Academic Internships Office

The Interview

The resume and application get the interview, the interview gets the job. The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself to the employer. It is important to spend some dedicated time getting prepared for the interview. To be successful, the employer must be convinced that you are the best candidate for the position. You must be seen to be likable, qualified and competent. Every interview is different, but there are things you can do to prepare yourself and improve your chances.

It is strongly recommended that you attend an interview workshop or seminar to learn more about interview types and how to be prepared for each type; the types of questions that will be asked and the purpose of those questions.

Jump to: Interview Preparation | At the Interview | Interview Follow up

Interview Preparation

Know the Position

It is very important to know the job you are interviewing for very well. If you did not use the guides from this web site to prepare your application, go to the Application page and look at the Organizing Exercise. With the information from that exercise, and the information you have on the employer, you are ready to prepare for your interview.

Research the Organization

Find out all you can about its products, service clientele, locations, offices, divisions, company growth, prospects of growth for the future, the age of the company, persons in responsible positions, etc. Most of this is very likely to be on the employer's web page. Annual reports to stockholders, for publicly held companies, are another good resource. The Academic Internship Office or the Career Development Office may also be able to direct you to relevant resources. This kind of preparation will not only help you answer their questions wisely, it will stimulate some questions you can ask them.

Know Yourself

In addition to your scrutiny of the position and its requirements, you should also make a descriptive list of your values, strengths, "weaknesses," experiences, talents, ambitions, and your personal goals. List everything you can think of that this employer may be looking for in the candidates for this position. Taking a good look at these things, and others, will help you develop confidence. As you assess your strengths and weaknesses, be sure you have an accurate benchmark. What do professionals really expect as skilled or knowledgeable? Ask your faculty or someone you may know in the profession for an accurate description of employers' expectations of college students. When the employer asks, "Why should we hire you?" or "What can you do for us?" you will be prepared to answer with a positive, professional attitude. When you are asked to identify your "weaknesses" you will be able to represent them as opportunities for learning that you eagerly await.

Practice

This cannot be over emphasized. Though it may seem awkward to practice interviewing, this is the best way to reduce the anxiety that usually accompanies an interview experience. Ask family members or friends to ask you questions that will likely be asked during an interview. Plan the practice session as though you are going for the actual interview: dress appropriately, take your resume, do it in an office environment, set a start time. It might also be helpful to tape your practice sessions and play them back.

The Academic Internship Office or Career Services staff can act as an employer for a mock interview. You can use the feedback to improve your interview skills.

Think about questions you might be asked in the job interview. A list of questions most often asked in job interviews is available on the Common Interview Questions page. It is wise to respond to each of them as it will give you even more insight on what you know about yourself and the employer. It may also be a source for questions you may want to ask them. If you have studied the job and the employer well, questions will come to mind that you should jot down and take with you to the interview. Practice asking your questions in the mock interview as well.

Scheduling the Interview

Sometimes the interview time is set by the employer but if you are given the opportunity to choose the date and time, arrange a time that is convenient for you. Set it up so you will not be rushed or under pressure. Make a trip to the interview location ahead of time during the same time of day as the interview so you know the route and the time it takes to make the trip, where to park, etc. Then, be sure you are a little early, 10 to 15 minutes, so you can look around and get comfortable with the surroundings.

Back to top

At the Interview

Definition: An interview is a meeting of two or more people to provide and acquire information. e.g. News interviews; job interviews.

