201 Alvarez College Union ♦ email@example.com
davidson.edu/careers ♦ 704-894-2132
The Purpose of Interviews
The purpose of an interview is two-fold: to market your skills and
relevant experience to the interviewer and to evaluate the organization's
appropriateness for you. You accomplish this by showing the
interviewer that you have the ability, communication skills, personality,
growth potential, maturity, and intelligence to do a good job for that
For many, the interview causes some degree of nervousness. This is
normal; however, excessive nervousness may work against you. Others
approach interviews with little enthusiasm and virtually no preparation.
A laissez-faire attitude can be just as detrimental as excessive panic.
There are many different types of interviews and interview questions.
Use this guide to prepare on your own or with other students, but also
make time to meet with Career Development staff for mock interviews
Preparing for an Interview
Preparation is an essential part of a successful interview. Taking the time
to research a company well and practice interviewing with a specific job
in mind is very helpful. This section will help you to consider the things
that need to happen before you arrive for your interview day. It is
helpful to have at least one or two mock interviews prior to your actual
PRACTICE THROUGH MOCK INTERVIEWS
Mock Interviews with Center for Career Development Advisors
These may be scheduled through the Center for Career Development at
704-894-2132 and are typically held during the common hour. Time
slots fill up quickly so schedule your practice interview early.
Mock Interviews with Davidson Alumni & Parents Through the Davidson Career Advisor Network (DCAN)
More than 750 Davidson alumni and parents have signed up through the Davidson Career Advisor Network
(DCAN) to help you practice for your upcoming interview. This is an excellent opportunity to prepare with
industry insiders who have dedicated their time to helping you achieve success in landing an internship, job or
entrance in to graduate school.
• Go to the Center for Career Development’s website at www.davidson.edu/careers
• To access DCAN click on “Students” > “Networking” > “Davidson Career Advisor Network”
If you are not able to schedule a mock interview, you will find it helpful to use the interviewing preparation tools in
Interview Stream, an online tool that allows you to practice your interviewing skills through your laptop and a
webcam. Using the system you can set up interview questions and record your answers for an easy self-assessment.
• Go to the Center for Career Development’s website at www.davidson.edu/careers
• To access Davidson’s InterviewStream account click on “Students” > “Online Resources”
In This Guide
The Purpose of Interviews
Preparing for an Interview
Practice, Research, Dressing
Properly, What to Bring
Nonverbal and Verbal
In-Person, Skype, Telephone
Case, Screening, Second
Round, Meal, Group, Team,
Employer Fit, Experience,
Questions, Questions to Ask
After the Interview
What If They Don’t Contact
Sample Thank You Notes
Some might consider going on interviews with companies for which they are less interested in working just for
extra interview practice. Whatever good this practice might do is far outweighed by the bad that can come if the
interviewer senses that you are not really interested in the position. In the end, you may be taking a spot from
another student who is more interested in the position or hurting your chances for a future position with that
company. You should not schedule interviews with organizations “just for practice.”
Before the interview, you will want to prepare by researching the position, organization and industry. The kinds of
things you should know about the organization include:
• How long has the organization existed? !
• What services does it provide or what products does it make? (Even nonprofit organizations serve people
through education, lobbying efforts, publications, etc.)
• Who are the organization’s major competitors?!
• What divisions or subsidiaries exist?!
• What is the parent company? (If you will be working in a division of the organization, what is the role of
that division, and how does it relate to the parent organization?
• What geographic areas are covered?! Does the company have any international operations?
• How many people are employed by the company?!
• What are the company's assets and earnings?!
• What are the organization’s mission, vision, and values statements?
• What are the company’s strategic goals, special projects and new developments?
There are TWO categories of information you should research, organization profiles and recent news:
Whenever possible, do not rely solely on written and/or online information about the employer. If you have
personal contacts within a company, connect with them before the interview to learn more about the company and
its culture. Davidson alumni within an organization may also be able to give you some helpful tips.
• Research the Organization's Web Site - but don't
depend solely on what the company tells you.
• LinkedIn Company Profiles
• Hoover’s Online - Hoover's provides very brief
Company Capsules on over 10,000 companies, both
public and private.
• Vault Guides - FREE, downloadable, book-length
guides to a handful of companies, mostly in finance and
• GuideStar.org and Idealist.org – Provides information
and financial data on over 600,000 nonprofit
• SEC Filings - The Securities and Exchange Commission
requires all publicly owned companies to file certain
reports. TIP: search for the company's "10K" reports.
