Interview & Follow-Up

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Different Types of Interviews

As you will see below, there are many different types of interviews. Once you are selected for an interview, you may experience one or more of the situations described below. When you schedule an interview, try to get as much information as possible about whom you will be meeting. Note that it is rare to have only one interview prior to a job offer. Most employers will bring back a candidate a number of times to be sure a potential employee will fit into the company culture.

The USC Career Center provides multiple resources to prepare for interviewing including our Mock Interview Module and Case Interview Interactive, both available through the Resources section of connectSC. These on-line tools provide students with 24/7 access to interactive interview practice opportunities. Career Center staff also provide one-on-one mock interviews.  To schedule an in-person mock interview, please schedule an appointment.

Traditional Face-to-Face Interview

  • Most interviews are face-to-face. The most traditional is a one-on-one conversation.
  • Your focus should be on the person asking questions. Maintain eye contact, listen and respond once a question has been asked. Don’t interrupt the interviewer.
  • Your goal is to establish rapport with the interviewer and show them that your qualifications will benefit their organization.

Panel/Committee Interview

  • In this situation, there is more than one interviewer. Typically, three to ten members of a panel may conduct this part of the selection process. This is your chance to put your group management and group presentation skills on display.
  • As quickly as possible, try to ‘read’ the various personality types of each interviewer and adjust to them. Find a way to connect with each interviewer.
  • Remember to take your time in responding to questions. Maintain primary eye contact with the panel member who asked the question, but also seek eye contact with other members of the panel as you give your response.

Behavioral Interview

  • The basic premise behind this type of interview is that your past behavior is the best predictor of your future actions. These types of questions may be asked in any interview format—telephone, panel or one-on-one.
  • If the employer asks behavior-oriented questions, they are no longer asking hypothetical questions but are now asking questions that must be answered based on facts.
  • With a behavioral question, the interviewer is looking for results, not just an activity list. They are listening for names, dates, places, the outcome and especially what your role was in achieving that outcome.
  • This type of question generally starts with the words “Give me an example of” or “Tell me about a time when”
  • See the “Behavioral Interviews” section below for additional tips

Case Interview

  • In some interviews you may be asked to demonstrate your problem-solving skills. The interviewer will outline a situation or provide you with a case study and ask you to formulate a plan that deals with the problem.
  • You do not have to come up with the ultimate solution. The interviewers are looking for how you apply your knowledge and skills to a real-life situation. Speak and reason aloud so interviewers have a full understanding of your thought process.
  • Before answering a case interview question, be prepared to ask the employer numerous questions for clarity and informational purposes. Most employers will provide responses that could result in additional inquiries.
  • The more you are able to analyze and dissect the case study, the more you will likely impress your interviewer.
  • This is the only interview for which it is acceptable, even encouraged, to bring a pad of paper and pencil. Most interviewers will allow you to take notes and jot down thoughts as you work through the case.
  • Students can find a detailed guide to effective case interviewing techniques through the Vault Guides in the connectSC “Resources” section.
  • To help students prepare for case interviews, the Career Center provides access to Case Interview Interactive, an on-line resource in the connectSC “Resources” section.

Telephone Interview

  • Many organizations will conduct interviews by telephone to narrow a field of candidates. Telephone interviews may also be used as a preliminary interview for candidates who live far away from the job site.
  • It is important to treat this interview as you would a face-to-face connection. Arrange for a quiet space and time to schedule the conversation. Clear a work surface to minimize distractions.
  • Focus on the conversation. Listen to the questions carefully before you answer. Since your voice is key, convey energy with inflection in your voice.
  • Have a copy of your resume and the job description nearby as a reference.
  • Avoid using a phone with call waiting. You do not want to be interrupted during a phone interview.
  • Try to use a landline phone or a cell phone that is not prone to dropping calls.

Group Interview

  • A group interview is usually designed to uncover the leadership potential of prospective managers and employees who will be dealing with customers.
  • The front-runner candidates are gathered together in an informal, discussion type interview. A subject is introduced and the interviewer will start off the discussion.
  • The goal of the group interview is to see how you interact with others and how you use your knowledge and reasoning to influence others.

Lunch/Dinner Interview

  • The same rules apply at a meal as those in an office. The setting may be more casual, but remember that it is a business meal and you are being watched carefully.
  • Use the interview to develop common ground with your interviewer. Follow his/her lead in both selection of food and etiquette.
  • Avoid messy foods and do not drink alcohol at any point in this part of the interview process.
  • See the online Career Center tip sheet “The Interview—Etiquette” for additional tips.

