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Interview Preparation

Employers conduct interviews to assess three primary factors that influence their hiring decisions: the likelihood of your success in the job given your background and skills, your willingness to perform the position’s duties, and your cultural fit with the organization. 

Let’s translate the employers’ intentions into the questions that you may be asked at a job/internship interview.  

Do you have the skills to do the job (or internship)?

Be prepared to answer common questions such as:

  • What are your greatest strength and weakness?
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and why?
  • What led you to choose your major or concentration?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Why should this organization hire you?

To convince an employer that you are the person they need, you must articulate your skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the position. Use specific examples from a variety of your experiences (academic, internships, student jobs, extracurricular activities, hobbies, etc.).

Also, come up with additional examples that highlight the sought-after transferrable skills (e.g. oral and written communication skills; teamwork; critical thinking, etc.) 

Are you commited to perform the position's duties?

Before investing heavily in you, an employer assesses your level of commitment to the position and organization. To convey your enthusiasm for the role and support of the organization’s mission, prepare responses to these common questions:

  • Why are you applying for this position?
  • What do you most look forward to in this role and why?
  • What activity do you believe will be the most challenging and why?
  • What contributions can you make to our organization?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Would you be a good fit to the organization/team?

An employer asks questions like the ones below to measure your compatibility with its mission, goals, workplace values, procedures, and people. In the interest of both you and the employer, prepare honest answers.

  • What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
  • What qualities do you seek in a manager?
  • In what type of work environment are you most satisfied?
  • How would a colleague or professional reference describe you?
  • What situations are most stressful for you and how do you cope? 

Your Turn

An employer always reserves time toward the end of an interview to answer your questions. Take the opportunity to learn more to determine if the position and organization are right for you. If you are not prepared to ask questions, an employer may doubt your intentions; use the samples below as a starting point.

  • What would a typical day be like for me?
  • How will my performance be evaluated?
  • How do employees advance within the organization?
  • What do employees most enjoy about working here?
  • What significant changes or challenges to the job, department, or organization do you foresee in the short- or long-term?

Use 3R-Strategy to prepare for the interview: Research – Review -Rehearse

Start your preparation for a job interview by learning as much as possible about your prospective employer. Go deep and go wide: the employer’s website, media, social media, possible inside contacts, etc. 

If you know the employer well you can more effectively connect your qualifications, your previous experience, and your future career aspirations with the desired job. You will be able to come up with smart questions to ask the employer at the end of your interview. Also, you will convince the employer in your enthusiasm for the position by referring to specific information about the employer’s activity.   

Make your employer’s research efforts successful by using the following tips:

  • Research the employer’s website -- dig deeper than their home page, e.g. check if they have an annual report on the website – take a note of published data and facts.  
  • Check if the employer is mentioned in mass media: you may find a public release on a new project or initiative.
  • Look for the employer’s presence in social media presence -- Do they have a Facebook page? What they post on Twitter, LinkedIn page? Find out whether any of their senior executives has posted an interview on YouTube.
  • Reach out and talk to people who work at or may know someone working in the organization. Check LinkedIn to see if there are AU alums affiliated with the employer. Ask to connect and chat.  
  • When researching, pay attention to the information that could help you understand the following about your potential employer: 
  • Mission, values, and organizational structure
  • Key projects and programs, new initiatives
  • Accomplishments, challenges and threats
  • Current and potential markets, clients, partners, competitors
  • Sought-after technical skills and transferrable competencies (e.g. working in teams; ethical judgement; critical thinking; intercultural competences, etc.)

Also, don’t forget to research possible commute routes and time you need to get to your job interview. 

Next step in your preparation strategy is to do a thorough review of the following: (1) the position’s duties and responsibilities; (2) your experiences; (3) application materials; and (4) interview logistics. 

Make your review efforts efficient by using the following tips:

  • Pay attention to the position’s key skills and competences and think of how this position contributes to the employer’s mission, programs, challenges, etc. 
  • Use the When selecting examples of your relevant qualifications, consider a variety of experiences that you have accumulated so far: 
  • Your coursework assignments: group and individual projects and papers
  • Study abroad: opportunities for developing intercultural competencies, problem-solving, etc.
  • Internships:  real world projects, collaboration, observation and reflection
  • Student jobs: e.g. babysitter, waiter, clerical – transferrable skills, work ethics
  • Volunteering/Community Service: your passions; service
  • Craft stories based on those examples. Make them interesting, succinct, and to the point. Use the CAR-R or STAR-R method: 
    • CAR: C – Context; A – your Action; R – Results, or 
    • STAR – Situation; T – your task; A – your Action; R – Results.
    • The second R in both methods is about Reflection. Come up with lessons learned to demonstrate to your potential employers your analytical and critical thinking skills and your enthusiasm for success.
  • Review your resume. Make sure that you know it well – to avoid any discrepancies between your responses at the job interview and your resume. Be prepared to answer employer’s question: “Walk me through your resume.”  You should clearly connect your past experiences to the desired job.
  • If your interview is on-line or by phone, don’t forget to review the technology you would be using as well as the environment where you are going to be during the interview. The environment should be quiet and not-distracting, and the technology should work. Have back-ups, as well. 