• PR Newswire
To obtain current news releases
To obtain business news and
• Nonprofit.alltop.com – To
obtain information about news in
• Organization’s Social Media
Accounts, especially Facebook
DRESSING FOR THE INTERVIEW
The first thing an employer will notice when meeting you is the way you present yourself. Though an
organization’s culture will vary, the importance of professional attire cannot be overstated. By dressing
appropriately, you demonstrate not only respect for the interviewer, but a larger understanding of professional
etiquette. Here are some simple guidelines to keep in mind:
• Classic suits in darker colors are best for conservative industries. More creative industries may allow a little
more flexibility. Stay away from anything that could distract the interviewer.
• Women, wear a closed-toe pump with a 1 or 2 inch heel. The conservative approach recommends that you
wear hose, even with a pantsuit.
• Avoid flashy attire, hairstyles, and accessories in any interview. Hair, make-up and jewelry should be classic
• Hair should not be distracting to an interviewer. Your hair should be away your face and not in your eyes,
played with, or constantly hand-groomed during an interview. If you hair is long and would cause any of
these problems, pull it back, put it up, or cut it.
• If you do have a beard or mustache, make sure it is well trimmed. Goatees, "5 day stubble" and long
sideburns are not appropriate for most interviewing situations.
• Perfumes and colognes can be distracting, so play it safe and avoid
• Be sure that you look well groomed and have good
hygiene. Clothes should be tailored to fit well but not tight or
seductive. Shoes should be well polished. The rule of thumb is to
dress one step more professionally than what would be worn daily
on the job. When in doubt, err on the side of professionalism – wear
PREPARING YOUR MATERIALS
You will need to take a leather folder-style portfolio containing pockets,
which should contain extra copies of your resume, questions you will ask,
a notepad, and a pen. Also bring any additional application materials or
other highly relevant documents, such as a transcript or writing samples.
Do not take a backpack. (If you take one to the Center for Career
Development at an on-campus interview, leave it in the main office
during the actual interview.) Get business cards for each interviewer at
the end of the interview, and jot down notes after you leave.
Much of how and what we communicate is done through non-verbal communication. According to some studies, as
much as 90% of our communication is done through body language. This is especially true in a job interview. It is
important to create a positive impression non-verbally.
Many interviews fail because of lack of proper communication. But communication is more than just what you say.
Often it's the nonverbal communication that we are least aware of, yet speaks the loudest. The way you sit in the
lobby, the way you greet the receptionist and the interviewer, and the way you wait, will all have an impact on
whether you are going to be considered for the job.
Learn More Online
See the Center for Career
Development Pinterest page
for photos of appropriate
Buying a Portfolio
Check office supply stores
and the Davidson bookstore
when shopping for a
Be friendly and pleasant, but not overbearing. If you need to wait, sit quietly (no phone calls) and patiently.
Following are other tips on “nonverbals” to pay attention to when interviewing:
" Handshake: A firm handshake is a sign of confidence.
Take the other person's hand in your right hand (don't use
both hands), so that the space between your thumb and
first finger touches theirs. Give a firm, but not crushing
squeeze, and shake the person's hand up and down
slightly, once. To avoid sweaty palms, visit the rest room,
wash your hands, then run them under cool water prior to
the interview. Keep your palms open rather than clenched
in a fist and keep a tissue in your pocket to
(surreptitiously) wipe them.
" Posture and Physical Distance: When sitting in a chair, sit
up straight or lean forward slightly. Even if the interview
becomes more casual or relaxed, be careful about resting back in your chair or leaning on the arms or table,
as the interviewer may believe you are too relaxed. Leaning slightly forward in your chair is often
acceptable, however, as this shows you are engaged in the conversation. If crossing your legs, do it so that
one knee is stacked on top of the other or cross your ankles. (Do not cross your legs so that one foot is on top
of your other knee.) Do not stretch your legs out in front of you or sit with your legs spread far apart -- it
looks too casual. When standing near someone, about three feet of distance is standard in most parts of the
United States. Standing closer than this can be uncomfortable for others.
" Arms and Hands: You can "talk with your hands" to some extent, but do not do so to the point of distracting
your interviewer. Sitting with your arms crossed in front of you can look defensive. Instead, try to have a
more open posture. Don't fidget, play with your hair or pen, or bite your nails.
" Eye Contact: Look in the eyes of the person interviewing you. Looking down or away frequently gives a
message of not being confident or being confused. Rolling your eyes up is considered a sign of disrespect.
Don't stare intensely at the interviewer; just look him or her in the eye as much as possible.
