching position or a sample social media campaign for a marketing position.  The greatest challenge in a presentation is prioritizing your time.  Practice your presentation ahead of time with others to make sure that you are able to share what is most important in the time allotted.

Question Types

Broadly speaking, there are three types of interview questions: general, behavioral and case.  Most interviewers ask a combination of these types of questions.

General questions are asked to get a broad sense of you and your background and may address your college experience, past work experience and interest in the position and/or organization.  For example:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you decide to seek a position with this organization?

Behavioral questions are skill-focused and are based on the philosophy that past experiences predict future behavior.  They are designed to elicit concrete examples of things you’ve done.  For example:

  • Describe a situation when you acted as part of a team.
  • Tell me about a time when you demonstrated your communication skills.

Case questions present you with a situation and require you to share how you would approach it.  They may be framed in an analytical, business structure or a “what if” scenario.  For example:

  • Your client is Motorola. The year is 1980. They just invented the cellular phone 3 years ago. They want you to estimate the market demand for cell phones over the next 30 years and tell them if there is a market for this invention.
  • It is the first day of class. You are writing something on the board and a paper wad hits you in the back. What would you do?  Later the same day, if all the students drop their pencils, what do you do?

For a more expansive list of sample questions, please visit Interview Questions.

Interview Preparation and Strategy

Research leads to success

Extensively research the interviewer(s), position, organization and field. Know exactly what skills the position will require and what characteristics the organization and field most value.

Practice makes perfect

Conduct a virtual practice interview using InterviewStream (new users will need to create an account with their Brandeis email), Hiatt's newest tool that allows you to conduct and record virtual mock interviews from any space with an internet connection and a webcam, and then assess your progress. Plus, consider attending one of Hiatt's practice interview days with an employer to practice your interviewing skills. 

Rishika"I used InterviewStream to prepare for my interviews with my target employer. I really recommend it to students, because it exposes flaws in your interview skills that you do not otherwise realize, allowing you to subsequently work on those flaws. It was extremely daunting at first, to build up the courage to use it because it is uncomfortable and sometimes even discouraging to watch yourself stutter and stumble during your answers. However, once I practiced interviewing on InterviewStream and became accustomed to watching myself, I improved drastically. I always recommend it to my friends who are now preparing for job." - Rishika Assomull '13

Responding to questions: STAR Technique

The characteristics you identified in your research directly translate into questions that will be asked at your interview. Anticipate the possible questions that you may be asked and prepare your answers.  Know yourself; understand and be confident in identifying and sharing your values, skills, interests. Prioritize those characteristics that directly relate to the specific position for which you are interviewing.

The most effective way to demonstrate these attributes in an interview is to share concrete examples.  The STAR technique provides a strategic framework to do so.

  • Situation – a brief set-up of the situation you are going to talk about
  • Task – an explanation of the task you had to complete or problem you had to solve
  • Action(s) – specific/detailed actions you took, focusing on the skills you used in this situation
  • Result – positive outcome from the example you shared; how did things turn out?

STAR example:

Question: Tell me about a time you initiated a project to meet an unmet need.

Answer:

Situation: I was a teaching assistant for a writing course, in which I was responsible for tutoring writing sections and grading.

Task: I noticed students were over-utilizing office hours for similar types of basic questions about specific assignments, readings, and group projects.

Action(s): After sharing my thoughts with the professor, I developed a supplemental guide of frequently asked questions, tips for group assignments, and examples of learning goals.  I distributed this guide to both the professor and students, and together we informed students that we could speak about these types of issues further during office hours.

Result: As a result, the professor and I experienced a decrease in student inquiries about these issues, which enabled us to focus on more in-depth conversations with students about course materials and special situations.  Students also expressed an appreciation for these results and the professor now uses this guide with each section.

If you will face case questions in your interview, practice is required to be effective.  Finance and consulting case preparation includes reviewing the Vault guides on case interviewing available via B.hired.  Case In Point by Marc Consentino is also recommended.  Create a case practice team to push yourself and others to become skilled case interviewers; you are stronger candidates together than you are alone.  Human services and education case practice may be done with classmates, faculty and mentors.

Consider scheduling a practice interview at Hiatt to learn and address your interviewing strengths and weaknesses.  A career counselor or professional can not only help you evaluate your research preparedness and examples, but also your tone and body language.

Ask Questions

Based on your research, compose questions to ask the interviewer about the job and organization.  Make sure that your questions:

  • Relate to the position and the organization/industry
  • Are appropriate to the interviewer’s level and position in the organization
  • Express your research and interest for the position/organization

Don’t ask questions that are:

  • Answered on the organization’s website
  • Personal (i.e., the interviewer’s salary, age, nationality, or schooling)
  • Whimsical or irrelevant

View sample questions that you can ask your interviewer.

Get the Details Right

Before the interview

  • Review your online presence.
  • Print extra copies of your resume to bring with you to your interview.
  • Ready a simple portfolio to hold your resumes, pen and notepad.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Engage in self-reflection.
  • Relax before going into the interview. Take deep breaths and focus on your skills, strengths and opportunity to share your story.
  • Turn off your cell phone before arriving at your interview location.  Do not text, email, surf the web or talk on the phone during the interview or even while waiting for the interview to start.
  • Plan your transportation to your interview and plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.

During the interview

  • Be mindful of your body language and posture.
  • Shake hands firmly and maintain eye contact.
  • Project enthusiasm even if the person or people conducting the interview do not.
  • Listen carefully to each question. When answering questions, pause in order to give yourself time to compose an answer that is concise but thoughtful. Politely ask clarification for questions that are unclear.
  • Answer questions in terms of your skills and accomplishments, following the STAR technique.
  • Speak in positive terms, avoiding negative comments about former employers or co-workers.
  • Avoid questions about salary and benefits for conversations that take place after you have been offered a position. Be sure to conduct research regarding current salary range.
  • Close the interview with a summary statement to reiterate the skills you have to offer and reaffirm your interest in the position.
  • Ask each interviewer you for a business card to assist you in sending a thank you email and/or card with accurate names, titles, and organization names.
  • Ask for a timeline regarding the hiring process.

After the interview

Follow-up the interview with a thank you letter.  This is a critical opportunity to restate your interest and qualifications and set you apart from other candidates.

  • Ask yourself:
    • What were my strengths in the interview?
    • What did not go as planned?
    • What can I do differently next time?
  • Conduct a "post-interview assessment" with a Hiatt counselor, friend or mentor to help improve your technique, interviewing skills, and confidence.
  • Follow-up with the interviewer if you have not received an update by the date the employer said you would receive one.
  • Consider how you would respond to a job offer.