Interviewing is an art. Interviewing well takes time, commitment, preparation, and a lot of practice. The person who gets hired is not necessarily the best one for the job — often it’s the person who knows how to get hired. But the good news is, you can be both! We’re here to help you prepare for and master the art of the interview.

Know yourself

  1. Memorize your résumé. Understand clearly how your goals, strengths, education, and abilities will be an asset to the company.
  2. Review your profile on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites you might have, and imagine your prospective employer looking over your shoulder. Revise accordingly. Google yourself, too — prospective employers will likely Google you.

Understand the organization, the position, and who will interview you

Employers want to know what you can do for them, and it’s your job to tell them. Therefore, learn everything you can about the organization — its mission statement, products, training programs, history, current status, goals, finances, and anything else that seems relevant. Here’s how:

  1. Review the job description carefully, especially the Requirements section. They are likely to ask about your experiences doing these things successfully!
  2. Research the company online. Being able to demonstrate knowledge about the company and industry shows effort and demonstrates passion.
  3. Ask the person who invites you to interview who else will be present at the interview. Look them up on LinkedIn in advance!
  4. Talk to anyone you know at the company or in the field. Ask if they have any advice on what the company might emphasize in an interview for this position.

Prepare for questions you may be asked & to ask interviewer(s)

  1. See sample questions you might be asked here
  2. How to prepare for behavioral questions (Tell me about a time when…): Many interviews look to past behavior to predict future behavior. For example, if the employer is interested in how you will treat their clients, they might ask you to describe a time that you worked with customers in the past. Use the “PAR” method to ensure that you answer these questions clearly.
  3. P: Problem
    Briefly explain the situation in question.
    I was working as a ticket seller on campus when our software failed, just before a big game with hundreds of attendees.
    A: Action
    Share what you learned. Highlight what translates to the new role.
    I called tech support right away. While waiting, I got coupons to give to the early arrivers while I explained the situation.
    R: Results
    Briefly explain the situation in question.
    We were able to keep everyone happy until the problem was fixed. I learned that staying calm and focused on the customers is the key to getting through any unexpected challenges at work.

  4. See sample questions you might be asked here

Know the time and place

Check the logistical details at least three times. Be sure about the time, time zone (if not in person), location (in person, online, phone), and format. Arrive 10 minutes early if in person.

Dress appropriately

Pick out an outfit makes you feel confident and comfortable in what you know of the company culture. A basic rule for an interview is to dress one step above what employees typically wear in the company day to day. If possible, talk to alums and others at the company to get a sense of what that is. Make sure it’s cleaned, ironed, and set out beforehand!

Bring the right stuff (in-person interviews)

Carry a portfolio or folder containing several copies of your résumé, your list of references, and any other documents requested by the employer. Bring your questions for the interviewer(s), paper, pen, and any prep notes you might want to look at while you’re waiting.

Tips for video interviews

  1. Make sure you have the technology (e.g. Zoom) downloaded and your volume is working well in advance. Log on 2-3 minutes in advance.
  2. Go for a plain background (actual or virtual), so it’s not distracting. Make sure you’re well-lit.
  3. Carve out a distraction free-area for yourself, so you can focus on just the interview. Close other programs on your computer.


The moment you walk through the company door, you will be scrutinized. Hiring is extremely subjective, and influenced not just by your qualifications but by how well the employer and co-workers believe you will fit with the team.

  • Be friendly and courteous to every person you encounter — even in the restroom or elevator. When introducing yourself, say your first and last name. Make eye contact, smile, and give a firm handshake.
  • Watch for the interviewer’s cues for where you should sit, the pace of the conversation, the amount of small talk, etc.
  • Let the sparkling parts of your personality shine.

Maintain good “body language”

  • Maintain good eye contact and nod your head appropriately.
  • Sit leaning slightly forward with your arms unfolded.
  • Avoid distracting hand movements and squirming in your chair.
  • Avoid thinking about your next answer — it distracts you from paying full attention.
  • If it seems appropriate, feel free to jot down a few notes.

Answer the questions

Be concise and to the point. Make sure you answer the question that was asked, and ask for clarification if necessary. Demonstrate knowledge of yourself, the employer, and the position. Use examples or stories when appropriate. Always be friendly, confident, enthusiastic, and positive.

Illegal or inappropriate questions
Be prepared in the event your interviewer asks an illegal or inappropriate question about age, ethnicity, religion, race, citizenship, marital status, arrest records, or disabilities:

  • You can refuse to answer, or ask why the question is relevant. For example, you might say, “Could you help me understand how this is related to the position?” Or, “I’m not sure what you mean by this question?”
  • You can just answer the question if you choose, or address what you think is the underlying issue. For example, the question, “Do you have a family?” may be the interviewer’s clumsy way of asking if you can handle the nights, weekends, and travel the job requires. You can say, “I’m aware of the time commitment needed, and can assure you that I’m quite willing to put in the hours needed to do an excellent job.” 

Close gracefully

  • Reiterate your interest in the position.
  • Your interviewer might end the interview with, “Is there anything else we should know about you?” Have a succinct and enthusiastic summary of your qualifications ready.
  • Thank the interviewer for his or her time, and shake everyone’s hand before you leave — again, make eye contact, and convey confidence!
  • Reiterate your interest in the position.
  • Ask for the business card of each person who interviews you, or ask your interview host for a list of your interviewers, for your thank-you notes.


Make each interview a learning experience. After the interview, evaluate what you did well and what you need to improve.

Send a thank-you note

Within 24 hours of the interview, send a thank-you note to each person who interviewed you.


If you have not heard back in a week or so, or you have an alternative decision to make, it is perfectly correct to call and inquire.

Second interview

Generally after a first interview, those screened will have a longer second interview. You will usually meet with a variety of people with whom you could be working. They usually don’t have the power to hire you, but their input is considered. The time tends to be less formal, more relaxed, but remain on your toes!

About 60% of those invited to a second interview are hired. Arrangements can be more complex, so be sure you understand exactly what you need to know. If you’re unsure about anything, call the person who invited you for the interview.

Congratulations! You got an offer!

It’s customary to ask for a few days to consider an offer. Express your enthusiasm for the job and interest in the organization, and agree on a specific deadline for your answer. Be sure to get the offer in writing. More about salaries.

Karmen Baldwin provides a student with career resources | photo by Lynn Anselmi

Check out our Mock Interview program

Our career counselors are available to help you practice interview skills and receive constructive feedback in a safe, supportive environment. We can also advise you on professional etiquette and dressing for an interview.

Learn more >

Ames Library | photo by Chris Yang

CCC and the SPU Library

The SPU Library has a Subject Guide on Career, Vocation, & Calling that includes fantastic resources for preparing for interviews.

Learn more >