The Career Center Is Here To Help You Prepare For Job Interviews
Interviewing skills are critical to making a successful first impression. Our comprehensive Interview Guide below offers tips and sample questions to help you become ready to master your interviews!
The following information is also included in the PDF above.
The Career Center recently launched a new tool called StandOut to help you practice your interview skills! StandOut is an online resource for students to practice their interview skills via mock interviews. It's free and accessible to all SSU students and recent graduates. We currently have 13 different mock interviews in the system - some are general interview practices, and some are specific industry practices.
Making a good ﬁrst impression is essential for a strong and successful interview. StandOut will help you feel more prepared and confident in your interviewing skills! Learn about commonly asked interview questions, practice interviewing using your webcam and microphone, and prepare for both in person and virtual interviewing.
Go to standout.com/login and create an account using your SSU email address. Once logged in, click “Practice” on the top bar. You will see a list of all the available practice interviews. There are currently 13 practice interviews available and more will be added in the future!
When you start an interview, you will see a welcome/intro video, and then your mock interview will begin. The system begins recording your interview answer as soon as the question is asked to facilitate a live interview environment. Each question has a maximum allotted time limit, which you will see counting down as you record your answer. If you’re done early, click “stop” and move onto the next question. Once you complete the practice interview, you can watch your records back. This is important! After you watch the recording, StandOut software analyzes your response and will give you an overall score. Here, you can identify filler words you commonly use, as well as general areas of strength and where you can improve overall.
First and foremost, be excited! The fact that you've been offered a job interview means that you are a qualified applicant and that the employer was impressed by your resume. Interviews are a time for both you and the employer to learn if you will be a good fit for each other. Interviews go both ways - not only is the interviewer learning about you, you are learning about the company.
- One-on-one interview: AKA the "traditional" interview, where there is one person interviewing one candidate.
- Panel interview: Consists of multiple interviewers interviewing one candidate. The interviewers will likely take turns asking different questions.
- Group interview: Consists of one interviewer who interviews multiple applicants.
- Phone interview: Often used in situations where the applicant does not currently live nearby the company.
- Video interview: Also used in situations where the applicant does not currently live nearby the company; often administered through Skype or Zoom.
Research the company or organization you are interviewing with. Know their mission, goals, and any upcoming events they may be hosting or participating in. Have a good understanding of the position you are interviewing for and what skills are required. Having this knowledge will give you more to talk about during an interview, and the interviewer will surely be impressed by what you know about their company.
Make a good first impression by how you're dressed. You want to dress professionally, but still be yourself! Depending on the company, you may need to dress more or less formal. When in doubt, it's better to dress up than dress down.
Business Casual is more relaxed and flexible with colors, patterns, and jewelry. Generally speaking, you may dress business casual to interviews in the following industries: food service, retail, and non-profits.
- Collared/Polo Shirts
- Khaki Pants
- Tie Optional
- Jacket Optional
Business professional is more formal and traditional. Keep colors and patterns neutral. You may dress business formal to corporate or government/public sector interviews.
- Suit and Tie
- Blazer/Sport Coat
- Closed-Toe Shoes
- Lowe Heel
- Panty Hose
- Matching Shoes and Belt
Avoid any attire that may be distracting or unprofessional. If you have to question it, it's probably best not to wear it!
- Ripped Clothing
- Workout Attire/Leggings
- Arrive early
- Bring a printed copy of your resume and/or application
- Give a firm handshake
"SOLER" is an active listening technique to help guide your body language. Engaging in these steps will help you look and feel more attentive!
- S: Squarely Facing
- O: Open Body/Posture
- L: Lean in Slightly
- E: Eye Contact
- R: Relaxed
There is no way to definitely know what questions you will be asked during an interview. However, there are some
commonly-themed questions that most interviewers will ask in some form.
Employers will likely ask questions such as:
- Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team.
- Describe a time when you served as a leader or in a leadership capacity.
- Tell me about a time when you didn’t get along with a coworker. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
- Describe a major work accomplishment you’ve been a part of.
- Tell me about a time when you had competing/multiple deadlines. How did you organize the work and what happened?
- Tell me about a difficult customer/client interaction you’ve encountered. What actions did you take and what was the resolution?
When questions like these are being asked, an interviewer is determining your level of experience in teamwork,
leadership roles, conflict resolution, and time management - so have examples of these qualities prepared.
It's important to prepare your responses to questions in advance, but you don't want to sound scripted. The
"STAR" model will help guide your answers to common interview questions. It may be helpful to practice this
prior to an interview.
SITUATION: Preface with the event or situation you were in. (When I was working at XYZ...)
TASK: Describe your specific responsibility in that situation. (I was responsible for....)
ACTION: Describe specific actions you took to complete the task. (I created a ______, while managing...)
RESULT: Describe the outcomes. (As a result...)
Tell Me About Yourself.
