Interview Skills

Interviewing can be an incredibly stressful process. One way to reduce that stress is to be well prepared. Before you go to your interview, you should spend some time thinking about what might be asked and how you would respond.

Get the event details

Make sure you understand the exact details of interview. You should know where you are going, who you are meeting with, where you will park, and about how long the interview will last. You might also ask if you will be expected to give a presentation, who will be interviewing you, or if you will have multiple interviews with different members of the institution.

Study

Even if you don't have to give a formal presentation, you should practice your interview. Create a list of sample interview questions. Write out thoughtful answers and study these.

CSUSB Career Development Center Practice Questions
Forbes top 50 interview questions
CSU Chico Sample Interview Questions and Answers

Even if you aren't asked any of these questions, the preparation will make you feel more confident and less nervous. This goes a long way toward making a good impression.

If you get an oddball question, remember that the employer may be testing how you react. Just stay calm, take a moment to think about the answer, and if you can't come up with a good answer, it's okay to tell the interviewer you will have to consider that question further.

Be ready to ask questions

Every interview will have a period, usually toward the end, where you will be offered the opportunity to ask questions of your employer. Remember that the questions you ask here will be a reflection of what you will be like in the workplace.

You want the questions you ask to show that you are thoughtful and have done your research. Good types of questions to ask would be about skills necessary to succeed, the type of environment or management structure you'd be working in, and the details about day-to-day tasks beyond what was outlined in the job description.

Avoid asking questions directly about salary, promotions, and benefits (e.g. vacation, health insurance). These are things that you can consider once you've been offered a job, and you can often find the answers to such questions on the institution or company's website. You may also want to avoid questions about why the previous person in the position left.

Remember many of your questions may be answered during the interview, so it's good to have a list of several potential questions. If all the questions you planned are answered before you get the opportunity to ask, try going back to the question and think if you could ask something more detailed about the topic. If that isn't an option, tell the employer that you were interested in the topic and thank them for their detailed answer.

Virginia Tech Career Center: Questions to ask employers during interviews
About.com: Interview Questions to Ask

Things employers cannot ask you

Remember that there are several categories of topics that potential employers are legally prevented from asking you. Questions about your marital status or sexuality, health and disabilities, age, ethnic or racial identity, and some other topics are off-limits because they might allow an interviewer to discriminate against you.

Employers might not have malicious intent in asking some of these questions. For example, they may be trying to be friendly when asking whether you are married or have a girlfriend/boyfriend. However naïve the question, the answer might lead to your disqualification.

Think about how you might answer such questions, so you won't be flustered when the time comes. You can be direct and simply say something like, "My marital status won't have any affect on my ability to perform the duties of the position." Remember you only want to work in an environment where you will feel comfortable. If the interview is becoming increasingly uncomfortable or focused on illegal topics, you should feel the right to end the interview and even file a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you feel it's a case of discrimination.

How to answer illegal questions
Examples of illegal questions

Practice

Especially if you've never interviewed for a professional position, you should practice your interview. Find a friend or family member that will pretend to be your interviewer and have them run through a handful of questions. It might feel a little silly, but you will get a chance to have feedback about your answers and body language. If you're too shy or can't find someone to mock interview you, practice in the mirror.

Better yet, sign up for a mock interview with the CSUSB Career Center Development!