How to prepare for job interviews

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Courtesy of Cathy Doederlein

Participants attending interview workshop over Zoom.

By Madelaine Vikse , Editor-in-Chief

Preparing for an interview can be just as stressful and nerve-racking as actually being interviewed. There are various helpful ways to prepare for an interview, especially for students at NIU, that many may be unaware of.

“I think there’s a series of things and steps that people should follow, but it really doesn’t have to be a scary process; it’s not really difficult but just requires some work in advance,” said Bill Hodson,  senior associate vice president for Human Resource Services.

When preparing to go to an interview, it is a good idea to bring copies of an updated resume, prepared questions about the position and company and a positive attitude and energy, said Cathy Doederlein, director of Career Services. It is also important to make sure any questions or notes are typed or written neatly and do not look messy, unorganized or unprofessional.

“I definitely encourage candidates to make sure they have some questions because when I’m interviewing, and I say, ‘do you have any questions?’ and you say ‘no,’ it can sometimes come across not as interested as you might be,” Doederlein said.

When coming up with questions to ask during or after the interview, it is important that the questions are well-thought-out and that the answers cannot just be found on the company’s website. If it feels like all of the individual’s prepared questions were answered during the interview, it can be beneficial to ask the interviewer what their time at the company has been like, Doederlein said.

“Many candidates will come to an interview, and they get stuck on difficult questions, but it really has to do with them knowing themselves,” Hodson said. “So a person understanding their strengths and weaknesses is really important.”

One of the biggest things is to be prepared by researching the position and company and knowing what the role entails. It is also important to be comfortable with yourself and your background in order to be more prepared for behavioral-based interview questions.

“A lot of employers do behavior-based questions where they’re going to ask you about a specific time that you can give an example of a behavior that you demonstrated,” Doederlein said. “So instead of saying ‘how do you handle stress?’ or ‘how’s your time management?’ which can lead to a fairly vague, broad answer, they might ask something like, “tell me about a time where you had too much to do and too little time to do it in.”

Students have access to many resources through Career Services where they can schedule appointments for a LinkedIn profile review, resume review and a mock interview with a career services staff member or advisor. 

Those who want to be able to practice answering interview questions online can do so through what is called Big Interview, according to the NIU Career Services website. Big Interview, located on the career services website, is completely free, Doederlein said. Students can set the level of difficulty for the interview questions they are asked and record and watch their answers back to help practice.

Hodson said tips for resume writing include listing  education and achievements at the top of the resume, especially for college students who have or will graduate and are looking for employment.

NIU will be hosting multiple resume writing workshops this fall semester. For more information on the event, visit the NIU website.

Career Services have many upcoming events, including LinkedIn workshops, networking nights as well as job and career fairs which can all be found on the Career Services website.