Stress Interview

  • This form of interview was more common in sales positions and is rare today. However, you should be aware of the signals. The stress interview is usually a deliberate attempt to see how you handle yourself under pressure.
  • The interviewer may be sarcastic or argumentative, or may keep you waiting. Do not take it personally. Calmly answer each question. Ask for clarification if you need it and never rush into an answer.
  • The interviewer may also lapse into silence at some point during the questioning. This may be an attempt to unnerve you. Sit silently until the interviewer resumes the questions. If a minute goes by, ask if he/she needs clarification of your last comment.

Preparation

Preparation is definitely the key to a successful interview. Most interviewers will make a decision about you in the first 30 seconds of the interview. Your level of professionalism and the mannerisms you exude are very important throughout the interview process. The way you enter a room, the clothes and accessories you wear, the way you shake hands, and your tone of voice all create an impression.

Researching the company as well as networking with any contacts there will help organize your efforts as you prepare to meet company representatives. What should you do in the 24 hours before your interview? Here are a few last minute tips to help you get yourself together before the interview.

The Day Before

  1. Get plenty of sleep. Refrain from staying up too late or partying. Alcohol and smoke aromas linger. You want to impress the interviewer.
  2. If you are not sure where the interview is taking place, do a practice run the night before the interview. Check the gas tank or the bus schedule to minimize delays on the day of the interview.
  3. Review your organization research and your resume. Make notes on the skills you acquired in each job or activity. Come up with a short list of why your skills and experience match the position. Prepare a small list of questions for the employer. If you have a portfolio of your work, mark relevant pages to refer to during the interview. Think about what makes you stand out from other job candidates.
  4. Lay out your clothes. Bring extra copies of your resume, other application materials, paper and a pen. Use a professional portfolio or bag to carry your materials.
  5. Wear professional attire in accordance with your gender expression
                Overall suggestions:
    • Dress in a dark or neutral color suit, dress shoes and neutral hosiery.
    • Keep make-up as natural as possible. Avoid flashy or bright nail polish.
    • Minimize jewelry: leave the nose ring and tongue jewelry at home.
    • Wear freshly pressed clothing and polished shoes.
    • Hair should be neat, clean and trimmed.
    • Keep nails manicured.

Interview Day

  • Eat a high-protein, high-carbohydrate breakfast to boost your energy.
  • Review your resume and notes.
  • Practice answering potential questions. This will help you feel comfortable with the process.
  • Read the newspaper or check the Internet to be prepared for the “ice breaking” small talk around the day’s events.
  • Schedule your time to arrive at the interview location ten to fifteen minutes prior to your scheduled interview. You might want to check the traffic conditions to help you plan your commute.
  • Avoid perfume/cologne and smoking before the interview.
  • Carry a small portfolio to hold your resume and a pen.
  • Do not wear your outerwear into the interview. Overcoats should be taken off before you go into the interview.
  • Do not wear sunglasses during the interview.

Ten Minutes Before

  1. Arrive with time to stop by the restroom for any last-minute touch-ups. Check for animal hair, shoulder flakes, and static cling. If you get sweaty palms, this is a good time to wash and dry your hands.
  2. Be courteous to all support staff including the security guard. You never know who is providing input for the selection process.
  3. While you are waiting for the interview to begin, people watch and pick up clues to office culture. Observe how people dress and interact with one another. How diverse is the workforce? Will you feel comfortable working here?
  4. Turn off your cell phone alarms prior to the interview.
  5. Still nervous? Try taking slow, deep breaths to help you relax.

During the Interview

  1. A firm brief handshake with eye contact and a smile is important to start the meeting.
  2. Wait to be seated and sit in the chair in a straight position.
  3. Try not to convey nervousness. Playing with items on a desk, swinging legs, or cracking knuckles will distract from your presentation.
  4. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s).
  5. Do not interrupt the interviewer. Listen to the questions carefully and do not respond until the question is asked.
  6. Speak with confidence and enthusiasm.
  7. If you do not know an answer to a question, do not pretend that you do.
  8. Take your time answering questions; be thoughtful in your answers.
  9. Remember to ask them what the next step is and when you can expect to hear from them.
  10. Be yourself!
  11. At the end of the interview ask for business cards.