" Facial Expression: Smiling is an important way of showing that you are a friendly individual and that you
are enthusiastic about the position. Smile at the beginning and the end of the interview at a minimum.
Note: If you are interviewing for an international position, be aware of what is required of you. Research ahead of
time the proper interview etiquette for that country.
While nonverbal communication is important, it is also largely
what you say, and how you say it, that matters. Keep these tips in
mind when interviewing, no matter what the format it:
• Listen. It can be easy to get distracted during a job
interview. It's stressful and you're in the hot seat when it
comes to having to respond to questions. That said, if you
do your best to listen to what the interviewer is asking, it
will be easier to frame appropriate responses.
• Speak clearly and definitely. If you need to think about a response to an interview question, that's fine. It's
better to think before you talk than to stumble over your words or to use “umm” too often.
• Make sure to answer the specific question asked. It is easy to begin talking about a subject by only
listening to part of a question. Avoid the mistake of wandering so much in an answer that you lose track of
what you were trying to say. Take a moment to process what is being asked and then craft an answer that
will satisfy the main question clearly.
How Long Should My
Typically, 1-2 minutes per question,
or 30 seconds per point that you
want to make
Keys to Successful Nonverbal
• Give a Firm Handshake
• Make Eye Contact
• Have Good Posture
• Don’t use slang.
• Speak for 1-2 minutes on average per question. Shorter than a minute and you are probably not giving
enough information to be complete. Longer than two minutes and you are at risk of losing the attention of
the interviewer. You could also aim to make 2-3 main points in an answer, and spend 30 seconds or so on
each one. This will demonstrate some depth to your answer without dragging too much information into a
• Thank the interviewer(s) for taking the time to meet with you.
You’ve written an effective resume, applied for a job, received a call from a hiring manager, and maybe even passed
through a phone or other screening interview. Your last hurdle to a possible job offer is an in-person interview,
which is typically the most important part of the hiring process.
!In addition to following the general tips in this guide, be sure to confirm the location of your interview and ask for
directions if you’re not familiar with the area. Also make sure you know what time the interview begins. You
should be fifteen minutes early for your interview.
ONLINE (SKYPE) INTERVIEWS
Whether you are being interviewed on Skype, over the phone or in person, all the general rules of a job interview
apply. Research the company, read the job description thoroughly, know your resume inside out and have a few
answers for common interview questions prepared. Just because you are not meeting the interviewer in the flesh
doesn't mean any less preparation is involved. !!
• Dress for the occasion!. The key to a Skype interview is
making sure you look presentable. You might feel silly
wearing a suit and talking to a computer, but it will make all
the difference. Not only will the interviewer think you look
great and will already be picturing you in his/her workplace,
it will help you to mentally prepare and get into a professional
mode of thinking. !!
• Choose your colors wisely!. It’s best to wear neutral, solid
colors (darker shades look best on video - black, blue or grey
are best). These colors don’t create any distractions for your
interviewer. Also, try to stay away from colors that match your
skin and hair tones, plaids and stripes that look overly busy on video.
• Make sure the room is clean. Your surroundings can be just as important as your personal presentation.
Clean up the room as you don't want anything in the background to distract the interviewer from what
you have to say.!! Check to see if there’s a room available to reserve in the Center for Career Development or
• Keep the noise down. Finding a quiet place to do the interview is vital as the microphone picks up more
background noise than you might think. Dogs barking, children crying, mobile phones or music are not
welcome distractions when an interviewer is trying to determine whether you will be suitable for a job.
Nor does it look good if you have people walking in and out of the room – if need be, make yourself a 'do
not disturb' sign and stick it on the door.
Need a Quiet Place to
Conduct Your Skype or Phone
Stop by the CCD and ask to
schedule one of our interview
• Get the technology right. Create a professional username in Skype. Use a professional profile photo (no
photo is better than an unprofessional photo.) Five minutes before the Skype interview is not a good time
to realize that your Internet is down, Skype isn't working, or your pet has chewed through the microphone
cord. Not only does this reflect badly on your organizational skills, it will cost the interviewer precious
time as they will most likely have to reschedule. Allow plenty of time before the interview to test all
equipment. If possible, try to Skype a friend beforehand and get them to give you some feedback. (Can you
see/hear them? Can they see/hear you? Is the picture clear? Is the lighting OK? Is there much background
noise? You may even want to record yourself before the interview answering some imaginary questions to
practice and make sure everything is working.)
• Watch out for delay. With all but the very best web-based interview connections, there is a slight
transmission delay when using Skype. It’s important to be aware of this delay and to pause to ensure that
your interviewer has finished speaking before you speak.!!
