The interview is an opportunity for recruiters to evaluate and question candidates in their search for "the right person". The job market is extremely competitive therefore it is essential that you stand out from the crowd by making a positive and lasting impression. Preparation is the key to a successful interview!
How to Prepare for an Interview
There are various ways in which we can help you prepare for an interview:
- You can register for the Ace Your Interview Workshop or one of the Let’s Talk Interviews small group sessions by visiting the Calendar of Events.
- You can participate in special activities such as Interview Day, which includes speed practice interviews with employers (see our Calendar of Events for details).
Video: Effectice Interviewing
The Telfer Career Centre has created this video designed to help you stand above the competition.
5 Tips to Help Prepare For a Job Interview
1. Know what you have to offer
A thorough preparation process will allow you to build your confidence and articulate your attributes. By analyzing the job posting, you can also tailor your key competencies to the skill set the employer will be asking about during your interview.
2. Do your research
You should always take time to research the employer to ensure you are well prepared before engaging in an interview. Employers value job-seekers who know key information about the company because that knowledge demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for the company and for the job. Be knowledgeable about:
- The relative size of the firm and the industry
- Mission statement of the firm
- Objectives and goals
- Organizational structure
- Major competitors
- The firm’s performance over the last five years
- Latest annual report
Also, ensure you conduct research on the requirements and expectactions of the job.
3. Dress professionally
Be sure to always dress appropriately. Plan out a wardrobe that fits the organization and its culture, striving for the most professional appearance you can accomplish. Remember that it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Men - A conservative business suit [often darker colours are best, but avoid black]. A plain white or off-white shirt is always safe. Your suit and shirt should be well fitted, ironed, and not appear sloppy. Your necktie should be conservative. Clean and polished dress shoes and socks are an absolute must.
Women - A conservative business suit with a neutral-coloured blouse is often best. Unlike men, suit colours can vary within reason. Conservative, patternless stockings are often best. Shoes should complement the outfit. Keep jewelry to a minimal.
4. Bring Supporting Material
As part of being prepared for an interview, you should always have copies of your resumé, your reference list, letters of reference, and a list of questions to ask the employer. Should it be relevant, we also encourage you to bring your career portfolio or samples of your work to the interview. Finally, remember to pack several pens and a pad of paper to jot notes.
A successful interview requires thorough preparation. Practice is key! You can role play with friends, family members, a professor, a career counsellor, or even a professional you met at a networking event. The more you practice, the more you will be prepared to respond during an actual job interview. See information below on VideoBIO on how you can practice.
General Questions (Knowledge, Ability and Skills Questions)
These questions can often be used as ice breakers and also often deal with the technical aspects of the job or basic knowledge that is essential to learn the job.
Examples of General Questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you know about our organization?
- Tell us why we should hire you.
- Name 2 of your greatest strengths?
- Name 2 of your weaknesses?
- Describe your relevant experience.
- What are your salary expectations?
Note: Some employers may include “case questions”.
Q & A Example (General Question)
Tell me about yourself.
I’ve just completed my Bachelor of Commerce with an option in Accounting at the University of Ottawa. I have taken courses in taxation, audit, and financial management and I plan on pursuing my CA designation. I have 2 years of experience working at an income tax clinic helping senior citizens, disabled persons, people with low-income, and newcomers to Canada. I’m a dynamic person, who enjoys a balance between group and individual work. In my spare time I’m very active and engage in sports which include soccer, tennis and volleyball. I am very passionate about the field of accounting and I think your firm would be the perfect place to start my career.
Tip: Speak a little about yourself on an educational, professional and personal level.
Many employers use behavioural questions to evaluate the employability skills of potential candidates. These types of questions require you to describe a situation in the past where you demonstrated a particular skill or ability. They are based on the assumption that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
To prepare for these types of questions:
• Identify the skills that you believe the employer will be looking for;
• Choose a situation that demonstrates your strength in this area;
• Prepare a response using the STAR method.
The STAR method describes the: Situation, Task, Action and Result.
Examples of Behavioural Questions
- Describe a situation where you played a key role in helping your team succeed.
- Can you provide me with an example of a time when you met a tight deadline?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client and explain how you handled it.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you failed to complete a project on time, despite your best efforts.
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
- Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
- Tell me about a time when you used your creativity in solving a problem.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
Q & A Example (Behavioural Question)
Describe a situation where you played a key role in helping your team succeed.
S: As a management student, I am often assigned group projects. Last semester in one of my marketing courses, I joined a group of five classmates to work on our final assignment. Together we chose a group leader but we had problems with this individual almost immediately. We eventually learned that she was dealing with some personal issues that were obviously affecting her semester as a whole and ultimately caused her to drop out of the course.
T: Our task was to write a marketing plan and proposal for a start-up company assigned to us by our professor. As a team, we were starting to feel anxious about the fact that we had one less group member and that our original deadlines were not being met, as we lacked direction and did not have anyone to establish group timelines.
A: I decided to take the initiative and volunteered to be the new team leader to ensure that our marks would not suffer. The group accepted and I quickly called a meeting so that we could assess our progress. After examining what we had accomplished so far, soliciting feedback from the group, and complimenting my classmates on their individual efforts, I delegated the tasks that had belonged to our fifth member amongst the group and worked to establish an action plan for the remaining weeks. I coordinated several creative brainstorming sessions and kept in touch with each member by email to ensure that deliverables were being met. After working cooperatively to come up with a fantastic campaign, I had each member submit their individual sections to me and I acted as the final editor for the written documents.
R: By taking charge, maintaining open communication, and enforcing deadlines I ensured that we were able to submit our proposal on time. Not only did we get an “A” on the project, but I also received positive feedback regarding my leadership abilities and I feel very proud of how I handled the situation.
In this case, employers will provide you with a hypothetical situation and then ask you to describe how you would respond. The interviewer will supply the Situation and the Task, and your answer should include your intended Action and Result.
Examples of Situational Questions
- How would you respond to a customer who isn't happy with the service or product?
- Imagine you are in a situation where you and a co-worker are jointly working on a project and your co-worker fails to do his or her share of the work. What would you do?
- As a manager, you need to make important decisions regarding your staff. How would you react if you were asked to fire one of your employees?
- You’re working as a financial customer service representative. You have a line-up of impatient customers in front of you. You have a new co-worker who needs help in dealing with her customers. You also have a report that needs to be submitted to your boss by the end of the day and you’re not sure that you’ll be able to get to it. What do you do?
Q & A Example (Situational Question)
Imagine you are in a situation where you and a co-worker are jointly working on a project and your co-worker fails to do her share. What would you do?
(Remember that the question itself contains the Situation and the Task. Now focus your answer on Actions and Results.)
A: I would start by speaking with my co-worker to try to figure out what the problem is. If I’m particularly close with this co-worker, speaking to them about it one-on-one over lunch or on a coffee break may be an option. If the person is going through a difficult time, I would probably offer extra help and try to be understanding during this period. However, if after speaking with the individual I feel that the situation is not temporary and that the individual in question is being uncooperative, I may need to speak with my boss about it. I will try my best to solve the problem with my co-worker without having to resort to involving other parties.
R: I would hope that the situation could be resolved fairly, professionally, and with minimal repercussions for my co-worker and other staff members.