Career Development - Job Search Tools
Key points to remember
- All questions that employers ask are really the same question: "How
can you be valuable to me and this organization?"
- Research the organization.
- Make sure you understand the position.
- Know your strengths and how they can add value.
Strategies for success
- Be clear about your strengths and skills.
- Research the organization. By researching the
employer you will be better equipped to demonstrate your fit with
the organization. What do you research? You'll
want to know about the organization's mission and core values,
learn about the culture, and identify their current projects, areas
of growth and recent challenges or problems that need to be overcome. How
do you find this information? First, review the organization's
web site; next, do a search for recent articles or internet posts
that discuss their initiatives, activities, and challenges; next,
talk to people who work for the organization, or are in the field,
about what they know and their impressions.
- Study the position description. Understanding
what the employer is looking for is the key to answering interview
questions well. Most interview questions are developed based on the
required and preferred qualifications listed in the job description.
Print the job description and underline or highlight the skills and
tasks that are mentioned.
- Prepare to make a case for the match between your
strengths, skills, and experience and the position. Think through
the experiences you have had that are related to the position description.
Select those that demonstrate the transferable skills related to
the qualifications being sought. Examples that demonstrate several
skills are best. Have several examples, so you are not leaning too
heavily on one or two when answering questions.
- Show enthusiasm and interest.
STAR method for answering interview questions
Situation * Task * Action * Result
- Include these elements to tell a compelling story about what you have
done that demonstrates your transferable skills. The STAR method works
best for behavior-based questions that begin with "Tell me about
a time when…" or "Describe a situation when…," but
this approach is good to use whenever you find yourself sharing an
example in response to a question.
- Situation: "Recently, I completed a project
that involved working with a team…."
- Task: "...our task was to implement an emergency
preparedness plan for our department."
- Action: "My role was to inform staff about
the procedures we needed to follow in case of an emergency that required
us to evacuate our office. I did this in several ways: by emailing
everyone and sending an attachment describing the evacuation plan,
exit route, and designated meeting place; by creating a colorful
visual display on the bulletin board in our staff work room; and
by taking everyone through a hands-on exercise during a staff meeting."
- Result: "The result was that when the University
conducted a drill for the entire campus, the staff in our office
assembled at our pre-arranged meeting place quickly and without hesitation."
Make sure to focus on what your role was when you are describing a
team project. Don't forget to give a result or outcome. Even
if the outcome wasn't positive, be prepared to discuss what you
learned and what you would have done differently.
Types of interviews
- Initial Screening interview: A short session during
which the employer is trying to narrow down the field of applicants
who meet the job qualifications. Screening interviews may be conducted
either over the telephone or in-person with one person or several. The
objective is to narrow the field down to fewer candidates who become
finalists for the position.
- Follow-up interview: Follow-up interviews are
almost always conducted in person and can last from an hour to one
or two days. They can involve either a single interview or a series
of sequential interviews with individuals and groups. Occasionally
a presentation, meals, and/ or social events are included depending
on the nature of the job. There are multiple objectives to these
follow-up interviews: to further evaluate candidates' match
with the position, to choose among the top candidates, and to "sell" the
workplace and position to the candidates.
- Telephone interview: An advantage to being interviewed
over the phone is that you can easily refer to notes that remind
you of key points to include. A disadvantage is that you will not
be able to receive or convey non-verbal cues. It is important to
speak clearly and more slowly than you might in person. Don't
be shy about asking the interviewer to repeat something you are not
sure you heard or understood. Show your level of interest by what
you say, e.g. "I'm excited to be considered for this
position", and by the inflection in your voice.
- One-on-one interview: One person interviews the
candidate and makes the hiring decision. These interviews can range
from being very informal and conversational to being more formal
and structured. Follow the lead of the interviewer, but keep in mind,
no matter how informal, that this is a conversation with an agenda.
Project positive enthusiasm, maintain good eye contact and be professional.
- Panel interview: If you are being interviewed
by a group of people, remember to make eye contact with all of your
interviewers. Connect first with the person who asked you the question
and then glance at the others in the room to gauge their responses
and interest, finally, re-connect with the person who initially asked
you the question. Try to link your answers to others that were asked
and get the interviewers to talk among themselves. Make sure you
get the names and roles of all of those who participated in the interview.
Questions to ask at the time of interview
The best questions to ask allow you to:
- Demonstrate interest in the organization,
- Demonstrate interest in the interviewer(s) and their perspective,
- Identify key skills and strengths being sought,
- Receive more information about the details of the job and employer
- Learn about how work and performance will be evaluated, and
- Understand the next steps in the process.
Don't ask about:
- Leave/vacation accrual
These topics are more appropriate to discuss when you are offered
the job and you know that the employer wants you to join their organization.
If you discuss these topics prior to the job offer, the employer may
think you are more interested in what the job has to offer you rather
than the job itself.
- Be yourself.
- Listen carefully to the questions being asked.
- Think through how you might answer.
- Don't be afraid to ask for clarification or time to think.
- Speak clearly.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Stay positive.
Send a thank you letter. A thank you letter expresses
appreciation, demonstrates professionalism, allows you to restate how
your skills and background match the position, and affirms your interest
and enthusiasm about the job. It also gives you an opportunity
to add anything that is relevant to the position, but which you forgot
or didn't have a chance to share during the interview. If you
were interviewed by a panel, send a thank you letter to each member
of the panel. A thank you letter also helps you stand out from the
Tips for Workers with Disabilities:
- Krannich, Caryl and Krannich, Ron. Nail the Job Interview: 101
Dynamite Answers to Interview Questions. Sixth Edition. Manassas
Park, VA: Impact Publications, 2007.
- Medley, J. Anthony. Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed.
New York, NY: Time Warner Book Group, 2005
- Washington, Tom, Interview Power: Selling Yourself Face to Face.
Bellevue, WA: Mount Vernon Press, 2004.