Ace the Interview

An interviewer seeks to discover whether you are the right person for the position.  The employer wants to know if you can do the job, will you do the job (are you motivated and self-directed), and will you fit in with the company culture and be a team player.

Contact the Engineering Career Center at 785-864-3891 or to schedule a practice or mock interview.

Employers believe the best predictor of future behavior is recent past behavior.  For example, do you know someone who is always late to class?  What's the likelihood that she'll be late to class tomorrow? 

That's the principle of "behavioral-based interviewing," a common interviewing technique.  Interviewers want to get a picture of how you have behaved recently in a situation because it will help them determine how you'll behave in a similar situation on the job.

Answering these questions takes insight into what employers are looking for.

Prepare for the interview

Before going to an interview, look at the job description (if one is not available, use the job posting as a basis) and think about some of your most important milestones: projects, grades, presentations, and work experience that make you proud.  You'll use these milestones as examples when answering questions.  Use  your best examples to concisely tell the story to the interviewer.

In addition, there are some standard attributes that many companies look for, including:

  • Strong communicator
  • Adaptable / flexible
  • Abe to work in teams
  • Self-directed / motivated
  • Demonstrates honesty and integrity
  • Goal-oriented
  • Strong follow-through

Think through your activities and experiences, and identify those that you can use to show you have these attributes.

During the interview

The interviewer says: "Tell me about a time when you were a part of a team and what you did to keep the team on track."  Include the following in your answer.

  • Situation:  Explain the situation in detail.  Describe Who, What, Where, When.  Was it a class team?  What was the project?  When did this event occur?
  • Task:  What was difficult or especially challenging about the project?
  • Action:  What did YOU do to pull the team together:  What specific action did you take?  Talk about your role in the situation.
  • Results (or Outcome): Discuss the outcome of the project or team.  Did the team succeed?  How did you know the team was successful?

Keep your answer focused on recent job-related experiences. Whenever possible, use examples from an internship, class work, professional association, or other degree-related experiences.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers

First impressions do count. Your resume earned you a job interview. Now, business etiquette will add some polish to your presentation.

Etiquette—good manners—is based on the idea that certain social behaviors put people at ease and make interaction pleasant. Here are seven rules for interview etiquette:

  1. Be on time.

    Or arrive 5-10 minutes early. Being late says you're disorganized and not very good at time management. Drive the route to the organization the day before your interview so that you know exactly how long the commute will take.

  2. Turn off your cell phone.

    And leave it in your car. You don't want to be distracted as you offer your expertise to an employer, and an employer doesn't need to know your ringtone sounds like Beethoven's Symphony #5.

  3. Respect those already employed.

    It doesn't matter whether you're interviewing to be an entry-level employee or the next CEO of an organization. Be polite to everyone you meet, including the receptionist. You never know who may be asked, "So, what did you think of this candidate?"

  4. Dress like you mean it.

    Dress in business professional attire if you have a suit. Go easy on the aftershave or perfume—better yet, don't wear fragrance at all just in case someone you are about to meet has allergies. Go light on the jewelry—earrings, a watch, and nothing else. No T-shirts, tank tops, or flip flops.

  5. Be handy with your handshake.

    Hand out. Clasp the extended hand firmly, but gently. Pump once. Release.

    A flimsy handshake feels like dead fish and is unimpressive. A bone-crunching grasp may crush your potential boss' tennis swing and your chance of getting a job.

    Practice ahead of time with a friend.

  6. Have a presence.

    Speak well, make eye contact, sit up straight.

    Looking the hiring manager in the eye as you talk shows you're confident and engaged in the conversation. Don't stare—that's rude and creepy. Sit up straight. Slouching or sliding down in the chair makes you look tired, and no one wants to hire someone who is tired before they've started the job.

  7. Say thank you. Twice.

    The first thank you—at the end of the interview, the last few seconds before you leave the office (and while you're shaking hands for the second time)—may come naturally. "Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you," shows you appreciate that someone has taken the time to talk to you and consider you for the job.

    Say thank you by e-mail to each person who interviewed you immediately after you get back to your home. Spell everyone's name correctly and use their correct titles (find the information on the organization's website).

    A thank-you note does several things:

    • It says you appreciated the time your potential boss spent with you.
    • It suggests you'll follow up on important things (like the boss' business).
    • It's a great time to reiterate (very briefly) how your qualifications are a good match and how interested you are in getting the job.


Good luck with the interview!

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

  • Confirm the time zone; Kansas is in the Central Time Zone.
  • Prepare your telephone area (paper, pen, calendar, & resume).
  • Make sure your location is quiet, private and free of distractions. 
  • Consider standing up for a phone interview because it may help you project your voice.
  • Be energetic and positive, just like it's a face-to-face interview.

Additional Interviewing Resources

Academic Interviews

For PhD candidates seeking positions in academe:

  • The Academic Job Search Handbook by Julie Miller Vick, Jennifer S. Furlong, and Rosanne Lurie, 2016
  • The Professor is In: The Essential Guide to Turning your PhD into a Job by Karen Kelsky, 2015
  • Job Search in Academe: How to Get the Position You Deserve by Dawn M. Formo & Cheryl Reed, 2011