An employer will invite you for an interview if they believe that you have the skills to succeed at their company. In the interview, they will seek to evaluate your genuine interest in the company and the role, your preparedness for the position, and your potential to add value to their team.

Your answers to the questions they ask will help them assess your skills, experience, and motivation.

Below, you will find suggestions on how to prepare for the interview and demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the position.

Preparing for Your Interview

Research the company and industry

We often hear from employers that candidates do not know enough about their companies when they interview. Employers gauge how interested you are by how much you know about their organization. This research is an easy way to improve your interview skills.

Find out as much as you can about the position, company, and industry.

  • Learn about current trends and events that might impact your future employer.
  • Review the organization’s website and social media activity.
  • Try to speak to people in the organization through LinkedIn, peers, faculty, or family to gain insider knowledge.
  • Make sure that you reread the job description and can communicate why you would be a good fit for the position.

Identify your goals and skills: Why do you want this job?

It is important to have a purpose in mind and communicate it to the employer. You will need to be able to show that you can support the company’s needs.

  • Think about how the combination of your work experience, personal qualities, and academic or co-curricular activities make you uniquely qualified for the position.
  • Describe the skills in your resume with examples using the SARA method (Situation, Action, Result, Application)
  • Identify transferable skills and make the connection between your experience and the position requirements. 

Your Chance to Interview the Employer

While the main goal of the interview is for an employer to evaluate you as a candidate, it is also one of your few chances to learn more about them. There are many aspects of a job that you can only uncover by speaking with the employer.

  • Identify questions that can help you determine if this is the right position for you. Consider asking questions about the role, division, organization, and industry.

Practice your interviewing skills

Many people practice for an interview by writing down answers to common interview questions.

While organizing your thoughts on paper is helpful, the best practice is done verbally, alone, with a friend, mentor, or career counselor.

You can schedule a practice interview with a career counselor to get feedback on your interview style, presentation, and body language. We also host a Practice Interview Program that allows you to practice and get feedback from a Columbia alum.

For independent practice in a virtual format, we recommend Big Interview, which you have access to for free through our office. You can practice answering interview questions by industry or job function, record yourself, and use their tool for self-assessment or share any video with a mentor for feedback.

Additional Resources for practicing interview questions

Final Checklist

Make sure that you run through the following checklist a few days out from your interview:

  1. Have you researched the field, organization, and position?
  2. Have you thought about your goals, values, and skills; and how they match the opportunity?
  3. Have you made sure your online image on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is appropriate and professional?
  4. Do you know the name and title of the interviewer or who to check in with?
  5. Have you prepared an appropriate interview outfit?
    • Our Clothing Closet is a great resource for students in need of professional attire for an interview, career fair, or professional networking event.
  6. Have you identified the time and place of the interview and the best method to get there?
  7. Have you practiced answering common interview questions?

    The Night before Your Interview

    • Read through your notes, resume, cover letter, job description, company or industry summaries one last time.
    • Know the route you will take to the location and how much travel time you will need.
      • Build in additional time to ensure you are not late.
    • Make sure to dress professionally
      • Examine your clothing for stains and wrinkles. Look for scuffs on your shoes.
    • Have the following items prepared:
      • Multiple copies of your resume
      • 3–4 professional references (separate from your resume)
      • Notepad
      • Pens 
      • A folder for your resume

    You’re ready! Get a good night’s sleep to ensure that you’re at your best on the day of the interview.

    The Day of the Interview

    Remember to…

    • Be on time!  Arrive at least 10–15 minutes early.
    • Bring the supplies you prepared the night before your interview.
    • Be considerate and polite to ALL staff members. You never know who will provide input for a hiring decision.
    • Turn off all mobile devices.
    • Avoid any scents or jewelry that may be distracting to the employer.
      • Do not smoke right before your interview.
    • Discard any chewing gum or breath mints before your interview.
    • Be enthusiastic and smile!

    During the INterview

    • Listen carefully to the interviewer.
    • Make sure you answer the question your interviewer is asking.
    • Relate your skills, accomplishments, and objectives to the needs of the company.
    • Provide specific examples when possible using the SARA method (Situation, Action, Result, Application).
    • Focus on the positive aspects of your training and experience. You don’t have to apologize for any perceived lack of experience or background.
    • Observe the people and office space to get a sense of the company’s culture.
    • If you do not have the interviewer’s contact information request a business card so that you can send a thank you note.

    Body Language

    Your posture, eye contact, and hand gestures all contribute to the impression you make on the interviewer. The following examples of proper body language and behavior specific to the U.S. job market may help you assess your presentation:

    • POSTURE: Your posture can convey confidence or insecurity. Sit up straight to send a message that you are comfortable and confident.
    • EYES: Maintain eye contact with your interviewer and others in the room. If you focus all of your attention on one person, you will not engage other interviewers.
    • HANDS: Avoid fidgeting. Use your hands to express yourself in moderation.
    • LANGUAGE: Be clear and direct. Avoid the use of filler words such as um or like between phrases or sentences. Do not ramble. When you finish making your point, stop! Silence is acceptable.

    After the Interview

    • Send a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview. 
    • If you do not hear from the employer after the hiring timeline they initially indicated follow up professionally, and only once.
      • Call or email the interviewer or human resources representative and inquire about the position and the new hiring timeline.
    • Evaluate your performance.
      • Did any questions stump you? Now is the time to improve your answers for the next interview.
    • After a first round interview you may be called back for additional rounds of interviews depending on the employer’s process.
      • For those participating in On-Campus Interviews, keep in mind that second round interviews are typically not held at CCE, but at company offices.
      • Check out our resource on what to expect at a second round interview to help you prepare.
    • If a job offer is provided on the spot, which is uncommon, it is appropriate to thank the employer and to tell them that you need more time to consider the opportunity.
      • At that point, ask about the company’s timeline and deadline for your answer.

    Schedule a 30-minute appointment with one of our counselors to prepare for your interview. Interviewing can be one of the most stressful parts of the job search process, but following these suggestions will allow you to feel confident in your preparation!