Interviewing

The Interview is critical to earning a job or internship offer. It is important to use professional etiquette, clearly communicate your strengths, and show your interviewer why you are the best fit for the position. There are a lot of things that go into a successful interview, and they are not just limited to the interview itself. The points below cover the most important parts of this process, and should help you prepare and perform well.

Big Interview: Interview Prep

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Through William & Mary, you have open access to Big Interview's online interview preparation.  Create an account with your W&M sign-in credentials for free access to both their Fast Track and Mastery Track curriculums.  At Big Interview you have access to:

  • Informative videos on the different types of interviews, interviewers, etc.
  • Commonly heard interview questions and how to answer them
  • Practice interviews organized by industry or program
The Office Visit

Office visits are where jobs are won or lost. During an office visit you will meet a number of people who will evaluate you on the basis of your qualifications as well as on your personality fit with that firm. The people you talk with will be asking themselves: Would I like to work with this person, or have them working for me?

Format of the Interview

Second and other subsequent rounds will differ. Office interviews usually consist of a series of interviews with several individuals including your potential supervisor, co-workers and higher-ranking staff members. Your day could include a tour, meal, and a group interview. You may encounter written applications, tests or even assessment exams determining your fit with other employees.

Depending on the company, interviews may be informal, behavioral or case. On the office visit it is common to talk to at least two types of interviewers: fairly new employees who have been with the company two to ten years, and those who have been with the company for more than ten years. Keep in mind that every employee you meet, from the person who picks you up at the airport, to the recent alum you meet with for lunch, to the people with whom you formally interview, is evaluating your qualifications and "fit" for the position.

In some instances, companies will assign each interviewer a specific quality or skill to probe during the interview. One interviewer will probe for leadership ability, another for analytical ability, another for communication skills, etc.

After the process is complete, all the interviewers will meet to discuss the candidate and an offer may be made.

Purpose of an Office Visit

The office visit serves two primary purposes:

Allows the company to get a more in-depth assessment of the candidate prior to making a job offer
Allows the candidate an opportunity to see the company and some of its people firsthand, in order to make a wiser decision if an offer is made.

Preparing

Preparation for the company visit should not be taken lightly since the visit is the final step for most companies in deciding whether to make a job offer. Make an extensive list of questions after reading all the materials provided by the company, since you will have ample opportunities to ask questions. Avoid asking questions that can be answered by reading the literature.

If you don't have any questions, this will weaken an interviewer's perception of you for two reasons:

  • You give the perception that you are not inquisitive or not interested
  • You cause the interviewer to scramble for what to do next and therefore create a negative impression

Questions do not have to be profound. For example: Tell me about your career, how do you enjoy working for XYZ, are appropriate.

Good questions will cover a wide range of topics including:

  • Corporate goals and direction
  • Career enhancement
  • Market growth opportunities
  • Company's competitive environment
  • Research and development
  • Evaluation systems
  • Career paths of recent hires
  • Community lifestyle

Questions such as: "So what do you all do?" or "What are the benefits?" do not sit well with most interviewers.

You can ask the same questions of several people since most interviews are carried out in a face-to-face discussion and no one will know what you asked the last person or will ask the next person; however, be honest and consistent. If you play the game of trying to give each person you talk with the answer you think they want to hear, you may contradict yourself.

One thing frequently overlooked, but extremely important, is personal preparation. Factors that constitute good personal preparation include:

  • Leaving personal problems at home
  • Taking appropriate business dress for the type of company involved
  • Having a well-groomed appearance

Remember to bring papers, pens and take copies of your resume and transcript. Ask the company representative if there is anything else they would like you to provide. Remember names and titles of those people you meet. You can also ask for business cards in your interviews.

Arrival

Most candidates arrive the night before the company visit. If flying, avoid very late flights or the last flight. When checking into the hotel, check for company messages. Also bring your credit card. Most hotels will ask to imprint a credit card for any charges not covered by the company. Companies may not cover entertainment costs, long distance phone calls or food expenses. It is not advisable to indulge in either the locked liquor refrigerator or pay-per-view movies.

Remember to schedule a morning wake up call with the front desk, allowing plenty of time to get cleaned and dressed.

Know where and when you will be meeting with the employer. Get accurate directions and a map if you need assistance.

Social Reception

Often companies will arrange a time for candidates and employees to socialize on a more informal basis the evening before the interview. Refreshment and light hors de oeuvres may be served. Remember this is an additional opportunity to speak with employees, learn more about the work environment and discuss mutual interests. Despite the temptation, avoid hanging out exclusively with your friends who may also be interviewing with the company. Make honest attempts to be outgoing and to meet as many company representatives as possible. If alcohol is served and you are underage, don't be tempted. Even if you are of legal drinking age, the best rule of thumb is to keep your head clear and don't drink.

Reimbursements

Companies generally pay for travel expenses associated with an office visit. This usually includes air or train fare, hotels, meals and cab fares. It is best to verify that a company will pay your expenses before you incur them.

Always collect receipts for expenses. Often during the office visit, companies will schedule a time to fill out reimbursement forms. However if they don't, be sure to ask to whom you should send your receipts to and get a copy of the proper forms needed for reimbursement before you leave the office. Remember to keep your expenses within a reasonable range.

Before the Interview

Do your research!