Things to Avoid

  1. Do not take notes during an interview as it prevents you from focusing on your interviewer.
  2. Do not welcome yourself to the interviewer’s desk space by placing your portfolio on the desk. It is best to keep it on your lap at all times.
  3. Do not chew gum or breath mints during the interview.
  4. Do not listen in on telephone conversations or read or inspect documents on an interviewer’s desk.
  5. If someone enters the office during the interview, you do not need to stand. It is only appropriate to stand if you are introduced to the person who has entered the room.
  6. Do not call an interviewer “sir” or “madam.” Use the interviewer’s name in the interview, but do not overdo it.
  7. Do not criticize others, including past employers or associates.
  8. Do not give one- or two-word answers. It is best to develop answers that use your personal and professional history to prove how well you match the profile of the ideal candidate. To do this, find a way to make small stories, narratives, and examples for each of the possible questions that you might be asked.
  9. Remember not to overpower the interview.
  10. Do not use profanity, even if the interviewer does.
  11. Do not ask “Will I get the job?”
  12. Do not discuss salary until later in the process.
  13. Sharing jokes or being overly humorous during an interview could cast doubt on the seriousness of your candidacy. You should be reserved, because after all, the interview process is formal.

After the Interview

  1. Take some time to write down some impressions of the interview. List the names of the people you met. Did you forget to mention something about your background that you would like to include in a thank-you note?
  2. Within 24 hours of completing your interview, write a thank-you note or e-mail to the people you met.
  3. Evaluate the interview. What questions were most difficult? Make notes for yourself about how you can improve your interviewing skills before the next interview.
  4. If you still have not heard from the company by the date they gave you, go ahead and contact them.

What Will They Ask?

Typical Questions Asked by Employers

  • An interview is a dialogue. It is an opportunity for you and the interviewer to learn more about each other and is not about winning the position. Focus on creating a relationship based on rapport, and on understanding and addressing the potential employer’s concerns. You will probably be observed on how you react to certain questions and how you are able to “think on your feet”. Memorizing questions and answers is not the best way to impress a prospective employer. However, your preparation is essential to answer the common questions listed below.

General Tips on How to Answer Questions

Think about each question before answering. Consider what information the question is really probing you for. Pausing a bit will give you time to take a deep breath, relax and collect your thoughts. Remember, the key is to listen to what the employer is asking and to answer the questions thoughtfully and succinctly.

What They May Ask

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work for this organization?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What do you know about our products/services?
  • Why did you choose your particular field of study?
  • There are thousands of possible careers. Why do you want to follow this particular career path?
  • Why did you choose USC?
  • What distinguishes you from other candidates?
  • What job-related skills have you developed?
  • How does your education relate to this job?
  • Which classes in your major did you like best? Least? Why?
  • What motivates you most in a job?
  • Describe how you handle stress. Give me an example.
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • Give me an example of a situation in which you worked through a problem to find a solution.
  • What kind of supervision gets the best results from you?
  • Do you prefer working with others or alone?
  • What is your experience working on a team (work or school)?
  • What kind of job do you expect to hold five years from now? In ten years?
  • What are your career goals—both short-term and long-term?
    • Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
  • Do you think you have achieved what you wanted to?
  • Describe your perfect job.
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
  • What personal development strategies have you used to overcome any of your weaknesses?
  • Discuss two accomplishments from your college experiences.
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • How do you feel about working overtime?
  • Are you willing to travel?
  • Are you open to relocation?

What They Should Not Ask

  • Are you married?
  • When do you plan to start a family?
  • What race are you?
  • What is your national origin?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your religion?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • What type of military discharge did you receive?
  • What is your maiden name?

What You Should Ask

  • Can you tell me more about the structure of your training program?
  • What challenges are currently facing your organization/industry?
  • What kind of training would I be given for this position?
  • What qualities are you seeking in the person for this job?
  • Tell me about the type of projects past employees/interns have participated in.
  • Is this job an addition to staff or a replacement of a past employee?
  • Tell me about the immediate projects the person coming into this job will be responsible for.
  • What attracted you to (organization name you are interviewing for)?
  • What are the things you like most about working here?
  • What are the metrics the company/group uses to measure performance?
  • How do you define success?
  • What exciting or challenging directions do you anticipate over the next few years?
  • How do you measure an individual’s success in your organization?
  • What is the next step?
  • When will you make your selection?

What You Should Not Ask

  • What does your company do?
  • What can your company do for me?
  • What is the salary?
  • What types of benefits do you offer?
  • How much time do I get for vacation?
  • How much is the signing bonus?

Behavioral Interviews

What is a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral interview questions have become more and more popular over the last few years. Many of the employers that recruit at USC use a combination of behavioral and traditional interview questions to select students for internships and full-time jobs. The method of behavior-based interviewing is a way to screen candidates and get more tangible information from potential hires. The basic premise behind this type of interview is that your past behavior is the best predictor of your future performance and actions in the workplace. These types of questions may be asked in any interview format—telephone, panel or one-on-one. You should be prepared to answer a few behavioral-based questions during your interview.

