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Interviewing Part I: What to Say

When I’m conducting interview workshops, many students want me to provide them with the answers to specific questions. That’s not really helpful (and I bet you know already know why)…because every interview is different. Answers vary based on the person answering the questions and the company conducting the interview. One piece of advice though, that is very important is this: prior to the interview, be sure to thoroughly review the job description and/or the company website and identify at least 3-5 aspects of that specific job and that specific company that not only appeals to you, but also matches up well with your qualifications and background. Also ask yourself: what more do I want to know?

Expanding on this concept, it’s important to ask early on in an interview…”what qualities is your company looking for in a candidate?” Asking this key question early on can help you frame your answers so that you are addressing the employer’s needs. Remember—an interview is your opportunity to explain your qualifications to an employer—and only you can tell them, “Here’s why I’m the best fit for this job.”

Also important: employers want specifics. So if you say that your top three strengths are organizational abilities, effective communication skills, and success working in teams…then you had better be prepared to back those statements up with specific examples of how you developed and/or practice those skills. Keep in mind any time you can provide numbers, percentages, grades, quotes (from supervisors or professors), or positive change resulting from your actions, you strengthen your answer.

Lastly, remember to use the STAR or CAR format when answering behavioral questions (just to remind you: behavioral questions ask you to give a specific example of behavior you did in your past in order to better predict how you will behave in the future if put in a similar situation). Many employers actually physically record whether or not you utilized the STAR or CAR format in an interview. Just as a reminder…here’s what the acronyms stand for:

S = Situation
T = Task (you faced)
A =Action (you took)
R =Result

C =Circumstance
A =Action (you took)
R =Result

There’s so much to know about what to say an interview, I couldn’t possibly share it with you in one blog entry…to enhance your knowledge in the subject area; I’d recommend attending an “Interviewing Strategies” workshop. It is much more detailed than what’s covered in the ECIP 101 workshop. For more information on locations and times, login to your job search account and click the “Events” tab and then “Workshops.”

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
-Thomas Edison


About the author

Rachel Kaschner

Rachel Kaschner is the Assistant Director at Engineering Career Services.