Career Center

Interviewing

Interviewing is a conversation that utilizes your persuasion and communication skills to demonstrate your personality, knowledge, skills, abilities, and fit to an organization. Organizations employ different kinds of interview formats and questions to find their perfect candidates.

Steps to Success

This Interviewing Strategies online course will provide steps and resources for interviewing success.

Interviewing Strategies Course

 

 

big interview logo. (interview skill building tool)

You can learn, practice answering questions and even get feedback on your responses in biginterview!  
Learn more about biginterview (three short videos):

 

Advice for Interviewing Online

Scheduling

Make sure you have at least 30 minutes before the interview starts to get everything situated and go over your notes. Some interviewers call five minutes early, so be prepared.

Configure your technology and space

  • Watch this video for examples of preparing your space
  • Make sure you have a reliable internet connection. Test out camera positions and keep the camera at face level or a little higher. Use books or stable boxes to lift the camera up as needed.
  • Prepare your background. Make sure you have good lighting and no clutter. The wall behind you should be empty or have minimal items. If you are on campus, you can reserve interview rooms in Perkins or in the Career Center.

Attire

Dress the same as if you were interviewing in person (See below).

Cut out distractions

  • Choose a location that is private and quiet. Sit at a clean desk or kitchen table. Keep pets in another room to prevent unwanted noises and distractions.
  • You may want to turn off or hide the image box of your own video feed. Watching yourself on screen will be distracting.

Have on hand for reference but out of view of the camera

  • Job description
  • Application documents (resume, cover letter, etc.)
  • Relevant, brief notes on company
  • Prepared questions for the interviewer
  • Paper and pen for writing notes and questions
  • Water

Eye contact

Look directly at the camera when speaking so it feels like you’re making eye contact with the viewer. Also, move the interview video window to the top of your screen near your camera so you’re more likely to engage in strong eye contact.

Greeting and speaking

  • When answering the call, introduce yourself (“Hello, this is [your name].”)
  • After the interviewer introduces themselves, express your interest and gratitude (Hi, [interviewer’s name]. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.”)
  • Pause for a couple seconds before answering a question (this prevents accidentally cutting off the interviewer) and always speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Be patient if there’s a communication lag.

When experiencing a bad connection

  • Let the interviewers know that you are having technical issues or that bad weather in your area may affect the connection. That way if your connection is lost, they were forewarned ahead of time.
  • Offer to call back to see if that can establish a better connection. It can be better to try this and possibly have a clearer conversation than to let a poor connection make the interview more difficult.
  • Have back-up plans, such as moving the interview to a mobile phone, landline or other spaces with better internet connection

Preparing your responses

An online interview is not the time to google information about the company or the job role. 

Prepare in advance as you normally would with the addition of practicing online using the platform you will be using for your interview. This includes:

  • Researching the position you are applying for and the company you are applying to. 
  • Identifying your accomplishments, impact, skill sets and similar/related experiences to highlight how you fit the role and the company.

Do have a copy of your resume and your STAR stories if helpful for you to reference for key talking points.
Being able to show how your skills and experience connect with the job and the company is key to moving forward in an interview process and/or getting a job offer.

Do have a list of questions to ask the employer (you can print this out for easy reference).

Do have blank paper and pen to write names of those on the interview, notes or follow-up questions. 

Resources

Virtual Interview Tips   Oct 2018  Harvard Business School Online

Video Interview Guide/Tips   March 2020  Indeed Career Guide

How to Elevate Your Presence in a Virtual Meeting    April 2020  Harvard Business Review

Video Interview Guide: Tips for a Successful Interview  March 2020  Indeed Career Guide

How to Prepare for Video Interview  The Muse

7 Tips for Online Interviewing  Duke Career Center Blog 

Virtual Recruiting–Candidate Best Practices  Relish Careers

 

More Steps to Success

Case Interviews

Case interviews are a specialized type of interview common in the consulting industry. In a case interview, the interviewer presents a dilemma, and the candidate must analyze and discuss the problem and propose a solution. 

Employers use case interviews as a way to evaluate a candidate’s qualitative, problem-solving, and analytical skills and often their business acumen. In addition they will evaluate the communication skills, listening skills, enthusiasm and non-verbal cues, e.g., eye contact, of the candidate. The way in which a candidate arrives at a solution to the question, which demonstrates to an employer how the candidate thinks through a dilemma, is as important as the actual solution the candidate provides, if not more.

Case Question Types

Typical case questions fall into four categories:

Calculations/Computational Scenario – Devise a solution given a problem statement, data elements, and possibly a formula

Business Operation Scenario – Devise a solution given a problem related to operational effectiveness. 
Example: How can you increase efficiency of Starbuck’s ordering process by decreasing wait time during peak hours?

Business Strategy Scenario – Devise a solution given a problem related to strategy and new markets. 
Example: How will airlines remain competitive with rising fuel costs and increased regulations?

