Interview Preparation

Interviews and Offers

Interviewing Resources

The employment interview is the key and crucial hurdle in the job campaign. Letters, applications, references, resumes, and portfolios are designed with one goal: securing an interview. Having built up the employer's expectations, during the interview your goal is to deliver.

In addition to the tips on this page, use the Career Center's Digital Career Toolkit for more information.

If you are headed to an interview, here are tips for a successful outcome.

Before the Interview

Preparation

  • Know the position for which you are interviewing
  • Research the history of the company prior to the interview
  • Relate your career goals to the position for which you are interviewing
  • Be ready to articulate the skills you offer the company as they pertain to the job
  • Prepare 3-6 questions to ask the interviewer about his/her company, the position, or their industry
  • Attend a Career Center workshop, or do a practice interview with a career coach. Book an appointment with a career coach on Handshake.
Day of the Interview

Appearance/Body Language

  • Dress appropriately; wear a well-fitted, neatly pressed suit.
  • Shake the interviewer's hand with confidence
  • Avoid excessive make-up or cologne
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Never eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum during the interview
  • Have fresh breath
  • Turn off your cell phone

Communication Style

  • Avoid speaking negatively about other people
  • Speak clearly and concisely and use correct grammar
  • Exhibit confidence
  • Let the interviewer lead the interview and ask questions first
  • Never appear to be desperate or beg for a job
  • Be enthusiastic and smile
During the Interview
  • Answer questions completely and succinctly; don't ramble
  • Provide examples to back up general statements
  • Avoid bringing up salary and fringe benefits (those are 2nd or 3rd interview topics)
  • Express qualifications: Know three good reasons why you are an outstanding candidate and work them into your responses
  • Find a balance between listening and speaking
  • Be positive about past experiences; if you are enthusiastic about past experiences, you are likely to be positive about future employers
  • People hire, not organizations. Make a connection with the interviewer; they are asking themselves, "Do I see myself working with this person?"
  • Point out why you like the organization
  • Ask questions: Reflect your self-esteem by asking questions about the organization and the job. This is another place to demonstrate that you researched the organization.
  • At the end of the interview, express your continued interest in the position and thank the interviewer for his/her time.
  • Learn what happens next: Is your file complete? Is additional information needed? Are your references complete? What are the next stages in the employment process and when might they occur? Ask them.
After the Interview
  • Send a thank you letter (see below) to your interviewer(s) reiterating your interest in the position.
  • Evaluate and assess your interview. How did you do? What questions did you have trouble with and how could you answer them in the future? A career coach in the Career Center can help you with this process.
Sample Interview Questions

Common Interview Questions

  • How does your past work experience relate to this position?
  • How does your education relate?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Behavioral Interview Questions

With a behavioral interview question, the interviewer asks about how you dealt with a past situation that would be similar to one you would encounter in the target position.

  • Teamwork: Tell me about a time when you were on a team, and a team member was not pulling his weight.
  • Decision-Making: Give an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision.
  • Problem solving skills: Give an example of how you identified a small problem and fixed it before it became a major one.
  • Supervision abilities: Describe a time when you had to discipline some one you were supervising.

Sample Questions You Could Ask

  • How would you describe the ideal candidate?
  • What are the main problems/challenges facing the person in this position?
  • What are the performance criteria? How will I be evaluated? How often? By whom?
  • What is the department's environment/culture like?
  • When will you make the hiring decision?
Common Interview Errors
  • Arriving late
  • Going off on tangents/not answering the question
  • Answers that are too long or too brief (answering "yes" or "no" is too brief an answer! Two minute responses are a good average.)
  • Lack of research on the position, the organization, and your fit
  • Inability to relate career goals to the position
  • Dressing too casually
  • Lack of enthusiasm/energy
  • A limp handshake
  • Forgetting to smile and having a pleasant attitude (people skills count!)
Sample Thank You Letter

2913 Baxter Rd.
La Mirada, CA 90709

January 25, 2018

Mr. Foster Walker
Senior Auditor
L.A. County Auditor - Controller Division
1220 Warwick Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90601

Dear Mr. Walker:

I want to thank you very much for interviewing me yesterday for the accounting position at the L.A. County Auditor - Controller's Office. I enjoyed meeting you and learning more about your research and design work.