The Three Stages of an Interview

  1. Greeting. The employer greets you and welcomes you to the company. Make sure you have the company name and the interviewer's name and can pronounce it correctly. Be positive and friendly to everyone you meet. You shake hands and you are guided to the interview room and are introduced to any others who are part of this interview process. At this time you may offer a copy of your resume if they don't have it before them. This stage may be very short or, for a larger interview panel, could take several minutes.
  2. Body. This is the actual questioning process. There will be general questions about you, questions about your skills, experience, education, how you would handle the job assignments or how you may have handled situations in the past. They will ask you questions that are intended to determine how your personality will fit the work environment. They will want to know how your professional goals match the organization.
  3. Close. When they have asked all of their questions, they will ask you if you have any questions for them. Your answer should always be "Yes," even if the questions you came with have been answered. You can restate your questions with your understanding of the answer. Usually they will offer additional information on the question. You can also use this opportunity to summarize your most critical qualifications and how you match the organization and the position or ask if there is anything you can clarify. Thank them for the interview and if you are still interested in the position, indicate this. If it has not already been stated, ask what the next steps are or when they will be making a decision. Upon leaving, shake the interviewers’ hands and thank the interviewers for their time and the opportunity to speak with them. One of the interviewers will escort you out and close the interview session.
  4. Thank you. Your next step is to send a thank you note to the interview team through the primary contact, usually the lead person, of the interview panel. This note should be sent within 24 hours. Express your appreciation for the interviewer's time. If you are still interested in the job, indicate your interest and availability. The interview process is unfinished unless you send the thank you note.

Appearance

Your outward appearance is seen as an expression of your inner state of mind. Being poorly dressed for an interview shows a lack of good taste and an apathetic attitude. Normal everyday dress that you wear to class will not be the professional look the employer expects. If you really are a "professional in training," you should look the part. Being well groomed with good posture and poise is essential in presenting yourself as a young professional. Dress nicely, but conservatively, including jewelry. In other words, dress as though you want to be hired.

Appearance also includes your handshake, a sense of composure, and relaxed conversation. A firm handshake and smile are important. Be sure to speak distinctly and sit straight. These are intangible things, but they do convey confidence. Try to be calm or at least try to look comfortable.

Selling Yourself

You have done your "homework" and are prepared for the interview. Now relax and be confident in your qualifications and your knowledge of the employer. Be confident that you have attended to the details that set you up for a successful interview. You should be able to outline why you should be hired. The employer should clearly and completely understand your abilities that would be valuable to the organization. Do not try to bluff. Represent yourself accurately, honestly and positively. You may get some tough questions because employers may want to test your ability to handle stress. If you don't have an answer, say something that shows a willingness and desire to learn. Stay calm and show them your professional best.

Listening

Learning to listen is critical to a successful interview. If you miss the intent of the question, you will not respond appropriately and the employer will not get the information they need to choose you. Practice listening to questions and developing brief but meaningful and complete responses. Practice controlling your mind from wandering, developing control to focus on the speaker and listening to understand, not just to hear.

Vocabulary

As a student, you have developed your own jargon and ways of speaking. You must check that you leave your student jargon at home and engage in only professional conversation throughout the interview. Let them see how you will be as an employee, not how you are as a student. More than one student has lost the job offer because of inappropriate vocabulary.

Ask Questions

You are looking for the right organization, people and working environment. This is a two-way street. Be prepared to ask questions and promote a two-way dialogue. They are looking at you but you are also looking at them. It would be helpful to make a list of specific questions you have before going to the interview. Interviewers frequently judge you as much by the intelligence of your questions as by answers to their questions.

Questions about compensation are not a part of the interview and it is not appropriate to bring it up at this time. The appropriate time to ask about compensation and related matters is when the employer offers you the job.
See also: FAQ – "Should an internship be paid?"

Remember

  • You have done your research and know all you need to know to do well.
  • The interviewer is a nice person and is not "out to get you."
  • They want to know more about you and how you can fill their needs.
  • Speak clearly and sit up in an attentive posture.
  • Relax, be confident and trust yourself.

Back to top

Interview Follow up

Your next step is to send a thank you note to the interview team through the primary contact, usually the lead person, of the interview panel. This note should be sent within 24 hours. Express your appreciation for the interviewer's time. If you are still interested in the job, indicate your interest and availability. The interview process is unfinished unless you send the thank you note.

Back to top


PLU is committed to providing equal opportunity in employment and in education for all members of the University community without regard to an individual's race, color, creed, religion, gender, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other status protected by law.