What is an interview?
An interview is an opportunity for you and a potential employer to learn more about each other by discussing your interest in the position, and your education, skills, and experiences.
The most common interview formats are phone, video, and in-person. While more employers are incorporating tests and simulation activities during the interview process, the most common way for employers to determine your skills/qualifications is to ask you questions, particularly behavior-based interview questions.
5 steps for a successful interview
- Review the organization’s website to learn about its mission, primary clients, major services/projects, and recent news
- Review your resume and the qualifications for the position and be prepared to provide examples from your coursework, previous work experience, volunteering, and activities that demonstrate you can do the job or internship
- Use the STAR technique to prepare your answers for behavior-based questions
- Download our Interview Prep Checklist to prepare for different interview formats
Throughout the interview process you may interact with multiple people such as recruiters, hiring managers, or a search committee panel. Asking questions is the best way to get more details and insight into the role, find out what your boss will expect of you, and learn about the culture of the organization. Download this chart for a few examples of the types of questions you might want to ask.
Traditional interview-wear is a suit or business attire. What is appropriate for your interview will depend on the industry, organization, and role. While interviews in the virtual space may feel less formal, you still want to leave a positive impression.
If you’re not sure what is expected of you, ask the person coordinating your interview. You can say something like, "I want to make sure I understand your organizational culture and dress appropriately. What is the recommended attire for my interview day?"
At the end of the interview, ask for the interviewer's email address, if you don't already have it. Follow up within 24 hours of the interview to reiterate your interest the position, using something like this sample follow up message.
Frequently Asked Questions
First, ask for clarification to ensure you understand the question. If you still don’t know the answer or have the specific experience, be honest. Share the most relevant experience you do have, as well as what you would do to learn more. For example, "That is an area of growth for me, and I am excited to learn" or "I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet, but I do have familiarity with [similar skill/task]."
Within 24 hours of your interview, reach out to express your continued interest. Follow up again, if more than a week has passed beyond the date you were given for next steps, to politely ask for a status update.
Certain laws bar interviewers from asking questions about race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, marital status, or family matters. If asked about one of these identities, consider responding with: "So that I can better answer your question, how does that relate to the role/position?"
Other questions might not be prohibited, but may still be inappropriate or biased (Example: "Who did you vote for in the last election?"). Again, consider responding with: "So that I can better answer your question, how does that relate to the role/position?" If an interviewer’s questions make you feel uncomfortable, this may be a warning sign about the organizational culture and work environment.
During the interview, some employers will ask for your desired salary. To avoid limiting your strength in the negotiation process, try to deflect. Answer with: "If offered the job, I am willing to be flexible based on the overall compensation/benefits package." If pressed for a number, give a $3,000-$5,000 range (Example: $45,000-$50,000). Researching beforehand at websites like Glassdoor will help you identify an appropriate salary range.
The decision on when and if to disclose is a personal one. If you need accommodations to fully participate in an interview, request them when setting up the interview so that the employer has time to make arrangements.
Employers have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations. Accommodations for interviews could include an accessible interview location, a sign language interpreter, a reader, or modified testing.
If you have other questions on navigating the job or internship search, visit the Students with Disabilities page.
You can inform an employer even before the interview begins. In any correspondence leading up to the interview, sign off with your name and pronouns.
During the interview, if someone misgenders you, try these two steps:
- Politely correct the interviewer immediately after the wrong pronoun is used by saying something like, "Actually, it’s Ms. not Mr.", or, "Actually, I use they/them pronouns."
- Offer a kind smile and move forward with the interview.
Your goal is to correct the situation quickly and shift the focus back to your qualifications.