Palm Trees

Career Development Center

» Learn to Interview

"It is not always the person most qualified who is hired, but the one who is most prepared for the interview."

The above statement reveals a truth about interviewing: it is a skill that can be learned.  Interviewing is having the ability to verbalize your skills, talents, and experience in a concise and articulate manner.  Below is a breakdown of the complex process of employment interviewing, as well as tools to successfully get through it.

+ - Preparing for the Interview - Practice with InterviewStream

Practice - Make sure to practice speaking in a strong and confident voice, pay attention to posture, and have a friend or parent practice asking you questions.

  • InterviewStream is a leading tool for all students, job-seekers, and talented professionals to use to practice their interviewing skills in a pressure-free environment.  This site offers the chance for both interviewers and interviewees to prepare, hire, and train together.

Know yourself – One of the first questions that interviewers like to ask is “Tell me about yourself?”, it’s important to be prepared and really know how to answer that question concisely and confidently.  Doing the panther paw can really help in this process, as well as knowing your skills, strengths, accomplishments and goals.  With the ability to communicate effectively what they are and how they can be incorporated in the job you are applying for.

Research the Company – The top 5 things to know prior to the interview about the company, based on a research study done by the University of Tennessee are:

  1. Know the product or service and its history
  2. What are the typical clients or customers of the company
  3. What is the company’s relative standing in the marketplace
  4. Where are the company’s headquarters located
  5. Know the specific details of the job you are applying for

Any other relevant points that you may feel important go to the company’s website and research.

Prepare your questions – In every interview they will ask if you have any questions and it’s important that you’ve done your research and have at least 5 questions prepared to ask.  This will let the interviewer know that you took the time to prepare and are willing to invest time to learn more. 

+ - General Interview Questions

These questions typically revolve around four areas: personal qualities, education, experience, and career expectations.  Answer honestly and limit the length of your answers to no more than 1-2 minutes.

Personal Qualities

  1. Tell me about yourself?
  2. How do you organize and plan for major projects?
  3. When you are faced with a tough decision, how do you go about making it?
  4. How do you handle yourself when you’re in conflict with someone?
  5. How will you contribute to the organization?


  1. Why did you choose to go to Chapman University?
  2. What were the factors influencing your choice of a major? Why?
  3. Were there any unusual difficulties you had to overcome in college?
  4. Do you have any plans to further your education?
  5. Why did you choose this major? This career?


  1. What did you learn from (or why don’t I see any) internships on your resume?
  2. What have you learned from participation in extra-curricular activities?
  3. How do you determine or evaluate success based on past experience?
  4. What accomplishments have you achieved (if any) in your jobs or internships?
  5. Did you hold any positions of leadership in any organization?

Career/Job Expectations

  1. How has your education prepared you for your career?
  2. Are you seeking employment in a company of a certain size? Why?
  3. What criteria are you using to evaluate the company for which you hope to work?
  4. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
  5. How does this job help you achieve your long term career goals?

+ - Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavior interview questions are based on the premise that past actions are the best indications of future behavior. 

Questions are asked that demand specific answers in order to discover if you possess certain job skills.  It allows the interviewer to understand in detail how you have acted in specific situations in the past as an indicator of how you will act in the future as their employee.

Formulating Appropriate Answers: Interviewers who ask behavioral questions expect answers with specific examples.  Therefore, when preparing for this type of interview, anticipate the job skills required in the position and think of past experiences where you have demonstrated these skills. 

Example: A job in sales requires customer service orientation.  Think of situations where you have dealt with customers and practice structuring your answer using the STAR method (The following tab).

Sample Behavioral Questions

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  3. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  5. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  6. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  7. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve make in the last year.
  8. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you’re required to prioritize your tasks.
  9. Can you think of a person or group you have worked with who saw things differently from you? And how did you handle it?
  10. In what areas of your present job have good verbal communication been most important?

+ - STAR Interview Method

The S.T.A.R. Method is a structured method to assist you in breaking down your answers to behavioral interview questions, making sure that you address each of the most important aspects of the question.

Situation – What was the situation that you were faced with related to the question being asked.

Task – What tasks were involved in the situation that you needed to accomplish?  The interviewer is looking for a specific event not generalized, the more detail the better.

Action – What actions did you have to take?  Keep the focus on you and your role in the situation.

Results – What were the results at the end? Was anything accomplished and by how much or how long? What did you learn from the experience?


Q:  Tell me about some things in your job that you have done beyond what has been required.

A: “Last summer, I was head lifeguard at a large public pool that employed 20 lifeguards (SITUATION).  One time, a parent called the desk frantic because she had tried to call her so n for a couple of days and had gotten no response.  She demanded that I locate her son (TASK).  I knew I had to stay calm because she was upset.  I let her talk for several minutes, reassured her that I understood how frightening it must be, and carefully explained that I could not leave the desk to locate her son.  I didn’t want to just transfer her to the R.A., in case she ended up talking to answering machine, so I asked if I could put her on hold, and called the R.A. on that floor.  He wasn’t in, but luckily I found the Hall Director, so I transferred the call to the Hall Director (ACTION).  By then, my patience and efforts to help had calmed down the parent (RESULT).