• Look at the camera. Try to make eye contact: look straight into the camera (not at the screen!) when you
are talking, as this will make the interviewer feel as if you are speaking directly to them, despite your being
• Treat the interview like any other face-to-face meeting. There is a real person on the other end of the call,
so treat them like one. Smiling is a big one - this makes you look positive, confident and enthusiastic about
the job you are applying for. !Don't shout, but do speak loudly and clearly. Sometimes with video calls
there may be a delay with the picture, so a clear speaking voice is extremely important. !!Most of all, relax.
By this time you have done your research, know your stuff and look great; all you have to do now is work
This interview is sometimes used as a screening interview if you are located a long distance away from the
employer. These interviews are often used to decide whether you should be considered for an on-site interview.
Often, students seeking internships and summer jobs are interviewed and hired using this method alone.
Most telephone interviews are scheduled in advance. If the interviewer calls at an unexpected time, you may ask to
reschedule the interview for a later time. If you receive an unexpected call it is suggested that you allow the call to
go to voicemail, if not in a position to have a professional conversation. This is better than conducting an
unprepared, impromptu interview.
Generally, phone interviews last between 15 and 45 minutes. In this
time, employers are listening for examples of professionalism,
enthusiasm for the position, knowledge of the field, good
communication skills, thoughtful and concise questions, and more in-
depth information about you. NEVER put an interviewer on hold!
Benefits of the Telephone Interview
For the employer, a phone interview is a cost-effective way to get to
know a candidate. It is also an opportunity to "weed out" candidates
who are not qualified for the position. For a candidate, it is a chance to
learn about a company without having to travel to its location. A
telephone interview also gives a candidate time to focus on the experiences and qualifications they have listed on
Barriers of the Telephone Interview
It can be difficult to communicate effectively in a phone interview. Because there is no visual help in a phone
interview, parts of your message may be lost. The body language component is removed from the phone interview,
so you must make up for this by smiling, watching your tone and volume, eliminating verbal pauses from your
language (um, like, uh, or trailing off), and maintaining enthusiasm throughout the interview.
Before the Telephone Interview
• Create a professional voicemail and remove any ring backs from your settings
Check Your Voicemail
When applying for jobs or
internships, make sure that your
cell phone voicemail greeting is
• Put yourself in a situation to avoid interruptions; you may be able to reserve a room in the Center for Career
Development or the library
• Turn off call waiting, if possible
• Have a copy of your resume, transcript, cover letter and job description at hand
During the Telephone Interview
• Avoid background noise (no computer, talking, television, radio, birds singing by a window, etc.)
• Articulate, using all 'ing's and t's (going/gonna, Saturday, Sadurday)
• Smile - this will make you sound more pleasant and sincere
• Stand up and use gestures to help convey your message
SCREENING OR FIRST ROUND INTERVIEWS
The employer’s goal in this interview is to get the facts from you by identifying relevant skills and abilities, while
verifying the resume and looking for a solid potential employee. It usually lasts less than one hour and depending
on the employer and location, can take the form of a campus, site visit, Skype, or telephone interview. For some
summer internships and jobs, it may be the only interview you have.
SECOND ROUND INTERVIEWS
The second interview focuses on whether you are the right fit for the job and company culture, and will focus more
on your values, traits and people skills. Just because you’ve been invited for a second interview, don’t think it’s a
done deal and you’re going to get the job. It’s a competitive job market and most employers conduct second, and
sometimes third interviews. Prepare carefully for all interviews to enhance the prospects of turning your interview
into a job offer.
Second-round interviews require more research and preparation than your first interview. Prepare for a more
challenging process requiring interviews with several people, extensive questioning, and possibly social interaction,
such as at a dinner or reception.
You will most likely meet with a full range of potential co-workers, peers, superiors, and junior employees. In turn,
you should keep in mind that these are the individuals that you will likely work with on a daily basis. Proceed
through the interview process and evaluate not only your own performance, but also the impression your potential
co-workers make on you.
Make sure you get the agenda ahead of time, learn everything you can about the company, and dress
professionally. Review the notes you took in your first interview, and make sure you have questions to ask the
employer, especially any you forgot to ask the first time. You may be offered the job on the spot, and if you are not
prepared to accept the offer, it’s okay to request some time to think it over and ask when the company needs a
Questions asked in a second round interview are usually more specific and focus on your understanding of the
particulars of the job and the company, its culture, plans and objectives, and the industry. Research and anticipate
questions posed using the “language” of the industry. Also, behavior based questions are often used in a second
interview. In some companies, case studies – both individual and group – may also be used.