Brainteaser – Two primary types including the estimation case, How many golf courses exist in Wisconsin? and the random fact analysis, Why are manhole covers round?

Resources for students preparing for a case interview are the following: 

Case In Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation by Marc Casentino 

Mock interviews through the Career Center

Practice cases and interactive online cases on employers’ websites

Phone Interviews

What you can expect

Phone interviews can be a quick screening interview. They may not develop as a conversation and interviewers sometimes use a set list of questions. There will likely be  long pauses, especially if multiple interviewers are trying to decide who asks the next question.

You will not have the benefit of facial/body cues that you are used to when you can see your interviewer. You have to work harder to make yourself stand out over the phone.

Scheduling

Make sure you have at least 30 minutes before the interview starts to get everything situated and go over your notes. Some interviewers call 5 minutes early, so be prepared.

Put yourself in the right frame of mind for a professional interview

Dress as if you were interviewing in person. Watch your posture. Sit up straight as if you were in a face-to-face interview and smile while you answer. It will help you to engage in the conversation, builds your confidence, lifts your mood, and helps emoting (improves tone of voice).

Cut out distractions

Choose a location that is private and quiet and be sure to sit at a clean desk or kitchen table. Keep pets in another room to prevent unwanted noises and distractions and be sure to turn off your computer if you’re tempted to surf the net or check social media.

Have on hand

  • Job description
  • Application documents (resume, cover letter, etc.)
  • Relevant, brief notes on company
  • Paper and pen for writing notes and questions
  • Water

Greeting and speaking

When answering the phone, introduce yourself (“Hello, this is [your name].”

After the interviewer introduces themselves, express your interest and gratitude (Hi, [interviewer’s name]. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.”)

Pause for a couple seconds before answering a question

This prevents accidentally cutting off the interviewer and gives you a chance to collect your thoughts.

Speak slowly and enunciate clearly

Keep track of who is on the line

Write down names of interviewers as they introduce themselves. You can place their names into a seating chart around a table if it helps put you in the right frame of mind.

If you are experiencing a bad connection

Let the interviewers know that you are having technical issues or that bad weather in your area may affect the connection. That way if your connection is lost, they were forewarned ahead of time.

Offer to call back to see if that can establish a better connection. It can be better to try this and possibly have a clearer conversation than to let a poor connection make the interview more difficult.

Have back-up plans, such as other mobile phones or landlines to use, other spaces with better reception, or setting up a phone/video interview virtually (Skype, Google Hangout, etc.)

 

Online or Virtual Interviews, General Advice

Scheduling

Make sure you have at least 30 minutes before the interview starts to get everything situated and go over your notes. Some interviewers call 5 minutes early, so be prepared.

Configure your technology and space

Watch this video for examples of preparing your space

And make sure you have a reliable internet connection. Test out camera positions and keep the camera at face level or a little higher. Use books or stable boxes to lift the camera up as needed.

Prepare your background. Make sure you have no clutter and good lighting. The wall behind you should be empty or have minimal items. You can reserve interview rooms at the Duke Library or in the Career Center.

Dress the same as if you were interviewing in person

Cut out distractions

Choose a location that is private and quiet. Sit at a clean desk or kitchen table. Keep pets in another room to prevent unwanted noises and distractions.

You may want to turn off or hide the image box of your own video feed. Watching yourself on screen will be distracting.

Have on hand for reference but out of view of the camera (don’t rely on them)

  • Job description
  • Application documents (resume, cover letter, etc.)
  • Relevant, brief notes on company
  • Paper and pen for writing notes and questions
  • Water

Eye contact

Look directly at the camera when speaking so it feels like you’re making eye contact with the viewer. Also, move the interview video window to the top of your screen near your camera so you’re more likely to engage in strong eye contact.

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Technical Interviews

Read our blog post on Coding Interviews, Coding Interviews: What you need to know and Technical Interviewing Guide.

 

 

Virtual Interviews, Recorded (Asynchronous)

Practice using the system beforehand

Systems like HireVue allow you to practice a few questions before starting the interview. Many will also have tutorials you can watch about how their system works.

Understand the guidelines

You may be allotted a certain amount of time to think about your response before answering a question and you may be allowed to re-answer a question so read the instructions thoroughly.

Set aside a dedicated time of day when you are at your best

 

Online Interviews, Live Conversation (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, etc.)

Greeting and speaking

When answering the call, introduce yourself (“Hello, this is [your name].”)

After the interviewer introduces themselves, express your interest and gratitude (Hi, [interviewer’s name]. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.”)

Pause for a couple seconds before answering a question (this prevents accidentally cutting off the interviewer) and always speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Be patient if there’s a communication lag.

If you are experiencing a bad connection

Let the interviewers know that you are having technical issues or that bad weather in your area may affect the connection. That way if your connection is lost, they were forewarned ahead of time.

