The job interview is the most important part of your job search.  This is your chance to explain your qualifications, demonstrate your personality, and indicate the contribution you can make.  The interview is the time to convince the employer that you are just the right person for the job!


Preparation is the key to surviving your job interview successfully.

Research the organization. Read everything you can about work in this field.  Be certain to read the organization’s website thoroughly. Interviewers will expect you to be familiar with it.  Understand what are the goals and mission of the organization, what the typical jobs are called, and as much of the jargon of the profession as you can.

Contact anyone you know who works for this organization or people who work in the same field.  If possible, follow the organization on twitter and “like it” on Facebook.

Research gives you information that will help you stand out in an interview and also allows you to decide if this is an organization where you’d like to work.

Be able to answer:

  • Why you want to work for this organization
  • What is happening in this career field or industry today

Know what you have to offer. Review your resume.  Think about all of your accomplishments and your best personality qualities.  Make a list of 4 or 5 things you would like an employer to know about you by the end of the interview.  Use these points in answering their questions.  Be specific.  Have examples.

Be able to answer:

  • What are your skills and strongest abilities?
  • How do your skills relate to this job?  How would you fit into this organization?
  • What have you gained from work experiences and campus or community activities?
  • What are your short and long term career goals? 

Before beginning the interview process, review all your social media pages.  Be sure that everything is appropriate for your future employer to read.  MAKE CHANGES NOW!

Making a Good Impression

Employers look for people who are enthusiastic, motivated, and poised and those who can speak clearly and easily about themselves. Don’t be afraid to let your own personality show. Here are some things you can do to improve your chances of a successful interview:

  • Dress up. Present a neat, businesslike, professional appearance.  When in doubt, be conservative in your dress until you learn more about the culture of the organization.  Generally, business suits are appropriate for all interviews.  Pay attention to good grooming.
  • Be on time for the interview: 10-15 minutes early is best. Get clear instructions on how to find the interview location.  Be sure to allow enough time for travel (and getting lost).
  • Bring a notepad, pen, and a few extra copies of your resume. Turn off your cell phone.
  • Remember that the interview starts the moment you walk in the door of the organization. Be polite and friendly to everyone. The impression you make can impact your selection. Don’t forget the importance of a good handshake.
  • Sit calmly. Don’t fidget. Remember to maintain good eye contact and SMILE.
  • Speak distinctly and clearly. Don’t use slang.
  • Answer questions completely but concisely. Don’t add excessive personal information or unrelated details.
  • Be positive. Don’t say negative things about yourself, professors, employers, or classmates.
  • Don’t limit yourself geographically unless you really have to.  Being flexible about your initial location can increase your chances of being hired.
  • Show enthusiasm and passion about the position and the organization.
  • Try to relax and be yourself.


Every job interview is a little different.  Each interviewer has his or her own style and favorite questions. Listed below are questions that are commonly asked. Careful thought and preparation of good answers will help you to be an active participant in the interview process.

Try to have a short story or example to illustrate your answers to the questions. Very short stories following your initial answers to interview questions make your qualifications more apparent and easier for the employer to remember. Concrete examples show that you really understand what you have to offer.  Just be certain that the stories can be told simply and very briefly.

Sample Interview Questions

  1. What are your short and long range goals? Be sure that your goals are related to the job.
  2. What are your greatest strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  3. How would a friend describe you?
  4. What qualifications do you have that would make you a good candidate for this job?  Why should we hire you?
  5. What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction?
  6. Why did you choose Drew?
  7. Why did you choose your major?  How is your major good preparation for this job?
  8. Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic performance?
  9. What have you learned from your extracurricular activities?  What did you contribute?
  10. Tell me about a problem you have encountered and how you dealt with it.
  11. What was your favorite part-time/summer job? Why?
  12. Why are you interested in this company/organization?
  13. What do you know about our company?
  14. Will you relocate? Are you willing to travel?
  15. Tell me about a conflict you had with another person and how you dealt with it.
  16. If you had the opportunity to do your college years over again, what might you do differently? Why?
  17. What’s most important to you in a job?
  18. What things would you like to avoid in a job? Why?
  19. What kinds of things are you most confident doing?
  20. Tell me about an accomplishment that you’re proud of.