This interview is the favorite of strategic consulting firms. Typically, you will be given a scenario and asked to
identify the problem and a resolution in order to assess your mental acuity. There are many books written to
prepare candidates for case interviews as they come in a variety of challenging formats. Please reach out to Career
Development staff members for ideas about on-line resources and electronic packets available to Davidson students
as well as alumni and students with whom to practice. The Vault Guide to the Case Interview is a good place to start.
Although the consulting industry is known for conducting case interviews, employers in engineering, finance, and
other fields have begun to use this type of interview question to help assess a candidate’s problem solving and/or
quantitative abilities. Start early and practice as many case interview examples as possible!
Meal interviews have many pitfalls for the unwary. Don’t make
the mistake of thinking this is a social occasion for you to delve
into your personal life. You are not being taken out to eat only
because the interviewer wants to become better acquainted; he
or she is also observing your social graces and table manners.
Have a snack before the meal since you likely
will be busy answering questions and promoting your
A group interview could involve several people taking turns asking questions or presenting scenarios for you to
answer or solve. It may be used as a group discussion that can help determine how you interact with potential
colleagues. The employer will observe interpersonal communication skills along with your problem solving skills
within the group.
The purpose of this interview is to see how you perform on a team. You will be observed as teams are developed,
and projects distributed to test each team member. To emerge as a leader and a good team player take time to
receive ideas and suggestions as much you give them. The worst thing you could do is to sit in silence and not
In a panel interview you are interviewed by several people at the same time. This type of interview is used to see
how you would fit in with the group. It is easy to be intimidated by panel interviews, however, relax and focus on
your responses to each panel member.
This might involve rapid firing questions where the interviewer may seem angry, may use harsh tones, or
contradict and challenge everything you say. You are being tested on how you respond to pressure. Do not take it
personally. Recruiters for sales and marketing positions may use this recruiting technique.
Research dining etiquette online
before attending a meal interview.
Also, be sure to register for the CCD
spring etiquette dinner!
Types of Interview Questions
Interviewing styles vary from employer to employer and interviewer to interviewer. To better prepare for an
interview, you should be familiar with the different types of interview questions that you may encounter.
By asking personal interview questions,
the employer is trying to determine the
assets you have that will help you succeed
in the job, if you are hired, as well as what
could be problematic. In both cases, it's
important to put a positive spin on your
attributes when responding.
Personal interview questions are about
you, personally – your personality, work
style, work ethic, how you handle stress,
how you handle certain situations, and
what you expect from an employer. Make
sure your responses match what you know
about the job and the organization. The
employer is seeking candidates who match
their needs. The closer the fit, the more
competitive a candidate you will be.
The interview questions hiring managers
ask entry-level candidates is usually
focused on why you are interested in the
job and why the company should hire
you. Many of the questions will be
related to your experiences in college and
what you have learned from that
experience. Even though your resume
includes this information, some
employers like to learn more. Remember
to mention any classes, seminars, and
workshops you've attended that support
your job goals, and discuss how your
educational background and any work or
internship experiences qualify you for the
SAMPLE PERSONAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
• Tell me about yourself.
• Walk me through your resume.
• What goals have you set for yourself? How are you
planning to achieve them?
• Who or what has had the greatest influence on the
development of your career interests?
• What two or three things are most important to you in
• What two or three accomplishments have given you
the most satisfaction?
• What are your greatest strengths?
• What is your greatest weakness?
• What has been your greatest challenge?
• Are you willing to relocate or travel as part of your job?
SAMPLE EDUCATION INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
• Why did you choose your major?
• What is the most important lesson you have learned in
• How do you think you have changed personally since you
• Knowing what you know now about your college
experience, would you make the same decisions?
• Do you think that your grades are a good indication of
your academic achievement? Why or why not?
• What subjects or classes have you liked best? Why?
• Why did you select your college or university?
• Describe your most rewarding college experience.
• How would you prepare for important tests or exams?
• If I were to ask your professors to describe you in three
words, what would they be?
• Do you feel your GPA reflects your academic ability? Why
or why not?
EMPLOYER FIT QUESTIONS
When an interviewer asks
questions about you they are
trying to determine how good a
fit you will be for the company
and if your personality will be a
match for the company culture
and the team. They are asking
questions to get an idea of
whether or not your goals and
expectations are a match for
what your role in the company
will be if you're hired.