  • Explore the website, social media, history, mission, and structure of the organization.
  • Read position descriptions.
  • Access Vault and Glassdoor to research employee reviews and ratings of the company.
  • Use LinkedIn to find potential employee connections and alumni, business insight, or news articles. Reach out to potential employee connections to gain first-hand knowledge about the company, work environment, values, etc.

Confirm all details of the interview: time, date, location of interview, parking instructions, etc.

Consider a test drive to confirm directions and potential travel time. Arrive 15 minutes early, any earlier may interrupt the interviewer's schedule.

What to Wear

Dress appropriately; business professional unless otherwise advised. If you do not have business professional attire, you can borrow from Cohen's Dress to Impress closet.    

  • The Dress to Impress (D2I) closet is open Monday through Friday and you need to make an appointment before coming in! To do so, fill out the online form and you will receive an email about scheduling an appointment.
  • Contact Adam Sylvain with questions: [[csga01]], or call 757.221.2472
During the Interview

Keep non-verbals in mind: solid handshake, eye contact, smile, and posture.

Show interest in the job and organization; be yourself, show enthusiasm and confidence. Provide solid examples with details; avoid one word answers. Remember, it's a conversation; ask questions!

Be sure to have questions prepared for the end of the interview that further clarify, as well as illustrate your knowledge of the position, role, department, etc. and show your interest in the organization, including:

  • Function
  • Professional Development
  • Management Style
  • Culture within Organization
  • Timeline of Process
  • Do not ask specifics about salary or benefits until after you receive an offer.

Be positive about past experiences to show what you learned; avoid negative descriptions.

After the Interview

Always thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the opportunity.

  • Send a thank you note within 48 hours of the interview; an email or handwritten note is appropriate.

Review what happened in the interview with yourself - what went well, and what could you improve for next time?

How to Prepare

Preparation is key to a successful interview. Take some time beforehand to orient yourself.

What's Your Story?

It is important to have answers to questions like these before the interview. Who are you? Why are you the best fit for the job?

  • What do you bring to the table that is unique to you? i.e. skills, abilities, experiences, and knowledge
  • How do your values compare to the philosophy of the organization?
  • What contributions will you bring to the employer?
  • What major points do you want to get across during the interview?
STAR Method

Organize and practice talking about the experiences you want to highlight. Use the STAR method to fully and adequately answer interview questions.

  • Situation or Task: Choose a situation or scenario with some depth or complexity and decribe it in detail to illustrate your answer to the question.
  • Action: Discuss in specific detail how you handled the situation and what you did.
  • Results: Discuss the results and outcomes of your work , behavior, and efforts.
Preparing for a Skype Interview

{{youtube:medium:center|rQwanxQmFnc, How to Look Good in your Skype Interview}}

Preparing for a Phone Interview
  • This gives you the advantage of having notes and the company's website right in front of you. Use this opportunity, and you shouldn't get lost.
  • Dress up, as if it was an in-person interview, to put yourself in the right mindset.
  • Take the call in a spot that is quiet and has good cell service
  • If you can, walk around to keep energy in your voice
  • Smile while you talk - it can positively affect the tone of your voice.
  • If space is available, you can use one of Cohen's interview rooms. Call ahead or stop by the office to check first; it is hard for us to accomodate same-day requests.
Practice!
Interview Question Types

These are some of the several types of questions you may encounter in an interview.

Standard Questions

Prepare possible responses to standard/typical questions across all industries/functions, including:

  • Tell me about yourself.
    • Focus on your interest in the position and what qualifies you to be there.
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
    • Be as explicit as possible.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
    • Include how this opportunity fits into your professional goals.
  • What do you consider as your greatest strength? Greatest weakness?
    • For your weakness, be sure to highlight what you are doing to improve.
Behavioral Questions

Designed to learn about your character, your experiences, and how you will fit in with the organization or team. Showcase your best performance by talking about your past experiences. Provide relevant examples to respond to questions related to specific skills required of the position.

  • Consider how relevant skills can be transferred from less relevant experiences.

Apply the STAR Method to reply to behavioral questions.

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to analyse a situation in order to guide your action or decision.
  • Discuss a situation where you had to work with a complete stranger(s) and how you dealt with it.
  • Talk about a time when you had to complete a major task as part of a team.
  • Describe an important professional accomplishment.
Case Questions

These are designed to see how you think quickly to analyze problems or situations.

  • Showcase your thought process, creativity, and communication skills.
  • They are typically not searching for the "right answer", unless it is a technical question.
  • Organize your answer and manage your time.
  • Be creative and brainstorm without commitment.
  • Accept coaching and listen to feedback.
  • Bring closure and summarize.
  • Show enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
  • Questions may be styled as:
    • A brainteaser, to make you think outside the box
    • A market sizing or industry related concern
    • A pattern or trend situation
  • Examples:
    • Your client is an outdoor sports gear manufacturer, how would you increase sales of reusable water bottles over last year?
    • Estimate how many shoes were sold in the U.S. to teenage girls last year.
    • How would you reduce costs within an organization that is losing market share?
Illegal Questions/Things to Watch
  • Questions should focus on functions of the position; be leery of things getting too personal or specific outside of the postion, company, or skills desired for a position.
  • Employers cannot ask questions regarding age, medical history, religion, etc. That is a basis for discrimination.
  • Answering in a way that is relevant to the postion is always best; redirect the conversation to your qualifications.