Offer to call back to see if that can establish a better connection. It can be better to try this and possibly have a clearer conversation than to let a poor connection make the interview more difficult.

Have back-up plans, such as moving the interview to a mobile phone, landline or other spaces with better internet connection

Social Events/Mixers/Happy Hours/Dinners

During an employer visit or an on-site interview, you may be invited to socialize with current employees and other potential candidates. Even though this social setting may feel more relaxed, you are still being evaluated on how you interact with others.

Interact with both employees and other candidates

Employers want to see you engage with everyone, not just the hiring managers

Show interest in other candidates’ backgrounds and career goals

Ask questions to show your curiosity about other attendees and relate similar experiences that you’ve had

Take cues from the employees

Listen to conversations to know the expected topics and tone for the event

Do employees ask about others’ personal interests? Are they telling funny stories or jokes? Or do they continue to focus on business topics?

At a large dinner table with open seating, sit toward the middle of the table

Sitting in the middle affords you more options for conversations to join compared to sitting toward one of the ends

Limit your alcohol consumption to one drink for the night

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You want to remain aware of your actions and behavior. If you prefer not to drink alcohol, consider how you will respond to offers of drinks. For more details, see this article, Unhappy Hour: Non-Drinkers Devise Strategies to Navigate Booze-Centered Work Events  https://news.ncsu.edu/2014/12/unhappy-hour/

If you’d like to blend in with the drinking crowd, you can order a soft drink or tonic water and lime in a short glass with a small straw.

 

 

Presentations

Some employers may ask you to give a presentation on your research or to demonstrate your ability to teach or speak in front of a group.

Keep your audience in mind

What is their level of understanding of your topic? What is their perspective? What are they interested in?

Promote yourself and your skills

A job presentation is different than a presentation you’d give at a seminar or conference. Be aware of what skills or qualities the employer looking for? Are there particular techniques or knowledge? As you give the presentation, be sure to include these details.

STAR is formula for creating your best response to behavioral-based questions. Interviewers expect you to present your thoughts and experience in this manner. Don’t worry, however. You’ll see that the STAR method is no different than the basics of any good story composition.

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“Last semester I took a psychology course that required a group project to examine motivation. The professor assigned each student to a 4-person group. My group decided to look at what motivates college students to participate in community service activities.”

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“As a group, we developed a plan to distribute the work between us. However, after the first few weeks, it became apparent that one of our team members was not completing her part of the project and she missed one of our group meetings. The rest of the team decided that we needed to reengage her.”

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“I took the initiative to set up a meeting with her where we discussed her interest in the project as well as the other academic responsibilities. After talking with her, it was clear that if we changed her contributions to tasks that better fit her skills and interests, she would most likely contribute at a higher level.”

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“It turned out that the team could redistribute tasks without compromising so every member got to work on the pieces of the project that were of most interest to them. In the end, we completed the project and received positive feedback from our professor.”

A few important for using the STAR method:

  • A strong STAR response will last one to two minutes.
  • Be brief in your set-up. Give just enough background or contextual information for your story to make sense.
  • The result is critical. Everything in your example builds towards this component. 
  • Use the structure of the acronym for direction if you forget what you were saying. If all else fails, skip to the R, result.

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. What are your strengths?

3. Give me an example of a time when you showed initiative or leadership.

4. Can you give me an example of a time you were able to identify a small problem and fix it before it became a major problem?

5. Give me an example of a time you were most proud of your own work.

6. Tell me about a time you were working on a project or task and it did not go as planned, what did you learn from it?

7. Describe a specific situation in which you had difficulty getting along with peers, team member, or others at work. How did you handle the situation?

8. Tell me about a time you had to do something differently than you expected, planned, or usually do. What was it? What did you do?

9. How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?

10. Tell me about a time you failed at a project or task.

11. How do you cope with stress?

12. Tell me about your experience working with people who have different backgrounds than you.

13. We all have strengths and challenges, what would you say is one of your challenges?

14. Give me an example of a time when you effectively used presentation skills.

15. How would your previous supervisors, group members, or professors describe you?

16. How have you brought a group together to solve a problem?

17. Have you ever had to deal with irate customers? Give an example and explain how you reacted.

18. What is missing from your resume that you’d like me to know about?

19. Why should we select you over other applicants?
 

Sample Questions to Ask Employers

1. What motivates you in your work here at _______________________ ?

2. How would you describe communication with leadership within the organization? Are entry-level employees encouraged to interact with leadership or only through defined channels?

