Interviewing:

The Big Picture

Being hired into an organization involves several steps and might take days or weeks, depending on the size of the operation. Don’t be surprised if the process seems very long. To hiring managers, filling a position is one of many things on their plate and a few weeks can be a relatively short period to them.

For entry-level positions at most organizations, two rounds of interviews is the norm, but you may be asked to participate in more. Each round you pass through means you’re one of a shrinking number of candidates and that much closer to an offer.

After the hiring manager of an organization has reviewed your resume and cover letter and selected you as a candidate, they’ll set up an initial meeting, sometimes called a screening interview. This might be with someone from Human Resources, the department supervisor, or one or more members of a search committee.

When the organization contacts you to interview, you will typically be told whom you’ll meet with and the time frame. You might be asked to meet with one or more people in the same day, in a series of interviews. If possible, look up the interviewers’ names on the organization’s website or on LinkedIn. This could give you valuable insight into their roles in the organization, their professional background, and provide you with a photo.

The company will most likely be interviewing several people for the position. Once they’ve completed the first round, which can take some time, interviewers will discuss whom to bring back for a second round. At the close of the first interview, you can ask your primary interviewer what their time frame is or what the next steps will be.

If you are under serious consideration you will, at some point, have an interview with Human Resources. If this comes at the end, rather than the beginning, of the process, the organization may be considering making you an offer.

Preparing for the Interview

Now that you’re going in for an interview, the more you understand about the position, the organization, and the industry, the more positive an impression you’ll make. Surprisingly, not every candidate does organizational research. This is a key item and one that can make you stand out from the crowd, giving you an advantage over the other candidates.

  • Learn as much as you can about the organization. Dig into their website and any social media sites. Do an online search and look for recent or significant news. See if Hoovers, WetFeet, Businessweek, or Vault has any information about the organization. What is their mission? How many employees? How many locations? Are they thinking of opening new offices? Have they recently closed any? What services do they provide? Who are their main competitors? How has their stock price been doing?
  • Do you know someone who works for the organization? Talk to them; ask what it’s like to work there. Find out who the competitors are and learn something about them as well. What’s happening in the industry? Are there any significant changes taking place? How is their funding structured (fundraising, grants)? Are there any major opportunities, challenges, pending or recent legislation, etc.?

All of this isn’t as time-consuming as it may sound and can make a big impact. Remember, it will serve you well if the interviewer can picture you as a co-worker and begin to think about you as someone who is already a part of the team.

Reflect on Your Skills + the Job

Before applying, you thought about how your skills match the job requirements, but now it’s time for you to give this some additional thought. This will come up during the interview.

What skills and experience do you bring? Why are you interested in this job? Prepare some concrete examples to back up your statements. Each example should include four elements, known as the STAR technique:

S = Situation you’re describing
T = Task you were performing
A = Action you took
R = Result or positive outcome

Have you thought about some of the difficulties and challenges of the job? Think about the work environment and your preferred work style. If you’re asked about these matters, do you have good responses?

Word to the Wise:

Don’t rehearse answers; you don’t want to sound like you’re following a script. If you can be confident in your answers, the words will come naturally.

In short, know why you want to work for this organization, why you want to work in this role, and be able to articulate the reasons. Be prepared to explain how you are a good fit for the position.

Brush Up On Your Skills: Practice, Practice, Practice

There are several ways that the CCD can help you practice. First, use Big Interview, the online mock interview tool accessible through Handshake. Select your questions, record your answers, critique yourself, and email your video interview to friends, family, mentors, and advisors for feedback.

Our career counselors will be glad to help you sharpen your skills through one-on-one mock interviews. These sessions are intended for additional help with the give-and take of an interview or practice handling what might be difficult questions. Sign up for an appointment on Handshake. Alumni: Need a Handshake account? Request one.