Interview Tips

Do's and Don'ts

What makes up an interview?

Interviewer's Role

Warm Up

An interview usually begins with the greeting and handshake. The interviewer is already starting to evaluate you


In this stage, the interviewer will typically providesome structure for the interview process. She/hewill briefly tell you about the organization, andabout the position you are interviewing for.


During this stage, the interviewer will ask youquestions. She/he will be evaluating your answersand assessing you for the position.


In this stage, the interviewer will provide you with a rough time line for the hiring process. She/he will tell you what the next step in the process are and when a final decision will be made.

Your Role

Make sure you smile and have a firm handshake. Show the interviewer that you are friendly and confident. Be prepared for a few minutes of small talk after the introduction.

Show your interest through your body language and listening skills.

Through your answers, you must provide the interviewer with information about you that will convince him/her that you have the skills and qualifications to be recommended for a second interview. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

If the interviewer does not provide you with this information, ask for it.


What can I do to prepare for an interview?

The first step in preparing for an interview is to take a close look at your self. You must have a strong sense of your assets, strengths, interests, and goals. It is up to you to communicate this information the employer in an effective, efficient manner. Think about how you got where you are today. Here are some questions for learning more about your self:

How did you become interested in art, biology, history, etc.?
What were the catalysts for major decisions you made?
Why did you choose Palo Verde College?
What did/do you do really well?
Why a degree in Communications, Philosophy, etc.?
What are you proud of?
Will you really fit into the field you have chosen?
What would you like to do better?
What kind of contributions can you make to the field?

These can be difficult questions to answer. However, this kind of exploration requires getting to know yourself as well as possible so that you can clearly present yourself to an interviewer who makes judgments in a short amount of time, without the benefit of knowing you personally.

The Interview Process

The next step in preparation involves understanding the interview process. The key point is that both the interviewee and interviewer have a goal, as well as some fears. Your goal is to convince the interviewer that you would be an excellent candidate for the job. The interviewer's goal is to find the best candidate. Your fear: What if I mess up the interview? The interviewer fears the loss of credibility as a recruiter if a recommended candidate doesn't work out on the job.

You should focus on preparing what you have to say during the interview, rather than on what you think the interviewer wants to hear. So don't waste energy trying to please with a seemingly appropriate response. Instead, spending time on clearly demonstrating why you are well suited for the position and then support your answer with specific behavioral examples of achievements, accomplishments and skills.

Keep in mind that, in the interviewer's opinion, past performance usually determines future success. You may feel that you are repeating yourself at times during the interview, but it's important to realize that the same basic answers, but give different examples. You want to demonstrate a consistent pattern of leadership ability, quantitative skills, and interpersonal expertise and so on.

Possible Questions

What they may ask:

The Transfer and Career Center can provide you with a list of questions that may be asked in an interview. Many interviewers, however, like to see you think on your feet. So you may be asked questions that you are unprepared for. If you have prepared yourself well, you should be able to draw from that information and develop and answer. Remember, most of these types of questions do not have a right or wrong answer. The employer is simply trying to determine how you handle the unknown or how you react in stressful situations.

If they ask you about salary, be prepared by knowing the salary range of the job you are interviewing for. You can obtain current salary information via the internet [SALARY RANGES]. If a book you use is a few years old, be sure to adjust the numbers for inflation. Also be sure to consider the differences in cost of living and other areas of the country.

Handling Illegal Questions:

Be aware that there are questions that an employer may NOT ask you citizenship, age, marital/family status/ personal information (height, weight, etc), disability status, gender, race, and religious preference. An employer's questions must be related to the job you are seeking and serve to determine that you can perform the functions of the job.

So what do you do if you are asked an illegal question? Basically, you have three options. First you can answer the question. Just remember that if you answer an illegal question, you are providing information that isn't relevant to the job and it could cost you the job. Another option is to refuse to answer the question. The risk of this option is that you may appear to be uncooperative, which could also harm your chances of getting the position. Your third option is to look for the intent of the question and respond with an answer as it might apply to the job. For example, if the employer asks, Who is going to watch your children when you travel for this job? You could respond, I can easily meet the travel requirements for this position and will not have any problems with the required work schedule. You have addressed the employer's concerns by considering the intent of the question without providing any information that is not relevant to the job you are seeking.

What You Should Ask:

Develop questions that show you have researched the organization and have an understanding of who they are, what they do or who they serve. You want to convey your understanding not only of the organization, but of the environment in which it operates. Ask questions on a combination of issues related to the nature of work you would be doing, as well as the overall organization direction. This is an excellent opportunity for you to make yourself stand out from the other candidates.