3. How does your organization show that it values its employees?

4. What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses when compared to other companies in the market?

5. How will my work be measured and evaluated? How often will this take place?

6. How have other entry level employees (or interns) significantly contributed to your organization?

7. What is one of the most difficult writing assignments you’ve had? Explain.

8. Tell me about one or two presentations that you’ve given to your superiors or peers.

9. Have you ever communicated in a high stakes situation? What happened?

10. Give me an example of how you successfully handle multiple demands.

11. Tell me about a time when you had to do something different than you expected, planned or usually do. What was it? What did you do?

12. Tell me about a time when you were accountable for the completion and success of a very important task. How satisfied/dissatisfied were you with that? Why?

13. Tell me about a time when you had difficult goals in your work. How satisfied/dissatisfied were you with that? Why?

14. Tell me about a time when you worked on a low-profile assignment for which you did not receive a lot of attention from others. How satisfied/dissatisfied were you with that? Why?

15. How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?

16. What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give me an example.

17. Tell me about a time when you had to request help or assistance on a project because it turned out to be more that you could handle by yourself ?

18. What is the most difficult business decision you have had to make? What factors did you consider when making that decision?

Brainstorm ideas for your response using these prompts.

  1. Present:
    Who are you? What are you currently doing that is relevant to this position?

  2. Past:
    What experiences have you had that have prepared you for this position? What skills do you want to highlight? 


Tell me about yourself...

Pick which details from above you want to include in your introduction, and outline how you want to piece
 them together.

Rubric To Assess Your “Tell Me About Yourself Answer”

Needs Improvement 

Acceptable

Excellent

Highlights important experiences and qualifications

Mentions experiences but they are not relevant to the employer

Demonstrates important background 

Demonstrates your best qualifications and what makes you a unique candidate; sets up opportunities for follow-up questions 

 

Why you are interested in this field, industry, organization, and role 

Includes details unimportant to the position or not understood by interviewer 

 

Includes some detail relevant to the position 

Tailors to that specific industry, organization,
and role

Why are you changing from your current field into this new field? (if applicable)

Mentions changing fields and your inexperience in this new field is evident 

Acknowledges changing fields 

Explains why you are changing fields and why this opportunity is better aligned to your skills, interests, and values 

 

Organization 

Answer is difficult to follow

Follows a clear storyline, perhaps with a detail clarified or out of place 

Follows a clear storyline, is organized to emphasize the task/conflict and your action/skills 

 

Concise

>120 second response with many non-essential details included

~90-120 second response with a couple non-essential details included 

 

~60-90 second response focused on essential details 

Concerns

Response raises major concerns about candidate’s ability to handle the position 

 

A minor concern is raised and only partially resolved 

No concerns raised or minor concern raised and
quickly resolved 

Other Types of Questions 

As you prepare, consider how you would answer interview questions differently if they were asked in these ways. 

Questions Focused on Negative Experiences

Many different questions will try to get you to focus on a negative aspect of yourself or your experience. Another example of this is to ask about your greatest weakness(es). In asking these questions, interviewers want to understand how you dealt with difficulty and how you learn from your mistakes.

To address these questions:

  • Make sure that the failure or weakness you mention is redeemable for the employer.  For example, if you are applying for a data analyst position but you admit that you struggle with statistics that could be a red flag for the interviewer
  • Consider too if you are emotionally ready to talk about a difficult interpersonal conflict; if you have trouble relating the experience objectively, then it’s best to choose other examples
  • End on a positive note like what good came out of the failure or what lesson you learned that you incorporate into your work and what steps you are actively taking to overcome your weakness

Detailed Follow Up Questions

Follow up questions are asked to examine your involvement in your story,  test your understanding of your work and how your work connects with others, and to  ensure that you are not overstating elements of the story for the sake of the interview.  

To address these questions:

  • be patient and see that the interviewer is doing their job of understanding your story more deeply
  • prepare for the interview thoroughly and think about  your story from different perspectives, such as different skills used or different projects undertaken

Asking for Multiple Examples

Another interviewing tactic is to directly ask for multiple stories around the same skill or  experience. Interviewers using this tactic are looking for breadth. How many times have  you used this important skill?

It’s first important to be patient and to know that the  interviewer is not asking for another example because your first was not what they were  looking for. Preparing for the interview by knowing your experiences from multiple points of view will help you more easily recall other experiences in which you’ve used that skill.

Plan your attire

Make sure you feel confident and comfortable to be on your feet for a couple of hours. Wear your clothes a few days early if you are not accustomed to that type of attire. Gauge if the types of companies you will talk to would prefer not to see facial piercings or tattoos, and choose attire accordingly. 

  • Look at pictures from the company’s website and social media to see how employees dress
  • Match employee’s attire, and err on the side of dressing a little nicer if you are unsure
  • Avoid using hygiene products with strong scents

Guides for what to wear

Determine a salary range you expect in case they ask 

Be ready to answer with an acceptable salary range and a single salary that you’d want to start with in case they use it for future negotiation.

Use our Negotiating GuideGlassdoor.com and network contacts to research salaries