Make Interviewing Your Greatest Strength

Practice and preparation make a big difference in a successful job interview. It is of the utmost importance to make a good first impression. Make sure you look sharp and practice potential questions beforehand. Use the information on these pages to assist you in the interviewing experience. Contact our office to prepare for upcoming interviews.

Step 1: Research the Organization

What are its strengths? What type of company culture do they have? How does the position fit into the structure of the organization? Why are you a great match?

Step 2: Develop a List of Questions to Ask the Interviewer(s)

You will be asked if you have any questions and if you don’t have some prepared, it may indicate you haven’t thought much about the opportunity. Questions demonstrate your interest in the organization. Some examples of thoughtful questions are:

  • Can you describe the orientation or training period?
  • How is this position supervised? Is there a particular person assigned as a mentor or supervisor? How is performance evaluated?
  • What do you personally like best about the organization? 
  • What are the biggest issues or challenges facing this organization? What are the strengths or greatest assets of the organization?
  • What projects are currently in progress now?
  • What qualities does your ideal candidate have?
  • What are the long-range goals of the organization?
  • What is the next step in the hiring process?
  • When do you expect to make a hiring decision?

Step 3: Plan Your Trip

Know how long it takes to get to the interview location. Figure out directions and parking or public transportation ahead of time. Make sure you have cash for meters or fare.

Step 4: Plan Your Outfit

What you wear and how you wear it will make a strong first impression. Visit the organization and/or company website to get an idea of what professionals in the industry are wearing. When in doubt, overdress and dress conservatively.

Resource: Area stores that sell slightly used, affordable, professional clothes.

Step 5: Practice

In an effort to find the perfect employee, recruiters utilize behavioral style interview questions. Behavioral-based interviews allow candidates to reflect on their past experiences which commonly indicates future performance. 

Resource: Behavioral-based interviewing

Prepare strategic answers to potential interview questions ahead of time to best showcase your skills. Think of things that you want the interviewer to know about you and plan how you may be able to work them into responses. Review the job description and your resume. Consider scheduling a mock interview with our office to get feedback and practice responding to interview questions using Big Interview. You must register for an account with your Iowa State email address. If you would like alumni access, please contact the Human Sciences Career Services office.

Step 6: Review Interview Best Practices

The interviewer is appraising your thinking ability, how you solve problems, and your communication skills. They want to determine if you are a good fit for their organization and if you have the necessary qualifications for the position.

  • Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Enter the interviewing room with a smile, self-confidence, and a firm handshake.
  • Let the interviewer offer the lead.
  • Listen to questions and remember that the interviewer is interested in complete answers and examples. Use the S.T.A.R. approach.
  • It’s fine to ask that a question be repeated and it’s acceptable to think before responding.
  • Avoid speaking negatively about past organizations, team members, or supervisors.

What to Bring to the Interview:

  • Enthusiasm and a good attitude
  • Extra copies of your resume and transcript (official & unofficial/AccessPlus)
  • A professional pen and notepad in a padfolio or folder
  • Key questions you want to ask
  • Your reference list (printed on paper that matches your resume)
  • Dates of employment and social security number (for filling out an application)
  • A portfolio or appropriate project documentation, if applicable

*If it is necessary for you to miss classes because of interview trips, be sure to notify your instructors prior to leaving.

Virtual Interviews

Review the list of tips for virtual interviews and consider practicing using Big Interview.

Big Interview is an online system that combines training and practice to help improve your interview technique and build your confidence.

Tools include:

  • Challenging, virtual mock interviews for all experience levels and dozens of industries, including graduate school
  • A database of thousands of interview questions with tips on how to answer them
  • A comprehensive video training curriculum covering all aspects of interviewing for a job or internship
  • A step-by-step interview Answer Builder for crafting answers to behavioral questions

Visit ‘Big Interview’ to get started, and register or log in using the links at the top of the ‘Big Interview’ webpage. If registering, you must use your Iowa State University email address. You will receive a confirmation email to verify your email address. If you would like alumni access, please contact the Human Sciences Career Services office.

Assessing the Interview

Immediately following the interview, write down everything you need to remember, such as:

  1. Interviewer’s name(s)
  2. Date you expect to hear from the company
  3. Questions you were not able to answer or questions you did not answer with focus
    • Develop a clear, concise, and pointed response to the question so you will be ready next time.

Follow up After Every Interview

Making a good impression on a potential employer continues even after the interview is complete. A follow-up thank you letter e-mailed within 24-48 hours of the interview will leave an excellent impression. It will also help the interviewer remember you and give you the opportunity to include relevant information you may not have mentioned in the interview. After interviewing up to 50 people in three days, your thank-you letter may give you an advantage in the mind of the recruiter. Not everyone sends thank you letters, and yours may be the only one the recruiter receives.

Anticipate Rejection and Prepare for the Next Interview

Don’t take rejection personally in the job search process. Remember the goal of the interview is to determine a fit for both you and the company. Take everything you have learned from the interview to help you prepare for the next one.

Need More Information?

Human Sciences Career Services

131 MacKay Hall
2302 Osborn Drive
Ames, Iowa 50011-1078