Before the Interview
PRACTICE THE STAR METHOD
You will likely encounter behavioral questions during your interview. These go beyond the standard “What are your 3 greatest strengths?” into questions like, “Tell me when you applied your 3 greatest strengths during a project.” In fact, “Give me an example when...” or “Tell me about a time when…” are the most common ways to start behavioral interview questions.
Why do interviewers ask these questions? The best way a hiring manager can predict how you are going to do in your future position is to inquire about how you performed in a past experience. Your answers to these types of questions can demonstrate your skills, capabilities, and impacts for the interviewer.
Sound intimidating? It shouldn’t; you are simply telling a true story about an experience you have lived! The best way to answer, organize, and impress recruiters when answering behavioral-based questions is to use the STAR method. Each letter represents a step, as explained below.
- First, describe the setting in which your example takes place. What were you doing? With whom were you working? On what projects were you working? Example answer: “During my role as an Event Planning Intern this past summer, I supervised a group of 5 staff members in hosting monthly events.”
- Second, explain the main task or objective you were to address. What was the goal you were striving to accomplish, or the problem you were trying to solve? Example answer: “Upon reviewing annual reports, I noticed event attendance had dropped by 30% and I wanted to find a solution to this problem.”
- Next, clarify the specific steps you took to address the task and demonstrate skills you used in each of those steps. What did you do to solve the problem or reach the goal? Example answer: “I distributed surveys to gather feedback on our events and used this research to design a new, more effective promotional package using Software X.”
- Finally, explain how your actions contributed to the overall end product. How did the situation end? (Quantify results if possible.) What did you learn? Example answer: “The company was able to utilize the promotional package I created for future events. After implementing some new strategies developed in response to feedback I gathered, we raised event attendance by 20% within the first year. I learned the important role research plays in developing new marketing strategies.”
It is a good idea to formulate a STAR answer for a variety of questions. If the job description specifies skills a candidate should have, practice developing STAR answers for examples surrounding those skills (i.e. a company that stresses the importance of leadership will likely ask you to describe a time where you stepped into a leadership role).
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you choose to interview with our organization?
- What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
- What do you consider to be your weaknesses? (Make sure you mention how you are improving upon them so that they will not be liabilities on the job.)
- What failures have you experienced? What did you learn from them?
- What three accomplishments make you most proud?
- Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
- How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work and attitude?
- Give an example of a time in which you worked under deadline pressure.
- Why did you choose your major?
- In which campus activities did you participate?
- Do your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why or why not?
- How do you feel about travel?
- Give an example of a time where working with a team led to success.
- Tell me about a time where you had to work on several assignments at once.
- Learn from top employers by watching videos on CareerSpots. In particular, under “Job Search,” watch helpful videos from the following sections: Interview Dress, Interview-BEFORE, Interview-DURING, and Interview-AFTER & Salary Negotiation
- Purdue University Career Research Portal: Numerous resources in Section 4: “Land the Job” provide great overviews for reflecting upon and answering questions. Resources include Glassdoor Interview Questions, JobPostings: Interview Tips, Job Now! Live Job Assistance, and My Consulting Coach.
- Big Interview: Big Interview within your myCCO account allows you to simulate job interviews by responding to pre-recorded interview questions and practicing both verbal and non-verbal communication skills through a webcam. You can tailor the questions to include those that relate best to your position type and skillset. Afterwards, you can send your practice interviews to anyone from you would like feedback such as an advisor or trusted friend.
- The CCO: For a personalized interview skills practice session, please schedule an appointment through BoilerConnect.
- Parker Dewey Micro-Internships
CONDUCT COMPANY RESEARCH
Many things can give you an advantage in an interview. Most often we think about our own attributes: our qualifications, our skills, and our abilities to communicate. However, demonstrating your knowledge of the company gives you a competitive advantage, too!
- Understand the company’s industry. Who are its main players? What are the major products and services? Who are its competitors? What issues are being faced in this industry?
- Know the basic trivia of the company. What is the history; when was it founded? Who’s on the current leadership team?
- Understand the company’s products or services. You will not be quizzed on how many different types of air compressors Ingersoll Rand has, but you should know that they have air compressors...and what air compressors are.
- Get up-to-date on the news. They will not expect you to have the inside scoop on who got promoted to Assistant Manager of Division X or what office was recently renovated. They will expect you to know if they recently have been acquired, or if they made headlines in the The Wall Street Journal for radically reducing how much energy is used in production. If you think it is something people are generally aware of, make a point to be aware of it, too.
- Understand the mission statement. Understanding the stated purpose and values of an organization will help you highlight your personal purpose and values that are aligned.
- Read through a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a concise report that highlights the company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats.
Numerous Resources can guide your research:
- Company websites: Note the mission, values, culture, services, products, clients, etc.
- Purdue University Career Research Portal: Section Four "Land the Job” provides a matrix of research tools to examine organizations, industries, business news, SWOT analyses and more.
- LinkedIn: use LinkedIn to identify job postings, research companies, and examine (and connect with!) alumni who are working in your field, position area, or with an organization that interests you.
- SEC Filings: use EDGAR to research a company’s financials.
- Purdue Library Databases: as of 2022, the Purdue Library system has 740 databases providing great resources to explore organizations and industries.
- Business Journals: apply for the free newsletter to receive news from across the nation.
- Wall Street Journal: sign up for a free limited access account to receive timely business news articles.
REFINE THE BASICS
Congratulations! You have been invited to an interview! After you have shouted for joy, go back and carefully read the interview invitation. Then, send an email thanking your contact for the invitation and accepting the offer to interview. Depending on how your contact wants to interview you, you may be speaking through a virtual resource such as Zoom or Teams, on the phone, or in-person. Within the email confirm the interview time, date, and location.
Pay Attention to the Details
- Know your contact. If you have the name of your contact, look the person up on LinkedIn. Know what position the person holds and any background information that may be useful such as projects, department, etc. Note contact information such as e-mail address.
- Review the interview itinerary. Note the method (virtual, telephone, in-person), location, start time (note any time zone differences!), people with whom you will be interviewing. If an itinerary has not been provided, ask if one will be provided. If in-person, ask about best places to part and plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.
- Review the position description a few more times. As you have been chosen to interview, you know you basically fit the qualifications. Now, go back and identify the “added value” you bring to the tasks, responsibilities, and skillsets needed for the position.
- Review your resume. Make sure you are intimately familiar with each section of your resume and are prepared to be questioned about each item. If you notice any errors or need to make any changes, do that. You can share this updated resume during the interview or prior to the interview. Do not drastically change the resume or point out the errors, simply say that you wanted to share a briefly updated version.
- Prepare your Portfolio/Padfolio. Carry a nice portfolio/padfolio/folder that includes copies of your resume, a paper notepad, a black pen, and any helpful notes. Print copies of your resume on “resume paper” to equal the number of interviewers plus a few more in case others participate. Also, include your notes on company research, interview question responses, the interview day itinerary, and contact information as you can review it prior to the start of the interview.
- Prepare your elevator pitch. It is almost certain you will be asked some version of the "So tell me about yourself" question. Make the most of your answer by touching briefly on your background, as well as relevant experiences and how they relate to the organization and position in 30-40 seconds. Great video examples of Elevator Pitches can be found on CareerSpots.