College of Engineering / Career Development and Corporate Relations / Interviewing


Interviewing

An interview is where you can get to know an employer and they can get to know you. If you are invited to an interview, the employer already liked what they learned about you on paper! The interview is where you can demonstrate some of your skills and knowledge, but also where you can convey your personality, enthusiasm, confidence, and communication skills.

This section includes the following topics

INTERVIEW FORMATS

Interviews occur in different formats depending on the hiring organization, number of applicants, and where you are in the interview process.

VIRTUAL

Virtual interviews take place remotely using online communication platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Skype, and Google Meet. Virtual interviews have become the most common interview type as businesses adjust to the day habits of the current public health environment.

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL INTERVIEW

  • TECHNOLOGY
    • Make sure you have a reliable microphone, webcam, and wi-fi connection. Check your wi-fi speed connection with speedtest.net to ensure it is strong enough.
    • Test all technology prior to your interview.
    • Conduct your interview close to an outlet and have your charger nearby in case your have a low battery.
    • Turn off call, text message, and email notifications during your interview.
    • Make sure you have the appropriate software on your computer, especially if it is not a platform you use regularly. Take some time to familiarize with the platform prior to your interview.
    • Provide the employer with your cell phone number in advance in case of technology challenges during the interview.
  • ENVIRONMENT
    • Find a quiet location where you will not be interrupted or distracted by background noise.
    • Ensure you are in a well-lit room and that you have a neutral background. If you have difficulty finding an appropriate background, consider virtual backgrounds if applicable to the virtual platform.
    • Make sure to place your web camera at eye level. You may need to prop your computer up on several books.
    • Turn off ceiling fans and minimize any other background movements as they can be distracting for your listener.
  • NON-VERBAL CUES
    • Look at your camera rather than your screen as much as possible. This will help to better simulate eye contact with your interviewer.
    • Just as you would for an in-person interview, pay close attention to your body language and positioning. Sit up straight, do not cross your arms of position yourself in a closed off manner, avoid fidgeting or frequent movements.
    • Make sure to smile!

PHONE

Phone interviews are often used as initial screening interviews and generally take 30 - 45 minutes. Employers use screening interviews to narrow the pool of candidates before the more intensive in-person interviews.

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PHONE INTERVIEW

  • Stand up so increase the volume and clarity of your voice.
  • If you are speaking with more than one interviewer, picture them in a room as they speak so you can associate the sound of each voice a visual in a room.
  • You can have notes at hand, but make sure you are well versed enough with your responses that you do not rely upon the notes to portray confidence.
  • Keep a blank sheet of paper and pen in front of you to take notes during the conversation. Make sure to write down the name of each interviewer when they introduce themselves.

ON-SITE

On-site interviews offer an opportunity to see the physical location of a company and meet different people within the organization. These interviews can range from one hour to multiple interview rounds that make take several days. You may be evaluated during meals and travel, so treat every aspect of your experience as part of the interview.

PANELS

Questions may be rapidly paced or framed as follow-ups to your response from an initial question. It can be more difficult to achieve rapport during a panel interview, so remember to maintain eye contact and involve each person on the panel, no matter which person asked the question. Make a list of everyone in attendance so you can follow up with a thank-you note. You can request business cards or contact information. 

GROUP INTERVIEW

Group interviewing is much different from an individual interview because you are directly interacting with other candidates. It is important to find a balance between conveying your opinion and dominating the conversation. Be confident. Make sure to respectfully acknowledge others' opinions, express your views, and work collaboratively within the group. Social distancing may be expected, so be mindful of your surroundings and your proximity to others.

TYPES OF INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Just as interviews may occur in different formats, there are various types of interview questions you may be asked.

BEHAVIORAL

Behavioral interviews are based on the premise that past behavior predicts future behavior on the job. Employers evaluate a candidate's skills, abilities, and interests as well as reveal willingness to change and gain from experience - both success and failure. Situation-based questions are used. Employers are looking for a concrete example in your answer.

EXAMPLE  Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to accomplish a goal.

TIP  Use the STAR - Situation, Task, Action, Result + Reflection technique to structure your answers. Briefly explain the Situation and the Task that was at hand. Go into detail about your Actions and describe the end Result, including a personal Reflection about what you learned, what went well or did not go well, and how this situation relates to the position you are interviewing for.

CASE AND TECHNICAL

Case and technical interview present the interviewee with problem, or case, to solve. Your answer is not as important as your analysis of the problem and how you communicate your analysis and approach. Case interviews are commonly used for consulting firms. Technical interviews are often used for engineering and software development roles.

EXAMPLE  A major product your company produces has been reported as defective 10% of the time. You want to take it off the line, but there will be significant profit implications for doing so. Provide a cost-benefit analysis for your leadership team.

TIP  Think out loud so the interviewer can see how you solve problems. It is okay to ask for more information and you can also ask for a pencil and paper, though it is better to come prepared with your own.

RESUME-BASED

Resume-based interviews use the resume as the source for most questions. They focus on past performance of academics, employment, and activities. Be prepared to expand on each item on your resume and go into depth regarding any specific details.

EXAMPLE  Tell me about your experience on the Auburn Off-Road team.

