Interview Skills

Prepare. Dress. Answer. Ask!

You have prepared a targeted resume and concise cover letter, and now you have been invited to an interview.  Have you researched the organization?  Prepared and practiced typical interview questions answers?  Do you have your own questions ready to ask? 
interviewpalooza panel
Group interview at the annual Duke-Yale Environmental Recruiting Fair in DC.

Checklist: What to Bring

  • Portfolio with paper and pen
  • Job description
  • Resumes/References
  • Questions for the interviewer
  • Master resume to reference for company application, if necessary
  • Show and Tell items—publications, writing samples, etc.

Checklist: What to Wear

  • Well-fitting conservative suit
  • Clean and pressed clothes
  • Shined shoes
  • Subtle accessories
  • Dark socks for men
  • Minimal make-up
  • Clear or light nail polish

Resources on Dressing Professionally and For the Interview

DY Group 2
FESers dress for Duke-Yale Environmental Recruiting Fair.

Pre-Interview Prep

  • Research Organization/Industry—know trends, news, standards, projects, competitors, alums
  • Find out who you are interviewing with
  • Know the job description inside and out
  • Know your resume cold, be able to walk through it
  • Have an answer ready for: Tell me about yourself--your elevator or 30 second speech
  • Know your top 3 strengths related to position
  • Be aware of and know how to talk about your weaknesses
  • Know how YOU fit with the organization
  • Research and practice typical questions
  • Line up your recommenders
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask
  • Prepare portfolio materials if applicable
  • Read the newspaper to have topics handy for small talk
  • Practice! Mock interviews, in front of mirror, with friends

Answering the Behavioral Interview Question:
STAR = Situation, Task, Action and Results

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Panelists Steve Ramsey and Felicia Spencer at CPD's annual spring Interview Palooza, a half-day interview skills panel and mock interview sessions.
SITUATION--briefly describe a situation that answers the question.
TASK--how did you decide to solve a problem, what did you have to accomplish?
ACTION--what were the steps taken by you towards solving/accomplishing?
RESULTS--what was the resolution?

Behavioral interview questions ask you to refer back to or imagine a situation or problem and describe your resolution of the problem--what you are really being asked is to tell a story. In addition to answering the question being asked, your ability to construct a narrative reflects your level of self-awareness, creativity and communication skills.

The STAR method is a handy acronym that serves as an outline to guide you through your narrative.  Typical questions focus on leadership, decision-making, teamwork and the ability to juggle conflicting priorities. Pick an answer/story with a positive result that highlights your knowledge, skills and competence, and gives a good sense of who you are!

Sample behavioral interview questions:

1. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?
2. Have you ever been in a position where you've had to motivate group members who were in disagreement?
3. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
4. Tell us about a time when you delegated a project effectively.

edf at fair
Student visiting EDF's booth at fair in Kroon Hall. 

Traditional Interview Questions

Most interviews will start with a combination of traditional and behavioral questions, and will ideally turn into a conversation.  To be prepared, we suggest that everyone research answers to typical questions.  A few examples:
  1. Tell us about yourself.
  2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Why did you select Yale?

A Student's Guide to Interviewing With Third-Party Recruiters

As you conduct your job search you will find that some employers hire third-party organizations to assist them in identifying and hiring college students. An employer can hire a third-party organization to do on-campus recruiting, represent the company at a job fair, screen job candidates who apply through an Internet web site, or other hiring activities. Many college career centers allow third-party recruiters to work with students through their offices. Some have special policies that apply to how, when, and where third-party recruiters can work with students. CPD at YSE recommends that you be aware of issues that are pertinent to working with these organizations.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) defines third-party recruiters as "agencies, organizations, or individuals recruiting candidates for temporary, part-time, or full-time employment opportunities other than for their own needs." Categories of third-party recruiters include:
  • Employment Agencies: Employment agencies list positions for a number of organizations and receive payment when a referred candidate is hired. The fee for listing a position is paid either by the firm listing the opening or by the candidate who is hired. If the job listing does not include the phrase "fee paid," be sure to ask who pays the fee before signing any papers.
  • Search Firms: A search firm contracts with employers to find and screen qualified persons to fill specific positions. The fee is paid by the employer. Search firm representatives will identify the employer they represent.
  • Contract Recruiters: Employers hire contract recruiters to represent them in the recruiting and employment function.
  • Resume Referral Firms: A resume referral firm collects information on job seekers and forwards it to prospective employers. Data can be contained in resumes or on data forms (either paper or electronic). The employer, job seeker, or both may pay fees. You must give the firm written permission to pass your resume to employers. Your permission should include a statement that expressly states to whom and for what purpose the information can be used.

Questions to Ask

A third-party recruiter may be helpful to you in your job search, but be a wise consumer. Read all materials carefully. Ask questions. Ask your career services office staff for information. Ask a lawyer to read any contracts you are asked to sign. Here are some general questions you may want to ask:

  1. How many job openings are there for someone in my field? If you have the opportunity, inquire about the positions being filled or the number of openings related to your field. These are important questions because, in some instances, recruiters may not really have the type or number of openings they advertise. They may be more interested in adding your name to their candidate pool as a means of attracting more employers or clients to their services. Or they may be collecting resumes from students for potential job opportunities. (Name of your institution/career center) does not allow third-party recruiters to interview students unless they are trying to fill actual job openings.
  2. How is this information being used? A third-party recruiter is allowed legally to share your resume with the contract employer for positions that you are actually seeking. The recruiter must tell you, in clear terms, that your materials and information will not be shared outside the organization or used for any purpose other than with the company they represent at the time they interview you. The third-party recruiter cannot sell your information to anyone else. You may choose to authorize the recruiter to share your data elsewhere, but your authorization should be given to the recruiter in writing.
  3. Are candidates treated equally and fairly? If you are qualified for the job opportunity, the third-party recruiter must pass your information to employers without regard to your race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
  4. Who pays the fee? Before you agree to anything or sign a contract, ask the recruiter who will pay the fee.
Copyright © 1999 National Association of Colleges and Employers, reprinted with permission.