How To Ask Questions:

There are two major categories of questions: focusing questions and expansion questions. Focusing questions are typically used to direct the topic of conversation or check your understanding of a comment. They usually elicit a relatively quick answer. Expansion questions are used to get the interviewer to expand on a topic so you can learn more about it. Expansion questions generally beginning with who, what, where, when, why, how, tell me more about etc.

A focusing question is most often followed with an expansion question. For instance, if you asked the question, 'What do you think is the most important characteristic for a person to have in order to be successful in this position?' you should follow it with, 'Why is that?' Remember, you should create a list of questions for each interview that will help you get the information you will need in order to make an informed decision. Utilize job descriptions, organization information, newspaper articles and other resources to help you formulate your questions.

Behavioral Based Interviewing (STAR):

The basis of Behavioral Based Interviewing is that your past performance will determine your future success. In other words, if you were successful in previous jobs, chances are you will be successful in the job the employer has to offer now. The interviewer is looking for examples and proof of a particular skill. 'Tell me a bout a time when...' is an example of this type of question. The interviewer will probe and ask you to provide details. You will be asked to describe previous situations in which you used desired behaviors.

An excellent technique to use in these situations is the STAR technique. What you need to include:

Situation Briefly describe the situation you were in.

Task Describe what assignment you were given to complete.

Action Actions are activities you engaged in to get the task accomplished.

Result This is the outcome of the task and action. Whenever possible, State the results
in quantifiable terms.

Preparing for a behavioral Interview

To prepare for a behavioral interview, prepare short descriptions of situations that demonstrate positive behaviors or actions. As with STAR, make sure each story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Also, be sure that the outcome or results positively on you. Finally, be specific and provide as much detail as possible. The following is a list of potential questions an interviewer may ask that require a STAR response:

Describe a time when something you were involved with didn't turn out as you planned and how you handled it.
Describe an experience you had with someone who was hard to get along with and how you handled it.
Describe a time when you exhibited creativity.
Describe a time when you did more than was expected.
Describe the most important event in your life and why it is so important to you.
Define leadership and describe a time when you feel that you were a leader.
You are trying to sell a new idea to a group of individuals who prefer to keep things as they are. How do you convince them to adopt your idea?
Describe and experience, personal or work related, where you had to make a decision regarding ethics.
Describe a situation where you made a mistake that had a negative effect on others.

First Interview Preparation Summary Checklist

Research the organization and position you are applying for prior to the interview.

Review annual reports, newspaper articles, web pages, etc.
Call alumni for additional or inside information.

Know yourself

Be able to describe your strengths and weaknesses.
Be able to talk about your accomplishments.
Be able to discuss areas for development
Be able to tell your story.
Be able to explain why you should be hired.

Based on your research and knowledge of yourself, be prepared to communicate

Your fit with the organization.

Be prepared to ask and answer questions and to provide specific examples.

Be prepared to provide references and to release transcript information if requested.

The Second Interview

In the first interview, your objective was to make a good impression, determine if you were interested in pursuing the position further, and ultimately receive an invitation for a second interview. The interviewer's objective was to obtain enough information about you to determine whether you had the skills and qualifications, compared to the other candidates, to invite you back for a second interview


Dress appropriately.
Arrive early for all interviews.
Obtain a business card from each interviewer.
Make sure you express your interest in the position and for the job!

Write thank you letters imvisitorstely after your interviews.


In the second interview, your goal is to impress the interviewers and receive a job offer. Your second objective is to obtain additional information regarding the organization and position to determine if you are interested in pursing the job further. The interviewer's objective is to introduce you to other people to see if there is a fit between you and their organization and also to probe further into any areas where they may have had concerns or questions after the first interview. You may actually go through three, four or more rounds of interviews prior to receiving any job offers.



The skills that got you through the first interview (communication, confidence, enthusiasm) will be what they look for in the second interview. The interviewers will also look for increased knowledge of the company and the position for which you are interviewing.

You could be interviewed by two or more people on-site, in a few hours or up to an entire day. It is appropriate to ask what the agenda will be for your second interview. This information will help you as you prepare. Treat each interview as if it were your first. Remember, the people you interview with haven't met you yet so you need to impress them so they will recommend you for the position.

You may be asked similar questions to the first interview. Don't worry about repeating some of the same information you presented in the first interview. The second interviewer is hearing your answers for the first time or may be looking for consistency in your responses.


You interviewers may be peers, supervisors or executives each of whom has the task of determining your fit with the organization. Make sure you get a business card from each interviewer for writing thank you letters.

The interview sessions may be very similar or different and the styles may range from very structured to casual. Don't be surprised when on interviewer is conversational and the next is very direct.

The best questions are interesting questions, so think carefully about what and how to ask the kinds of questions that will make you stand out. The focus of your questions should change with the level of the person interviewing you.

