Special Series for Graduating Seniors: Job Interviewing Tips

by robertr

April 16th, 2008


When preparing for your interview, what probably comes to mind are those traditional questions: “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”, “Where do want to be in 5 years?”, and yes, you will probably be asked these questions. In order to stand out from the rest of the candidates, you should be prepared to answer a variety of questions depending on the type of job and the type of interview. In addition to the traditional interview, there are three other types that will determine the nature of the questions asked: behavioral (or experiential), situational, and case.

The Traditional Interview: The main goal of this interview is to learn more about you, why you want the job, and why you think they should hire you. Traditional interview questions might include:

• Tell me about yourself.
• Why do you feel you are the best candidate for this job?
• How has your university education prepared you for this position?

The Behavioral and Situation Interview: The goal of this interview is to gain an understanding of how, in the past, you dealt with challenging situations. A behavioral question might be:

• Tell me about a time when you were the leader of a team and some of the others on the team disagreed with you on the approach the team should take to solve a problem. What did you do?

Evidence is the key here. In order to prepare for these questions, think about your achievements, the challenges you have overcome, and examples of your leadership skills. Your stories should demonstrate a positive attitude, and an ability to get along with others. Never talk negatively about others as this is a red flag for the interviewer.

The Situational Interview:Whereas the behavioral interview asks about future situations, this interview will focus on potential future situations and problems. A situational question might sound like:

• “If you were the leader of a team with a project and encountered a significant road block and your supervisor(s) were unavailable, what would you do?”

The Case Interview: Typically used by consulting and investment firms, this interview is designed to gauge your problem solving, listening, interpersonal skills, and your ability to think under pressure.

In this interview, you might be presented with a business problem, and some facts pertaining to an organization, often the one for which you are being interviewed. You will be asked to identify key issues, ask questions, analyze the situation, and “crack the case” by providing a solution. There is usually no absolutely “right” answer. Success is based upon the process you demonstrate, your questioning skills, the logic of your conclusions, and the poise displayed throughout the exercise.

To prepare for this type of interview, research the type of issues the organization is typically faced with. Some companies that use these interviews provide examples on their website. is an excellent resource for learning more about case interviews. Additional tips for approaching the case interview are:

• Since this is an interactive process where your interpersonal skills are as important as your conclusions, form a practice group.
• Don’t ramble. Practice stating conclusions with authority and without fillers such as “uh” and “um”.
• Remember that listening is the most important skill in consulting and handling a case interview.
• Be in tuned to your interviewer’s reaction. These can provide clues as to whether you are on target.
• Think out of the box. Innovative thinking is a plus for any organization.

Logic problems may also be part of the case interview so prepare for old stand-by questions such as “If one non-stop train leaves Cleveland going east at 55 miles per hour and another non-stop train leaves Pittsburgh at 65 miles per hour headed towards Cleveland, when will they pass?”

Finally, computer science and IT firms might ask you to demonstrate your skills and knowledge during the interview so it’s important to have your laptop and your technical skills primed and ready.

More than likely, in the course of a single interview, you will be faced with elements of each type of interview; so once again, preparation is the key to success. For all types of questions, practice getting your points across, clearly, briefly, and without rambling to increase credibility.

For more tips on job interviewing skills, check out our new blog section: Generation.Next! New tips will be added throughout April. Do post and share your feedback!

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