One of the first questions you may be asked is "tell me about yourself." Your response to this question should be similar to your elevator pitch - a concise and relevant summary of who you are, your skills, and why you're interested in the position.
“I'm a current nursing student at Sonoma State University, expecting to graduate next semester. I found this position through the career center and immediately became interested when I read that the position includes working with children. I have extensive experience in child care, including working in a family-operated day care center since the age of 15. I already possess all the required certifications for this position, including first aid and CPR"
"I recently graduated from Sonoma State University as a Business Major. I was heavily involved in the Marketing Club, where I served as president for two years. My role helped me develop skills in leadership, team building, and organizational management. Furthermore, I am fluent in Spanish and Mandarin. My Language skills have helped me foster relationships with a diverse background of students and colleagues."
Describe a time when you provided superior customer service.
"Last year, I worked at a telephone company as a customer service representative. Customers would sometime call and express frustration about the service they were receiving. It was my job to make sure that whatever their problem was, it was resolved. By using active listening skills, I would reflect back to the customer the problems they were having to make sure we addressed the correct issues. Then, I would create a step-by-step action plan with the customer according to their specific issue. I always made sure that the customer was satisfied before ending our phone call. I would always follow-up with an email summarizing our phone call. My customers were always highly satisfied with my service, and I am proud of my 5-star customer survey reviews during my time there."
Tell me about a time you served as a leader.
"Last season, I served as the captain of my soccer team. Before I came into the role, the team had low morale and low commitment. As the newly elected captain, it was important to me to focus on motivating my team, but also to enhance our team dynamics and create a sense of camaraderie. I built in 10 minutes at the end of every practice for team processing, where our team shared positive feedback with each other. I also planned team gatherings off the field, where we could socialize and hang out with one another. Our team dynamics improved drastically as a result of these formal and informal team building opportunities, morale increased, and we even went on to win the intramural championships!"
At the end of an interview, you may be asked if you have any questions - you should always ask at least one
question! By asking questions, you are affirming your interest, attentiveness, and eagerness.
Ask questions that will help you understand more about the position or company.
- What is the day-to-day environment/culture in the office?
- Can you describe the details of the position more in-depth?
- What does a successful candidate look like?
Don't ask about pay, benefits, or time off. Avoid questions such as:
- How much does this position pay?
- What benefits does this position offer?
- How much vacation time is available?
There is an appropriate time and place for these questions, but the first interview is not it. You can ask these questions if you get a second interview, after you get offered the job, or you can reach out to HR directly.
Remember - interviews go both ways. During an interview, you should be assessing whether or not you would be a good fit for this company based on how you are being treated, the behavior of the interviewer, etc.
In general, employers should only ask you questions related to your ability to perform the job and how you will handle certain employment challenges.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
An employer may not ask you questions about your citizenship during an interview, nor are you required to disclose your citizenship status. However, you may be asked to verify your employment eligibility by completing an I-9 Form only after you have accepted an offer of employment.
An employer may not ask you questions about your race or perceived race. You do not have to disclose information about your birthplace, national origin, or upbringing.
It is illegal for an employer to ask ask you if you are disabled or ask about the nature or severity of your disability.
However, an employer can ask if you can perform the duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation; an example of this is: this job requires you to stand outside for long hours, or, must be able to lift 20 pounds. An employer can also ask you to describe or to demonstrate how, with or without reasonable accommodation; you will perform the duties of the job.
It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment, such as promotions, raises, and other job opportunities because of their sex. Per Title VII, an employer cannot ask you questions regarding marital status, family planning, or sexual orientation. If asked, you do not have to answer these questions.
If you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability during a job interview or during the hiring process, you may be entitled to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
After The Interview
- What went well?
- What could be improved?
- Would you hire yourself based on that interview?
- Did you feel comfortable?
- Could you see yourself working there?
Remember: Interviews are also a chance for YOU to learn about the employer - you don't have to like them. Interviews are always good practice, even if you don't end up getting the job.
Always follow-up with an email or a handwritten thank you note within 1-2 weeks after the interview. Thank them for their time, reiterate your interest in the position, or ask any questions you may have forgotten to ask.
You might find yourself interviewing with different companies around the same time. What happens if you're offered a position from one company, but you're still waiting to hear back from your first-choice company? You can always ask any company that offers you a job for a few days to assess your options before officially accepting an offer. Make sure to follow- up with your first-choice company while assessing the benefits and drawbacks of both options. There is no way to predict who might or might not give you a job offer - it's your responsibility to weigh your options and use your best judgment when making these decisions!
The Career Center Student Toolkit is our one-stop shop for all career-related resources. Utilize this Canvas course for several modules on career topics ranging from career exploration, to resumes, to interview prep, and much more! All current students are enrolled in the Career Center Student Toolkit. If you are having trouble or issues logging in, please contact us.