+ - Questions to Ask Interviewer

In every interview they will ask if you have any questions and it’s important that you’ve done your research and have at least 5 questions prepared to ask.  This will let the interviewer know that you took the time to prepare and are willing to invest time to learn more. 

Research the Company.  The top 5 things to know prior to the interview about the company, based on a research study done by the University of Tennessee are:

  1. Know the product or service and its history
  2. What are the typical clients or customers of the company
  3. What is the company’s relative standing in the marketplace
  4. Where are the company’s headquarters located
  5. Know the specific details of the job you are applying for

Identify areas where you may want to ask questions. Asking questions shows your interest in the organization, gives an opportunity to show what you know, and demonstrates your motivation and willingness to go the extra step.  

  • Ask questions that re of genuine interest to you and will help you make an informed decision.
  • Ask questions that show the depth of your research and preparation.  Do not ask questions which could be answered on the organization’s website.
  • Ask questions specific about the daily responsibilities related to the technical more detailed aspects of the job.
  • Remember you can ask questions throughout the interview, you don’t have to wait until the end.  However, don’t monopolize the conversation let the interviewer lead.

Sample Questions

  1. What are the main objectives and responsibilities of the position?
  2. Where does this position fit into the company’s organizational structure?
  3. Can you describe the company’s culture?
  4. What are the organization’s strengths, and what major problems/challenges does it face?
  5. Are there training and development programs required/offered within the organization?
  6. What qualities are you looking for in a new hire?
  7. What is the next step in the process?
  8. When do you expect to make a hiring decision for this position?


(Information Received from University of Tennessee)

+ - Video and Telephone Interviews

Phone interviews—Generally serve as precursors for face-to-face interviews or even the follow up to the first in-person interview.  Regardless of what step of the hiring process a phone interview comes into play, you should always treat it as you would an in-person interview.  Here are some quick tips:

  • Find an appropriate location when you’ll be able to speak with the interviewer clearly 
  • Take the phone interview as seriously as you would an in person interview
  • Research the company before the phone interview – your questions should be specific and relevant to the trends and direction of the company
  • Listen to what the interviewer says – do not dominate the conversation 
    • Keep voice level, do not talk too quickly & breathe!
  • Keep your resume and cover letter in front of you to answer any questions that come up
    • Have a pen and paper ready to write down notes and any impromptu questions that you come up with
  • Make sure to have ready answers to common questions
    • Will you travel for work
    • If you are hired, when can you start
    • What interests you about this position
  • Make sure it is a quiet and uninterrupted location
  • Send a “thank you” email at the end of the interview

 Video interviews— while these are not as common as in-person or phone interviews, they are still much used by companies.  Here are some tips in the art of video interviewing:

  • Look the part/feel the part
    • Dress for the interview
    • Watch your body language carefully – practice in front of a mirror to see what they will see
  • Prepare your background – think neutral, a blank wall, no color/posters/doorframe
    • Consider the lighting
    • Sound of a busy house versus the quiet of a reserved study room in the library
  • Practice the interview first
    • Have a friend interview you and record it
  • Smile!
  • Stay Present
    • Have a conversation
    • Keep eye contact
    • Lean forward
  • Keep your resume, the job overview, notes – anything useful as a tool for study – in front of you during the interview
  • Don’t ignore technical difficulties, address them immediately
    • If you cannot understand the question asked than you certainly do not want to give a nonsensical answer

+ - Interview Attire

A good note to fall back on when it comes to interview attire is that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.  With that being said, keep these tips in mind to set a great first impression with your interviewer and potential future employer.


  • Facial hair is constantly changing in fashion but regardless of what the latest trends are, it should always be well-groomed.  Be sure to know the industry and note the level on of conservative.


  • Makeup should be kept conservative, natural looking, and a little goes a long way for giving you a polished look.

Details are very important and so every piece of your outfit should be clean, neat, and have no signs of wear.  Check your interview outfit several days before the interview to see if it needs to be dry cleaned or pressed.  Check for buttons, loose strings, and stains.  And also make sure your shoes are polished and un-scuffed.  

+ - After the Interview - Thank You Letter

Send a thank you letter or email to all the individuals you met with during your interview, especially to the main contact person a.s.a.p.  This letter allows you one more chance to highlight your qualifications for the position as well as your interest or possibly no further interest in the position.  It gives you the last opportunity to stand out from others who have applied as well. To get more information visit our Thank You Letters Page

Follow-up – If you haven’t heard back after two weeks you can call to follow-up to see if a decision has been made.

Here is how to format a thank you letter, so you make the best impression:

Contact Information: (Your contact information)
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address


Contact Information: (The person you are writing to)
City, State, Zip Code


Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:

Body of Thank You Letter:

When writing a thank you letter, keep your letter simple and focused. Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph

The first paragraph of your letter should thank the interviewer(s) for taking the time to interview you.

The second paragraph of your thank you letter should include the reasons why you are a strong candidate for the position. List specific skills that relate to the job you interviewed for.

If there is information about your qualifications that you wish you had mentioned during the interview, but didn't get a chance to discuss, use the next paragraph to explain.

In your closing paragraph, reiterate your appreciation for being considered for the job and let the hiring manager know you are looking forward to hearing from him or her soon.


Best Regards,


Handwritten Signature (for a mailed letter)

Typed Signature


(Information obtained from Job Searching)

Sample Formal "Thank You" notes

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