Practice, practice, practice! For your upcoming interview it’s not enough to review in your head your examples and responses. You need to practice saying them out loud. Pay attention to your posture, voice and intonation – they should project confidence. Rehearse a firm handshake.  Try on your interview attire to make sure that it’s appropriate and comfortable. Rehearse in your interview attire.

  • Utilize our Interview Prep tool to do a mock interview
  • Schedule an appointment with your Career advisor to get personalized interview coaching
  • Rehearse with your friends and family
  • Seek constructive feedback

You may want to test your commute to the interview to see how much time it takes, and to know the road - you don’t want to get lost on your way to the real job interview!

Also, if you are doing a video or phone interview, do not forget to perform sound and visual check to adjust your voice or sitting position with a help of a friend or your career advisor.  


Acing the Interview

Reaching the interview stage is a very important step forward toward landing a job or internship. Acing your interview brings you a big step closer to receiving an offer. Here’s how to outperform other candidates.


Build off the research you conducted by tailoring your resume to the position. At the same time, learn more about the employer in preparation for your interview. In addition to reviewing the employer’s website, read articles that pertain to the organization and talk with employees or others whom are familiar with it. 

Dress in business attire and arrive at least fifteen minutes early. Being nervous is perfectly normal; consider using a visualization technique to help yourself be focused and positive. Be warm and courteous to whomever you meet because your actions before and after the actual interview matter. Also keep your belongings organized and have a pen and notepad, as well as copies of your resume and your reference list within reach.


At the beginning and end of your interview, shake hands firmly with the employer. Throughout the interview, maintain good eye contact, speak in an upbeat and energetic tone, and ensure that your body language conveys your maturity and confidence. Lean forward slightly in your chair and control nervous habits such as fidgeting or foot tapping.

Be prepared for the most commonly asked question at the start of an interview:  “Thank you for coming today.  First, please, tell us about yourself.”  Your answer to this open-ended question should market you for the position, right off the bat.  Consider preparing an answer that covers your three or four main strengths for the position.

However long the interview lasts, be sure to convey one clear and confident messagethat you will get across to the interviewer for each question you are asked. In a first-round interview, there are five basic questions that are almost always asked...

1. “So why are you interested in working for us?”

2. “Why are you interested in this specific job/internship?”

3. “Where do you expect to be in 3-to-5 years?”

4. “What do you think are your strengths for this position?”

5. “What is your most significant weakness for this position?”

Prior to the interview, it is crucial that you develop solid answers in your mind for each of these five questions –- answers that will take 45 seconds to a minute to explain, but generally no longer than that.

Maintain your composure when asked difficult questions and politely seek clarification if necessary. You may pause for a few seconds to formulate your answer before. So as not to be caught off guard by open-ended or behavioral questions, stay focused on skills and experiences that directly relate to the position. When answering behavioral questions, use the STAR method to answer a behavioral question such as, “Describe a time when you used your interpersonal skills to solve a problem or achieve a goal.”  Or: “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with hostility in the workplace.”  Here’s how the STAR system works:

  • S/T:  First describe the SITUATION you found yourself in, or the TASK you were assigned.
  • A:  Then discuss the ACTION(s) that you took.
  • R Finally, briefly explain the RESULT(s) of your actions.

Be aware that employers in the USA can only ask job-related questions and cannot request personal information pertaining to your race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, marital or family status, age, or disability. If an employer asks you an illegal question, seek clarification about the question’s intent or politely decline to comment.

Be prepared to ask one or two thoughtfulquestions about the employer that show you’ve done some research.  At the conclusion of your interview, inquire about the next phase of the selection process and invite the employer to contact your references. Thank the employer for his or her time and request a business card so that you have accurate information for future correspondence.

Mock Interviews

Practice your interview skills with Big Interview.


You may feel relieved, excited, uncertain or any number of other emotions after your interview, so take some time to reflect on the experience. Ask yourself if you truly want the position and try imagining yourself in the work environment. Whatever the outcome, use lessons learned from the experience to sharpen your interview skills for the future.

Within 24 hours of your interview, send a thank-you note. If you met with multiple staff, send personalized messages to each individual. Very brief email messages are effective when hiring decisions are made quickly, but employers still appreciate the personal touch of a hand-written note. When in doubt, send an e-mail immediately and follow up with a hand-written note. Be sure to reiterate your enthusiasm for the opportunity, address any concerns raised during the interview, and express your gratitude for being considered.


Not sure where to begin? Try reading our sample Thank You Letter.