Behavior-based interview questions are often used to better determine if a candidate has the qualities and competencies the organization is seeking.  This type of interview question requires the candidate to give specific examples and explain situations in considerable detail.

To prepare, carefully review your past projects, jobs, and activities.  Think about particularly challenging situations, what you accomplished and why.  Consider difficulties as well as successes.  Surface answers or generalities will not work.  You need to give a thoughtful answer with details and specifics.  Prepare “mini stories” that demonstrate successful use of your skills.

Sample of behavior-based interview questions

  1. Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult person. What was the situation?  What steps did you take to cope with it?  Were you successful?  What would you do differently the next time?
  2. Tell me about a college course that was especially challenging for you.  How did you handle it?  What strategies did you use?
  3. Describe a time when you had to work as part of a team in an activity, class or job.  What was your role?  What were the positive and negative parts of being part of a team?
  4. Tell me about an experience you had where you had to promote an idea to a supervisor or professor.  What did you do?  How did you present it?  What resistance did you meet?  How did you overcome it?
  5. Describe a time when you were faced with a problem or stresses that tested your coping skills.
  6. Tell me about a time when you needed to develop rapport with someone very different from you.
  7. What are three top priorities or motivators?
  8. Discuss a time when you failed at something. What happened? What did you learn?
  9. Describe a time when you set a goal for yourself and how you achieved it.

Telephone interviews

Many employers conduct telephone interviews for preliminary screening to decide if additional interviews should take place.  Telephone interviews are just as important as regular interviews.   It’s important to do the same research and preparation as in a face-to- face interview.

  • Ask the employer for a specific time for an interview and be sure to be available at the scheduled time.
  • Choose a quiet place away from noise and distractions.  There should be no TV, music or conversation in the background.
  • Have paper and pen ready to take notes.  Don’t eat, drink, or chew gum during the interview.
  • Use the phone interview to your advantage.  Have a copy of the job description, notes about the organization, and your resume in front of you.
  • Prepare a list of your strengths and qualifications.
  • Remember that you can’t use facial expressions or body language to decide what interests the interviewer or to convey your own interest and enthusiasm.  Listen carefully for verbal cues and be sure to respond with verbal expressions of interest.
  • Even though the interview is on the phone, remember to use the same good grammar and vocabulary that you would in a regular interview.

Questions you can ask

Make a list of your questions in advance.  Intelligent questions show that you’ve read about the organization and have a genuine interest in the position. This is your opportunity to learn more about the organization.

  • Ask about the job responsibilities, growth potential, training, supervision, and future goals of the organization. Ask what makes an excellent employee in this organization.
  • Do not ask about salary, vacations, and benefits.  Save these questions for later when you have a definite job offer.
  • At the end of the interview, show your interest in the position and ask about when decisions will be made. Get the interviewer’s business card.

If you would like to practice your interview skills with a career counselor, contact the Career Center to schedule an appointment at or 973-408-3710.

Follow Up

Send a brief thank-you e-mail immediately after the interview, usually within one day of your interview.  Restate your interest in the position and comment on any special reasons why you are suited to the position.   Personalize the message as much as possible by commenting on something specific that was talked about during the interview.  Be sure to spell the interviewer’s name correctly.

Sample of a thank you letter

Ms. Clara Ramos, Director
Center for Community Outreach

Dear Ms. Ramos,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview with you today.  You helped me to understand much more about the Assistant Program Coordinator position and I believe I could make a real contribution to your organization.  I especially enjoyed our discussion about designing appealing projects for teens.  My experience with the Volunteer Resource Center at Drew has helped me to develop many of the skills you need in this position.

After speaking with you, I am even more enthusiastic about the position and hope you will seriously consider my application.  Please feel free to contact me at 973-408-3456 if I can provide you with any additional information.

Thank you again for the chance to meet today.


Valerie Cooper