Employers want to know
whether or not you will fit in
with their company's culture
and managerial style. They also
want to know what motivates
you to work your best - do you
have long-term goals, and are
they appropriate for the
position to which you are
applying? By looking at your
past experiences, how you have
interacted with fellow students,
co-workers, former supervisors,
and teams, employers can
begin to get a good idea of how
you will work within their
This type of question is based on the idea that your past behavior is useful in predicting future performance. Typical
questions center on how you have handled past situations where skills, abilities, and teamwork have been
demonstrated. Areas could include project work, relevant work experiences, difficult situations, accomplishments,
and leadership roles.
When your interview questions are behavioral-based, expect a structured interview with set questions, as opposed
to a conversational style of interviewing. You may receive follow-up questions that probe for more details and
attempt to evaluate the consistency of your answers. Many of the questions will have multiple parts, and the
interviewer will generally take notes during your answers. Behavioral-based interview questions generally start
with any one of the following phrases (or similar phrases):
• Tell me about a time when you...!
SAMPLE EMPLOYER FIT INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
• Why do you want this job?
• What expectations do you have for your future employer?
• What are your interests in this position or the company?
• What can you tell me about our industry and our competitors?
• Why are you the best person for this position?
• What can you contribute to this company?
• What challenges are you looking for in a position?
• What kind of supervisor do you prefer?
• How does this opportunity fit into your long-term career goals?
SAMPLE EXPERIENCE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
• What are your team-player qualities? Give examples.
• Describe your leadership style.
• What is your approach to handling conflict? Solving problems?
• How do you motivate others?
• Describe a leadership role of yours and tell why you've committed
time to it.
• What work experience has been the most valuable to you? What
did you learn?
• What was the most useful criticism you received and who
• How did you decide which extracurricular activities to join? What
did you gain from these experiences?
• What contributions have you made to a group project?
• What types of situations put you under pressure? How do you deal
with the pressure?
• Describe a circumstance when you were faced with a problem related to...
• Think about an instance in which you...!
Tips for Answering Behavior-
• Be specific. General
answers about behavior are
not what the employer is
looking for. You must
describe in detail a
particular event, project, or
experience and how you
dealt with the situation, and
the resulting outcome.
• Avoid using language such
as, "I would do...," or "One
• Don't talk about what
others did or would do
(unless this is part of a
larger response focusing on
what you did).
• Do talk about what you,
individually, actually did.
You can talk about others in
context of your role on a
team, if applicable.
• Avoid describing how you
would behave. Describe
how you did actually
behave. If you later decided
you should have behaved
differently, explain this.
The employer will see that
you learned something
from the experience.
• If you did not encounter the
situation the employer
presents, ask if you can
describe a related situation
in which you used skills or behaviors or processes that would also be applicable to the situation the
• Use detailed, specific responses. Candidates who tell the
interviewer about particular situations that relate to each
question will be far more effective and successful than
those who respond in general terms. When you
rehearse, ensure that your story flows fluently, that you
include all the details you intend, and that your answer
is not more than two minutes long. Frame it in a four-
step process, called the “STAR” technique.
SAMPLE BEHAVIOR-BASED INTERVIEW
• Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion
to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
• Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful
situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
• Give me a specific example of a time when you used good
judgment and logic in solving a problem.
• Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were
able to meet or achieve it.
• Give me a specific example of a time when you had to
conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
• Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond
the call of duty in !order to get a job done.
• Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split
• Describe a situation in which you felt it necessary to be very
attentive and vigilant to your environment.
• What is the most difficult writing assignment you have
undertaken recently? What made it challenging? How did
you handle it?
• Have you ever had an experience in which you were glad
you had paid attention to some particular detail? Please
• Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
• What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me
• Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last
• Give me an example of a time when you tried to accomplish
something and failed.
• Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took
• Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal
with a very upset customer or co-worker.
STAR Technique for
Answering Behavioral Questions
S – Describe the situation or event
T – Describe the task(s) you
A – Describe the action you took
R – Describe the results or outcome
Preparing for Interviews Using Behavior-Based Questions
• Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills
that employers typically seek. Ideally, choose skills required by the employers you want to target.
• Vary your examples; don't take them all from just one area of your life.
• Use fairly recent examples. Examples from high school may be too long ago. Some companies, in fact, specify
that candidates give examples of behaviors demonstrated within the last year.
• Try to describe examples in story form using the STAR technique.
In the interview, listen carefully to each question, and use one of your examples that provides an appropriate
description of how you demonstrated the desired behavior. With practice, you can learn to tailor a relatively small
set of examples to respond to a number of diverse behavioral questions.