TIP  Use the STAR technique described above to offer specific, concrete examples about your experiences.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS

Personal Background and Company Research

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why do you want to work for this company and what made you interested in the position?
  • Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  • What has been your favorite major related course in college? Which one has been the most challenging for you?

Behavioral and Situational

  • Tell me about a time when you developed your own way of doing things or were self-motivated to finish an important task.
  • Share an experience when your attention to detail or thoroughness benefited your employer.
  • Describe a time when you were persistent in the face of obstacles.
  • Describe a time when you had insufficient information to complete a task.
  • Share a time when you willingly took on additional responsibilities or challenges. How did you successfully meet all the demands of these responsibilities?
  • Describe a time when you improved a process. What were the results? 
  • Tell me about an experience when you analyzed information and evaluated results based on a large / complex data set. How did you use it to select the best solution to a problem?
  • Tell me about a time when the resources you expected to complete a project were not available. What did you do?
  • Provide an example of a time when you had to think outside the box. What was the result and how did it help the situation at hand?
  • Describe a situation when you worked with a team to accomplish a goal. What role did you play in the team and what was the result of your project?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake. What happened and how did you handle it?

Professional Development

  • What new technical or specialty skills related to your field have you developed during the past year?
  • How can you best use your engineering education and prior experiences to help our company grow?
  • What is your long term career objective? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
  • How does this position fit into your professional goals?

INTERVIEW PREPARATION

RESEARCH

Thoroughly research the organization and industry to impress the interviewer and allow more time to discuss specifics of the position. Lack of research is consistently cited by employers as a reason candidates do not advance in interviews, so make time for it.

  • Review the organization's webpage, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Check recent news headlines about the company
  • Review industry publications to learn more about recent trends and issues
  • If provided, familiarize yourself with key information (name and role) about your interviewers via LinkedIn

KNOW YOURSELF

  • Identify key strengths and examples from your past experience to help the employer visualize you as a strong candidate.
  • Evaluate problem areas in your record and be prepared to offer an explanation for these during the interview. Do not volunteer negative information about yourself and try to balance anything negative with a positive outcome.
  • Review the job description and take note of any specific skills, characteristics, or experiences mentioned. Be prepared to discuss specific examples of your experiences that match those qualifications.

PRACTICE INTERVIEWING SKILLS

  • Meet with a career coach for a mock interview.
  • Prepare key points you want to communicate about yourself and how you plan to make them.
  • Prepare questions to ask at the end of an interview. Not having questions prepared is a consistently cited reason why candidates don’t advance in the interview process.
  • Know exactly how to get to the organization, or access the virtual platform, and be prepared to arrive 10 minutes early and stay late.
  • Dress professionally to project the image of confidence, success, and respect. You can find guidelines for professional dress in the AU Job Search Guide.
  • Print additional copies of your resume, list of references, work samples, and/or transcripts (if needed). If virtual, have all documents saved in an easily accessible location such as on your desktop in a specific folder.

TIP  Interview practice is essential in order to speak with confidence, provide specific examples, and be at ease with a wide variety of questions. You can prepare with

  • InterviewStream, an online interview practice software available to you 24/7. Log into your Handshake account > Career Center > Resources to access.
  • Schedule a mock interview with an Engineering Career Coach
  • Practice technical questions with a professional mentor, trusted peer, or professor

PROFESSIONALISM AND DRESS

Your first task will be to build rapport with the person who greet you at the organization and later with your interviewer(s). Building rapport involves attitude, non-verbal behaviors, and verbal behaviors. When interviewing virtually, this occurs relatively immediately for everyone involved.

ATTITUDE

Maintain a positive outlook and have confidence in yourself! The fact you were selected for an interview shows a company is already interested in learning more about you.

VERBAL

How you communicate verbally involves your ability to:

  • Use active verbs and provide concrete and concise answers (think STAR technique)
  • Summarize and make transitions
  • Be positive and confident in what you have done and what you know
  • Create a dialogue by asking relevant questions, requesting more information when you are asked vague or difficult questions, and avoiding yes / no answers that close the conversation

NON-VERBAL

Eye Contact  Should be open and direct when listening, asking, and responding to questions. Eye contact is usually broken when concentrating or reflecting on what you want to say or what has been said. During a virtual interview, keep your webcam eye-level and look at the camera as often as possible.

Facial Expression  Conveys sincerity, can add to or detract from your words. Don’t be afraid to smile!

Voice Tone  Should be confident, warm, and relaxed.

Timing  It is alright to pause before and while you are answering a question.

Hands  Should be used in a relaxed way for animation, communicating excitement, interest.

Handshake  Normally, a firm handshake is a signature greeting at the start of an interview. During the current public health crisis, only offer a handshake if you feel comfortable doing so. Make efforts to gauge how the organization is handling such contact for interview settings. Don't be afraid to ask.

Posture  Should be well-balanced, upright, relaxed, forward-facing, and open. Know your nervous habits and practice controlling them. Leaning forward slightly can help communicate interest.

DRESS

Standards of dress will vary between industries and companies. Always research prior to the interview to adhere to company culture. Career coaches are happy to provide guidance and support. See the AU Job Search Guide for specific guidelines on Business Casual and Business Professional attire. Expanding your professional wardrobe? Visit the Campus Career Closet.

 

RESOURCES

AU Job Search Guide

Campus Career Closet