Interview strategies

I. Preparing for the interview

Most organizations hold two interview rounds to find the ideal candidate. You may even be asked to participate in more, but the more rounds you advance through the closer you to an offer.

After the hiring manager or supervisor reviews the candidate’s materials, they’ll contact you to set up an interview. At larger companies this can be a screening interview with a hiring manager from human resources, a committee member or your direct supervisor.

If you’re selected after this initial interview you’ll be called back for a second round and told with whom you’re meeting and where, this may be with a single person or in a group. If possible find out who will be interviewing with and look up their position and title. This will give you insight into their role at the organization, their background and possibly a photo to help you recognize them when you’re introduced. 


    1. Know yourself: who you are, your experiences, and your future goals!

    2. Know the position: review the description and prepare examples of your qualifications.

    3. Know the company: their mission, vision, goals and who makes up the organization.

    4. Know the industry: competitors as well as the opportunities and challenges.


        • Check out the online resource

        • Optimal Resume has a great tool you can use to prepare for an interview with their “Skills Assessment” and participate in a “Mock Interview”.  

        • Review the the position and the company online and take good notes! Prepare a list of possible questions you can ask at each step of the interview process.

        • If you know someone who works at the organization, reach out and ask them what it’s like to work there. Be sure to ask if there are many career and educational growth opportunities.

    Career Services is also available to help you prepare for your upcoming interviews, make an appointment today online or call 315.312.5522

    Dressing for the Interview

    First impressions matter, especially at interviews. From dress suits to blazers, or statement necklaces to scarves, there’s a lot of choices. We’ll help you make the right decisions, and put your best foot forward with our guide


        • Do you know why you want this position, and understand how you’ll fit the requirements?

        • Do you know the name of the interviewer(s)?

        • Do you know how to get to the interview location?

        • Do you know what you’re going to wear?

        • Have you thoroughly researched the organization?

        • Have you prepared well thought out questions?

        • Gather materials you may need, extra copies of your resume, a pad and paper to jot notes on, and samples of your work if necessary

    II. Day of the interview 

    Body Language

        • Be confident, give them a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and remember to smile

        • Posture counts, sit up straight but relaxed

        • Be aware of your gestures, facial expressions, and nervous habits

        • Vary the tempo and the tone of your voice

        • Remember to smile and keep your arms uncrossed

    While Answering Questions

        • Keep the interview conversational but to the point, answers should be clear and concise

        • Before answering a particularly difficult questions it’s okay to pause and compose your thoughts

        • Actively listen. Make sure you understand the questions and answer directly, if you forget part of a question, ask for clarification. Support your answers with facts and examples.

        • Try to avoid the use of “um..” and “like”. Completely pronounce words like “going to” instead of “gonna”.

        • Don’t speak ill of previous employers

    III. Questions: What to expect and how to prepare 

    Common Questions

    Here are some of the most commonly asked questions during interviews, you may not answer all of them in the actual interview, but preparing the answers may help your interview strategy.

        • Tell me about yourself: This is typically the first question an interviewer will ask you to assess who you are and how you deliver yourself. Keep this brief, tell them your professional background, and prepare 2-3 points

        • What are your greatest accomplishments?

        • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

        • What are your long term goals?

        • Describe yourself as a leader

        • Why should I hire you?

    Questions to ask Interviewers

    At the end of most interviews the employer will ask if you have any questions. If it helps you to stay focused write down questions ahead of the interview and refer to them later. When brainstorming questions avoid any you could have easily answered through a bit of research.

        • You may be able to ask about:What are some projects I’d be working on?

        • What’s the work environment like?

        • Who will I be working with?

        • What will the first 30,60, and 90 days look like in this role?

        • Is there a chance for professional development? Conferences, classes, etc.

        • What is the preferred communication style?

        • What are the most important skills needed for this job?

        • What are the next steps?

    Never Ask Interviewer

    In most interviews it’s inappropriate and unprofessional to ask these questions (unless you’ve received an offer):

        • Anything relating to salary, time off or benefits

        • Do you drug test?

        • Do you monitor email and web usage?

        • If you can telecommute

    Illegal Questions

    Employers cannot ask questions that may lead to discriminatory hiring practices like:

        • Your age

        • Your sexual orientation

        • Your marital status

        • Your religion

        • Your race, or national origin (They can however ask if you’re authorized to work in the US)

        • A disability (They can ask certain task-specific duties, like standing for long periods of time, and lifting heavy weight)

    Most interviewers will never ask these questions, but if it somehow does come up the best way to handle it is to say “Is this job related?” without being defensive. At this point the interviewer should realize their error and move forward.

    Before you leave thank your interviewer and shake their hand with eye contact. Reiterate your interest in the position and get their business card, if you have one leave yours with them.

    IV. Follow up after the interview 

    The interview doesn’t end as soon as you walk out the door.

        • After the interview it can be helpful to evaluate the interview and your performance. Jot down anything that stuck out to you during the interview, what do you think you handled well? What questions were you unprepared for? Are you still excited about the possibility of this position?

        • Within two days send a thank you note. Reiterate your interest in the position and mention one or two points that impressed you during the interview and include how you would contribute to their organization.

        • Thank you notes can be sent by mail or email. Use your judgment on the best method based on the formality of the organization and how your previous correspondence has been handled.

        • If you haven’t heard back within two weeks follow up with an email or phone call. Just because you haven’t heard from them doesn’t mean they’ve chosen a candidate, this is often a drawn out process for most organizations.

        • Will you be contacted if you didn’t get the job? Some organizations will contact the candidates if they selected someone else, and some don’t. If you’ve followed up a couple times assume the position was filled.

        • If you are offered the job and it’s appealing evaluate the offer. Check out our guide for evaluating and negotiating offers.

    The Art of the Follow Up