Prepare for interviews to impress employers

Let’s face it, as impressive as Illinois students’ resumes may be, they can only get us past the initial round of job screening. At the end of the day, job interviews are the final impression we leave with a potential hirer. While you cannot anticipate what each company may ask you at a job interview, there are some common and tough questions that you can prepare for in advance.

How to Prepare

To ready yourself for answering some of the anticipated and tough questions, here are some suggestions for preparation:

Know yourself: Prepare a 60 seconds self-introduction. Often employees will ask you to describe yourself. This may sound easy, but a lot of the times people get caught up in the moment and start ranting. Do not talk about your life history. Instead, focus on your qualifications and experience. Talk about your education, work history, recent career experience and future goals.

Know the organization: Companies want to know why you’ll be a good fit, more importantly, an asset to them. Do research on the company beforehand and note down their mission, background and accomplishments.

Know what employers look for: Read the job description. How do you think you fit within the skills and traits that they are after? Develop specific examples on the skills and traits as described on the job description.

Know the topic: You wouldn’t want a professor to teach a subject they don’t know much about. A company doesn’t want you to work for them if you don’t know much about the field that they are in.

Practice: The Career Services Center offers mock interviews, where you can set up a practice interview and be critiqued for your interviewing skills. Alternatively, practice with someone who has a job in your field.

Prepare questions for your interviewer: Never say no when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions at the end of the interview. This is your chance to show your potential hirer that you are a good match for the position and have done your share of research about the organization.


Practice Questions

Here is a list of questions to familiarize yourself with when preparing for an interview:

What are your long and short term goals?

What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Suggested response: Note that the key to responding the question about your weaknesses is to not respond literally. Instead, identify areas in your work where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets to a future employer. For example, “In the past, I feel like I have not had the chance to develop my public-speaking skills. I’d really like to be able to work in a place that will help me get better at giving presentations and talking in front of others.”

Why did you choose this career?

How can you explain your low grade point average?

Suggested response: Don’t try to make-up excuses. Explain the situation honestly and in a positive manner. Try to turn a weakness into strength, for example, “Yes, my GPA is low, but this is because I worked thirty hours per week to put myself through school.”

Describe a volunteer, work, or school experience where you held a leadership position.

What is the biggest project you ever had to plan? How did you organize the situation?

Tell me about a time when you had to think very creatively and devised a solution that was “outside the box”.

What can you offer me that another person can’t?”

Suggested response: This is the part where you go into the specifics with your resume and talk about your accomplishments. In other words, show your potential hirer your value and how you’d be an asset. For example: “I’m the best person for the job. I know there are other candidates who could fill this position, but my passion for excellence sets me apart from the pack. I am committed to always producing the best results. For example … ”

For a more extensive list of questions, visit: