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.

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


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.


    • Make sure you have a reliable microphone, webcam, and wi-fi connection. Check your wi-fi speed connection with 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 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.


  • Stand up to 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 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.


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 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.

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


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 interviews 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 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.

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?

Behavioral Questions 

The purpose of behavioral interview questions is to help evaluate a candidate’s future performance based off previous experience and behavior. Given these experiences, employers assess a candidate’s skills, abilities, and interests, as well as their willingness to change and grow from these experiences (both successes and failures). To gather this information, employers use situation-based questions. Answers to these questions should be specific and concrete examples.  

Some examples of behavioral questions:  

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to accomplish a goal.  
  • Provide an example of a time when you had to shift your priorities to meet the needs of someone else. 
  • Describe a time when you had to help others to resolve a conflict. 
  • Tell me about a time you had a good experience working with a diverse group of individuals on a project. Describe any differences and how those differences affected the outcome of the project.  


Response Strategy 

The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result and Reflection) technique is the most effective method for answering behavioral questions. Through this structure, you can provide employers with exactly what they’re looking for. Start by briefly explaining the situation and task at hand. Next, go into detail about your actions (not your group’s or your team’s). Finally, explain the end result. 


Example Question + Response

Question:  “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills.”  




Result & Reflection 

Define the situation or “set the stage.” 


Identify the task or project you performed. 


Describe the actions you took / initiated. Make sure to use “I” language and focus on your specific actions and skills used to accomplish the task. Even when part of a team, make sure to explain your distinct contributions to the endeavor.   

Summarize the result and discuss the impact of what you learned and how you’ve grown from this experience. 


My student organization is planning a display for Engineers Day (E-Day). We came up with a great concept for the display, but the team struggled to complete the work. The display was quite involving, requiring a team effort and many hours of work.

I could see the effort was not very efficient or well organized, so I decided I needed to do something if we were going to produce a high-quality display.

Although I was not an elected leader, I approached the organization president and volunteered to help put a plan and schedule together for completing the display on time. 

The president was very appreciative of the support I offered and quickly accepted. I presented the plan to the organizational members who supported the approach I proposed. We successfully completed our E-Day display and spoke with over 50 prospective students and their family members about our club’s engineering projects.


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, social media, 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.


  • 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.


  • Meet with an Engineering Career Coach for interview preparation or 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 here.
  • 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

  • Quinncia  | A virtual tool using artificial intelligence to perfect your interview skills. Using the information provided on your resume, Quin will ask relevant questions and offer feedback
  • Schedule an interview preparation or mock interview with an Engineering Career Coach
  • Practice technical questions with a professional mentor, trusted peer, or professor

Your first task will be to build rapport with the person who greets 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.


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.


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


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.

Standards of dress will vary between industries and companies. Always research prior to the interview to adhere to company culture. Review guidelines for professional dress and attire.

Career coaches are happy to provide guidance and support. Expanding your professional wardrobe? Schedule an appointment via Handshake to visit the Campus Career Closet.

Don't forget to prepare a list of questions to ask employers! Asking the right questions is important to help confirm if you are the right candidate for the position and to help you determine if this is an organization where you want to work. When you prepare questions, you want to achieve three things

  • Find out if you feel the organization is the right place for you.
  • Make sure the interviewer has no reservations about you.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the employer and your motivation to prepare for the interview.

If you stay focused on those three goals, it can help you focus on the questions you really want to ask. Be prepared with at least 3 - 5 questions and prioritize them based on the time available. You should always have questions for the employer at the end of an interview.


Do not ask questions that are clearly available on the employer's website or any literature provided by the employer in advance. This reveals you did not prepare.

You can demonstrate how you've done your homework by asking questions that emphasize the content you've learned about the organization. For example, "I've read that your organization is expanding product and service offerings. Would this be an opportunity I could assist with?"


  • Do not ask questions that cannot be answered.
  • Many questions that begin with "is," "are," or "do" lead to yes or no answers. Make sure to additionally brainstorm questions that start with "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how."


  • What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate for this position?
  • What is the single largest problem facing your staff or customers? Would I be in a position to help you solve this problem?
  • Where do you see the company going in the next 10 years?
  • What is an example of a client challenge you faced recently?
  • How would you describe a typical day or week in this position?
  • What is the average length of stay in this position?
  • Is this a new position or was it previously filled with another employee? Why did that employee leave?
  • How much travel is normally expected?
  • What are you most proud of about working here?
  • If you could change anything about this organization or your team, what would it be?
  • Do you offer continuing education and professional training? Approximately how many individuals go through your training programs each year?
  • How would you describe the culture of the team?
  • If I were extended an offer of employment, how quickly would you like me to start?
  • What are your next steps in the hiring process?

Remember  Refrain from asking about salary and benefits topics until those topics are introduced by the employer.