Be sure not to memorize answers; the key to interviewing success is simply being prepared for the questions and
having a mental outline to follow in responding to each question.
ILLEGAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
There may be times when an employer will ask you an illegal question regarding your age, marital status, sexual
orientation, race, etc. Usually this is unintentional – many companies do not have legal divisions to train them on
the legalities of what to ask during an interview. If this happens, you have the right to refuse to answer these
questions. Keep in mind, however, that your reaction will be important.
If the company doesn’t seem reputable, then this is a good reason to avoid working for them. However, if they
seem to be trying to awkwardly avoid a situation, then most likely they haven’t been trained appropriately. Think
about what they are asking, and how to respond as nicely as possible so that the interviewing environment can
stay as pleasant and professional as possible.
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE EMPLOYER
Interviewing is a two-way exchange of information. You need to be prepared to seek answers to questions that will
assist you in making good career decisions. Asking the interviewer logical, well thought out, pertinent questions
indicates a high degree of interest while providing you with information and insight into the company. The
interviewer will know that you have taken a professional approach in preparing for your interview.
Once you have completed your research, prepare three to five logical, well-defined questions for the interview.
These are examples only. If
you do use these
their meaning, be
prepared to explain what
you mean and be
prepared to answer
questions that will arise
from your questions. It
will be to your advantage
to develop your own
questions and express
them in your own style.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK THE EMPLOYER
• What kinds of assignments might I expect the first six months on the job?
• What would a typical workday look like?
• Does your company encourage further education?
• How often are performance reviews given?
• What products are in the development stage now?
• Do you have plans for expansion?
• How do you feel about creativity and individuality?
• In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your
competitors? (just make sure you know the competitors)
• Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
• What is the largest single problem facing your department now?
• What do you like best about your job or company?
• Do you fill positions from the outside or promote from within first?
• What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
• Where does this position fit into the organizational structure?
• What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from
you, or should I contact you?
201 Alvarez College Union ♦ firstname.lastname@example.org
davidson.edu/careers ♦ 704-894-2132
After the Interview
IF YOU DO NOT HEAR FROM THE EMPLOYER
Before your interview ended, your interviewer should have informed you of the organization's follow-up
procedures — from whom (same person who interviewed you, someone else), by what means (phone, e-mail,
etc.), and when you would hear again from the organization. If the interviewer did not tell you, and you did not
ask, use your follow-up / thank-you letter to ask.
If more than a week has passed beyond the date when you were told you would hear something from the
employer (and barring some major event in the news like a merger or acquisition or other event that would be
taking employees' attention), call or e-mail to politely inquire about the status of the organization's decision-
making process. Someone (or something) or an unexpected circumstance may be holding up the process. A
polite inquiry shows that you are still interested in the organization and may prompt the employer to get on
schedule with a response. In your inquiry, mention the name of the person who interviewed you, the time and
place of the interview, and the position for which you are applying, and ask the status of your application.
INTERVIEW THANK YOU EMAILS & NOTES
Use your thank you letter as a way to stand out of the crowd and make an impression. Always send a thank-you
note within 48 hours of the interview, preferably 24. This is part of the interview process that will help you stand
out as a stronger candidate for hire.
If you were interviewed by a group of individuals, send an individual note to each and every person. (Make sure to
get a business card at the conclusion of each interview – that way you’ll have the contact information for the thank
you letters). Modify your message so that each interviewer gets a unique thank you note.
What You Didn’t Say
If there was something that you wish you had mentioned during the interview, here's your chance to say it by
including it in your thank you letter.
Thank You Letter Basics
Thank you letters can be handwritten, typed or sent via email. A handwritten note is the most memorable and
appropriate method of sending a thank you to the employer for taking the time to interview you. However, e-mail
is appropriate, particularly as a supplement (i.e. do both e-mail and hard copy) when that has been your means of
contact with the person you want to thank, or if your contact has expressed a preference for e-mail, or you know
your contact is travelling and will not have access to hard copy mail in a timely fashion.
Short and Simple
Keep your thank you letters short and simple. Reiterate your interest in the job, your qualifications and skills, and
include a final thank you.
Proof Your Letter
Spell check and proofread your thank you letter. Then ask someone else to proof it for you. That way you will be
sure it's perfect.
Sample E-mail Thank-You Letters
Email Example #1
Subject Heading: Interview Follow up and Thank You
Dear Mr. Soloman:
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the Admissions Counselor position today. I enjoyed talking to you
about the strategic direction you have in mind for the admissions staff and the future incoming classes of Davidson
The passion I have for Davidson, coupled with my experience working with diverse groups and across
departments, would be valuable in helping to develop and deliver a clear and consistent message that carries
through from the start of the admission process through to graduates’ experiences as alumni.