The second interview process is very tiring, so make sure you get a good night's sleep in the night before your interview.

And above all ASK FOR THE JOB! Do not assume the interviewer knows that you want the job!

Interview Criteria Skills

Interviewers not only look for answers to specific questions, but also for more general skill areas. Below are some of the skills employers may evaluate you on:

Planning and Organizing Effectively organizing self and others, allocating resources, and working efficiently under time constraints.

Communications Presenting material orally and in writing in an interesting, persuasive, organized, articulate, and concise manner.

Interpersonal Relations Developing and maintaining smooth, cooperative working relations with others. Leadership Style and Influence Asserting ideas and opinions effectively and gaining impact without relying on authority or position. Demonstrates self-confidence.

Adaptability Adapting to ambiguity of work and working comfortably under pressure.

Innovation Developing original, unusual, successful approaches.

Initiative and Drive Actively attempting to influence events and to originate actions to achieve goals.

Problem Analysis Identifying and analyzing problems, determining causes and sizing up situations using perceptual, analytical, and conceptual abilities.

Technical/Professional Judgment Possessing technical knowledge and understanding of discipline fundamentals through past

Interviewing Dress

Traditional Dress has changed dramatically over the past few years. When selecting clothes for an interview, keep your target audience in mind. There is greater flexibility than ever before in choice, ranging from very conservative to more fashion forward. However, this flexibility does not mean that anything goes. Always be aware of what is considered appropriate for the industry you are trying to get in to. For example, the banking and finance industries are still considered quite conservative, insurance and sales more moderate, real-estate and advertising more flexible, education and nonprofit direct service more casual. You should notice what is considered acceptable in specific organizations you are interested in and dress a t or slightly above that level for your interview. Don't be too trendy, unless you are interviewing in the fashion industry or possibly the arts. Avoid too much of anything. Be moderate in your attire; you want it to complement you, not overpower you. Hair should always be neat. Keep hands and nails well groomed. Never chew gum, twist your hair, or play with your jewelry or pen!


Background/Education Questions

Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about your liberal arts education.
How did you decide on your career path?
How did you decide to go to Palo Verde College?
Why did you pick your major?
How does your education in ______ relate specifically to this position?

Previous Experience or Employment

If I were to call your last employer what would they tell me?
What is the most rewarding assignment you have completed?
How have you motivated others to work with or for you?
How did your position at_____ prepare you for this position?
What did you learn in your last position that will help you in this job?


Describe three skills you have that would benefit our organization.
Give me an example that demonstrates your ability to organize.
Give me an example of a time when you were the leader of a group.

Long Range Work Goals

Where do you plan to be in three to five years?
What are your short-term/long-term goals?

Aspects of the Position

What qualifies you for this position?
If I'd never heard of this organization, what could you tell me about it?
How would you use your skill in sports on this job?
Why should I hire you?
Why are you interested in joining us?
What do you find most attractive about this position? Least attractive?
In what kind of a work environment are you most comfortable?
What can you do for us that another candidate can't do?

Communication Skills

What kind of communication do you think you are best at formal presentation, informal presentation, written, or interpersonal? Give me an example.
What have you done to enhance your communication skills?

Working in Groups

Can you describe for me a group situation that you thought worked very well? Why did it work well? What role did you play?
Can you describe for me a group situation that you thought did not work well? Why was it not


Personal Traits, Character, Values

At this time in your life, what do you value most?
What characteristics or qualities do you value most in people?
What is the most important lesson you've learned in life?
Describe your personality to me.
Give me an example that demonstrates your assertiveness.
What one characteristic best describes you?
How do you motivate people? Give me an example.
Give me an example of a time you demonstrated creativity.
What motivates you?
How do you handle pressure? Criticism?

Outside Interests, Hobbies

How do you relax? What do you do in your leisure time?
Are you active in any outside groups or organizations? What is your role in the group? What have you contributed to the organization?

Challenges, Strengths, Weaknesses

Describe the most difficult situation you have been in and how you coped.
Describe a goal you set for yourself and what you did to meet it.
Can you give me an example where you successfully dealt with conflict?
Can you describe for me a situation in which you exemplified leadership?
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Cite an example of a situation where you had to convince someone to do something.
Tell me what you consider to be your greatest assets. Weaknesses.
Can you describe for me a situation in which you failed to accomplish your objective? Why do you think you failed?

What did you learn about yourself, or the situation, from this failure? Would you do anything differently now?

Questions for teaching candidates

What is your philosophy of education?
Describe your student teaching experiences.
What are the qualities of an excellent teacher? Which of these qualities do you have?
Describe your style of teaching.
What three words would your students use to describe you as a teacher?
How and when do you discipline a student?