My enthusiasm for the position and my interest in working for were strengthened as a result of the interview. I think my education and internship experiences fit nicely with the job requirements, and I am sure that I could make a significant contribution to the agency over time.

I want to reiterate my strong interest in the position and in working with you and your staff. You provide the kind of opportunity I seek. Please feel free to contact me at (818) 685-5555 or nigel.tufnel@gmail.com if I can provide you with any additional information.

Again, thank you for the interview and your consideration.

Sincerely,

Nigel Tufnel


Salary Information

Websites online where you can obtain salary information:

Attend the Salary Negotiation workshop offered by the Career Center. Check CSUDH Handshake to RSVP for all workshops and events.

Negotiating Your Salary

A successful salary negotiation is one where both the prospective employee and the hiring organization come away satisfied. Negotiation requires planning and preparation.

New Graduates

Keep expectations in line with reality. Many entry-level positions are structured and non-negotiable. Additional factors, including benefits, work schedule, and salary review date may be negotiable, and can be considered if a firm offer is low. For an entry-level position, don't overlook the benefit of gaining experience if you feel it is a job you will enjoy and learn from.

Resume and Cover Letter

Do not give details of a previous salary or mention salary requirements on a resume. If the employer has requested this information, state it at the end of the cover letter. Include special factors, such as the position was part-time while attending school or was in a different field. State salary requirements as "open" or "negotiable." Many cities and states (including California) have made it illegal for employers to ask about your previous salary. If you are seeking a position in a state which still allows the questions, always be honest, as salary information can usually be easily verified, but you can also include information regarding benefits to increase the total value of your compensation.

Research

It is very important to do your homework before meeting with a prospective employer. By researching the organization on the Internet and by talking with others, you can obtain information useful in salary negotiations. Research what your worth is, based on your education and experience. There are many tools available to explore salaries in your field, such as O*Net Online, Glassdoor.com, or Salary.Com. Talk to individuals doing the same kind of work, taking into consideration geographic area and current supply and demand.

Determine your ideal salary and the minimum salary you will accept based on your research.

Interviewing

Wait for the employer to bring up compensation. Focus on what you bring to the organization while learning more about the position. If they are interested in hiring you, they will eventually discuss salary, possibly at a second interview. The individual who mentions a figure first generally has less power in a negotiation. If you are asked for your salary requirements, you can ask about the range they had in mind. If you cannot avoid answering the question, stay close to your high figure, since you can negotiate down but not up. Keep in mind your minimum figure (which you don't tell the employer); if the offer falls below this, you will need to decide whether benefits and career potential make up for the difference.

Evaluating the Offer

After a firm offer is made, you need to determine if you want to accept. If you would like time to consider the salary or other factors, it is acceptable to ask for some time to make your decision. Most employers will not expect you to accept immediately. After thinking about it, if you feel you want to make a counter offer, you can do so, but the employer may say no. Do not accept a position where salary or other factors leave you very dissatisfied, as you will have a negative attitude. If you are considering another position in which you have more interest, you will then have to make a decision whether to accept the firm offer. Once you have accepted, any negotiations with other employers should be terminated. If you accept the position, ask the employer to give you the offer in writing, including benefits. If you reject the offer, write a letter to the employer thanking him/her, in addition to gracefully turning the offer down verbally.

Counter Offer from Current Employers

If you are leaving a previous position, occasionally your current employer will make a counter offer, increasing your salary or benefits so you will remain. It generally is not a good idea to accept a counter offer. Will remaining solve the problems? The relationship with the current employer may change; they might assume you will continue to look for jobs.


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