If I can provide you with any further information, please let me know. Thank you again for your consideration.
Email Example #2:
Subject Heading: Interview Follow up
Dear Mr. Thompson,
Thank you for taking time to meet with me this morning. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I thoroughly
enjoyed our discussion regarding <COMPANY NAME> and learning more about the <JOB TITLE> opportunity.
As we discussed, I believe skills and experiences in (OUTLINE YOUR SKILLS) would facilitate a seamless transition
and allow me to make an immediate and positive impact. There is no doubt in my mind that <COMPANY NAME>
is where I want to be as I take the next step in my career. I hope to have the opportunity to make a valuable
contribution to the continued success of the firm.
Thank you again for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.! !
Email Example #3
Subject Heading: Thank You for the Interview
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
I appreciate having the opportunity to speak with you today about the Marketing Assistant position at the
<COMPANY NAME> company. The job seems to be a perfect match for my abilities and interests.
In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to the position strong communication skills, flexibility, and the ability to
encourage others to work cooperatively with the department.
I appreciate the time you took to interview me. I look forward to having the opportunity to meeting you in person
and hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very much for your time and for your consideration.
Email Example #4
Subject Heading: Thank You - Marketing Assistant Interview
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
I appreciate having the opportunity to speak with you today about the Marketing Assistant position at the <ABCD
company>. The job seems to be a perfect match for my abilities and interests.
In addition to my enthusiasm, I will bring to the position strong communication skills, flexibility, and the ability to
encourage others to work cooperatively with the department.
I look forward to having the opportunity to meet you in person and hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very
much for your time and consideration.
Sample Handwritten Thank-You Notes
A handwritten thank you note on stationery or a note card helps you stand out from the crowd. The stationery
should be simple in design, and a light cream or buff color. Avoid note cards with “Thank You” inscribed on the
front. Monogrammed note cards are acceptable provided the design is simple and tasteful.
Handwritten Example #1
Dear Dr. Jones:
I sincerely enjoyed meeting with you and learning more about the French Teacher position at Excel High School.
Our conversation confirmed my interest in becoming part of your teaching staff.
It was particularly exciting to discover the possibility of developing interdisciplinary units with the History
Department. As I mentioned, my focus in working with children is to demonstrate the connection between
language and everyday life. The challenge of starting a French club would provide me with an outlet for this goal. I
feel confident that my experience both in France and in the classroom would enable me to meet the challenges of the
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
<Your signature here>
Handwritten Example #2
September 3, 20XX
Dear Mr. Norris,
I enjoyed meeting with you yesterday to discuss the details of the Media Assistant position. Our conversation
confirmed my interest in becoming part of the <ORGANIZATION NAME> team. I was particularly pleased at the
prospect of being able to develop my article ideas with the head of the bureau and to develop my multi-media
skills. I feel confident that my experiences both in the workplace and in the classroom will enable me to fill the job
Please feel free to contact me if I can provide you with any further information. Thank you for the courtesy you
extended to me.
Sample Thank-You Letter Typed and Submitted with Additional
Occasionally, you may need to send additional materials to an employer who has requested them following an
interview. Here is an example of a letter (formatted as a business-style letter in Word) that may accompany such
materials. Note that the body of the letter would also be suitable for an e-mailed thank-you letter.
City, State Zip
October 25, 20XX
Ms. Danielle Wright, Human Resources Director
Johnson Marketing Directives
123 Cool Street
Atlanta, Georgia 12345
Dear Ms. Wright:
Thank you for your time and the privilege of having an interview with you yesterday, October 24, during your
recruiting visit to Davidson College. The management trainee program you outlined sounds both challenging
and rewarding, and I look forward to your decision concerning an on-site visit.
As mentioned during the interview, I will be graduating in December with a Bachelor of Science degree in
Economics. Through my education and experience I have gained many skills, as well as an understanding of
marketing concepts and social media. I have had two marketing internships that have provided me with various
business and social media experiences. I think my education and work experience would complement Johnson’s
marketing trainee program.
I have enclosed a copy of my college transcript and a list of references that you requested.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be considered by Johnson Marketing Directives. The interview served to
reinforce my strong interest in becoming a part of your marketing team. I can be reached at (540) 555-1111 or by
e-mail at email@example.com should you need additional information.
<Your Signature Here>
Davidson L. Student