What Employers are Looking for in a Behavioral Interview

Employers use behavioral interview questions as a gauge to determine your actions in the workplace. When an employer asks a behavior-oriented question, they are no longer asking hypothetical questions and therefore expect specific and detailed answers based on facts. In other words, the interviewer is looking for results, not just an activity list. They are listening for specifics, such as names, dates, places, the outcome and most importantly, your role in achieving that outcome.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Most behavioral interview questions begin with the words, “Give me an example of …” or “Tell me about a time when …” or “Describe a situation where …”.  Some sample questions you might expect include:

  • Tell me about a time when you succeeded as part of a team, and give specific examples.
  • Give me an example of a time when you failed.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to achieve it.
  • Describe your plan of action to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about the type of people you have a hard time dealing with.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to do multiple things at the same time? How did you handle it?
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Describe a situation where you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you resolve the issue?
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a challenging assignment you worked on and describe how you completed the assignment.
  • What are three successful leadership qualities you think are important? How have you demonstrated these qualities in different situations?
  • Tell me about a recommendation you had to improve a business or organization process. How did you move that idea forward?

How To Prepare For A Behavioral Interview

In anticipation of a behavioral interview, we suggest you be prepared to discuss three to five accomplishments or projects. Reflect on these occasions and know all the details in the event that the interviewer asks follow up questions for clarification. Oftentimes, one scenario can answer various behavioral questions. For example, the project in which you succeeded as part of a team could also be the time when you solved a complex problem. Feel free to use the same example to answer different behavioral questions. However, do not use only one example throughout an entire interview. Utilizing examples from various facets of your life—from academic to professional to student leadership/community service—allows you to appear better rounded and three-dimensional to the employer during the interview process Most behavioral interview questions come directly from the job description. Take note of the types of skills the employer lists as qualifications or requirements in a job posting. Most likely, the interviewer will ask questions that directly link to those expectations.

The STAR Method

In answering behavioral questions, consider using the popular “STAR” method. Most people find the “STAR” method helpful because it helps them organize their answers. “STAR” is an acronym which stands for:

  • The Situation (be specific)
  • Your Task/Role in the project
  • The Actions you took
  • The Results, i.e. what happened (the positive accomplishment)

There will be instances when interviewers want to know about your failures or projects you were less successful with (i.e. “Tell me about a time when you failed”). Should this occur, make sure to include a response that signifies what you learned from the failure and how your behavior has changed AND been applied to other experiences. This extra step helps emphasize your willingness to learn and change while demonstrating your initiative.

Mock Interview Module on connectSC

To sharpen your inteviewing skills, especially if it has been a while since your last interview, you can utilize the Mock Interview module on connectSC.  Log in to connectSC and click on “Resources.”  You will see ‘Mock Interview’ in the drop down box and as long as you have a laptop or a PC equipped with a camera or a webcam, you can record your mock interview to see how you interview.  If you are not able to use the module, you can practice answering questions in the mirror or with friends.  Additionally, you can record yourself answering and speaking.  You can hear if you say “um” or “you know,” check you rate of speech and listen for voice inflections that show engagement for the position.

Thank-You Notes

After each interview, ask for a business card.  Once you have left the organization, take a minute to sit down and make a few notes about the experience. This will help you customize your thank you note to each individual interviewer. Many recruiting days include multiple interviews. You do not want to send a template thank you note to everyone you interviewed with; make it personal. Your thank you note should be timely and sent within 24 hours of the interview.

If you are concerned about the legibility of your handwriting, you can type a note on resume stock paper. If you are confident in your handwriting use a note card. After each interview, ask for a business card. Once you have left the organization, take a minute to sit down and make a few notes about the experience. This will help you customize each thank-you note to each individual interviewer. Many recruiting days include multiple interviews. You do not want to send a template thank-you note to all. A thank you note gives you the additional opportunity to reinforce a point from the interview or follow up on a question you were not able to answer during the interview. A thank you note should be timely and sent within 48 hours of the interview.

Thank-You Note Checklist

  • Keep it to 3-5 sentences.
  • Thank the interviewer first!
  • Express enthusiasm.
  • Reinforce an idea or address any unresolved questions.
  • Personalize it. Highlight a key point from your interview that will make the interviewer remember you.
  • Reiterate your expertise and interest.
  • Check for spelling and punctuation errors.

Example:

February 13, XXXX
Dear Ms. Jobs,
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you yesterday. I enjoyed talking with you and Mr. Troutman about the future of Heartland Candies and my possible future there. The visit has increased my interest in the marketing position we discussed and assured me of my ability to provide you with an immediate contribution.
Thanks again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sincerely,
Tommy Trojan

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