How to best prepare for an interview

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Printed with permission from the Office of Career Development Advisor Cierra Bussard provides tips for answering some of the most common interview questions.

Cierra Bussard joined the Office of Career Development in July 2017 as a Career Advisor and is pursuing her master’s degree  in College Student Affairs at NSU. She loves working with all populations of students but has a particular focus on helping veteran students meet their career goals. 

Preparing for an interview is crucial; whether it’s for a job, internship, or professional program. Being able to reflect on your skills and past experiences will help you better articulate why you are a great candidate to the employer. Here are some strategies to help effectively answer  common interview questions.

“Can you tell me a little about yourself?”
Many people are thrown off when this is the first question an employer asks during an interview and tend to panic or go off on a tangent. It’s important to keep our response short but also have structure. You want to give the employer a quick snapshot of who you are, what unique skills you bring to the table, and what led you to this point. Just make sure to always end your response by tying it back to the job you are currently applying for and why you are excited for this opportunity.

Why are you interested in this position?”
Whenever you are applying for a position, it’s always a good idea to save the job description so you can refer to it when preparing for the interview. Ask yourself: “What important skills do I have that this job is looking for?”

It’s also helpful to do some research on the company. Pay attention to their projects, initiatives, and core values. Being able to address how your values align with theirs, while highlight skills you possess that specifically relate to the position you are applying for will make you a competitive candidate.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
When listing strengths and weaknesses, always remain focused on the job description. Self-reflect on your strengths and how they align with the position. Make sure for each strength you list, you provide an example to support it. When the interviewer asks what your weakness are, they are trying to see if you can self-evaluate. It’s important to be honest, while refraining from highlighting a weakness that will hinder you when doing the job. For example, if you’re looking for a customer service position, it’s probably not the best idea to announce that your weakness is working with people. Also avoid saying your weakness is that you’re a “perfectionist.” This answer is very vague, cliché, and doesn’t really answer the question. Share a weakness that you’ve self-identified and worked through in order to improve yourself.

“Can you tell me about a time when you took initiative?”
With this type of question, employers want to know about a specific example where you demonstrated strong leadership skills. Again, it’s important to structure your response. When answering this type of question, using the “STAR format” can help organize your thoughts to answer the question efficiently.

Situation – Give the employer a brief overview of the incident.
Task – What was the problem that needed to be solved?
Action – What steps did you take in order to resolve the issue?
Result – What was the result of the actions you took? Also, what did you learn from this experience?

These are only a few common examples of questions that you may be asked during an interview. Doing your research, reflecting on past experiences, and focusing on individual skills will make you a competitive candidate and give you the confidence to tackle any question an employer may ask you.

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