Ace Your First Interview

Often, it is the degree of preparation that makes the difference between a successful and unsuccessful interview candidate. The following information will guide you through your first interview and provide you the groundwork for your future success!

Prepare for the Interview

Know the Employer

This is an important opportunity for you to demonstrate your research skills! It is important for you to find out a much as you can about the organization, agency, institution, and position you are interviewing for. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does the organization  make or what service does it provide?
  • What is the size of the organization? What is its organizational structure? How much potential for advancement is there within this structure?
  • Who are the organization’s officers, administrators, or key stakeholders? 

Find out how the position you are applying for relates to the whole organization. Attempt to narrow down some challenges, opportunities, policies or philosophies of the organization, and plan to focus on these during the interview.


The researcher will not only increase your self-confidence, but it will also impress the interviewer. 

Know Yourself

Interviewers are often amazed at the answers they receive in response to the question “Who are you and what do you want to do?” Before your interview, know what you have to offer the potential employer.


Evaluate yourself in terms of your strengths and how you can translate these strengths into skills your prospective employer can use. It is also helpful to know your weaknesses. If you are to asked to state a weakness, do not elaborate on it! Instead, state steps you are taking to improve upon your weakness.


Be ready to talk about your career objective, your short and long-term goals, and your interests. Study your resume and be familiar with your education and experience. Practice illustrating how your extracurricular activities are example of skills in leadership and responsibility.


The most important point to remember when preparing for an interview is that the prospective employer is primarily concerned with hiring someone who will make a valuable contribution to the organization. Be prepared to tell an employer why you should be hired.

Learn to Communicate Effectively

You must be able to express yourself and communicate clearly to the interviewer!

  • The best way to improve your communication skills is to practice role-playing before the interview. Consider participating  in a mock interview at The Career Center or ask a friend to help you simulate an interview.
  • Make sure you are critiqued on you voice tone, body language, and eye contact.
  • To prepare for an interview, search online the possible questions in an interview. Another suggestion for role-playing might be to get together with people who also are preparing for interviews. You can learn a lot by critiquing different approaches.
  • Avoid memorizing what you want to say! If you come across like you have a speech prepared, your interview will be less effective.
  • You will be nervous during the interview. Concentrate on what is being asked and respond appropriately. Many people make their voices more monotone to sound professional. Don’t! Speak as you normally would in conversation.
  • Be sure to pay close attention to the interviewer’s questions. Don’t get distracted or daydream. Remember to take a moment after each question is asked to prepare a thoughtful, thorough answer.

Perfect You Skills With a Mock Interview

The Mock Interview Program provides USTP students with the opportunity to practice their interview skills in mock face-to-face and then receive feedback on their performance. Mock interviews about an hour and are recorded, replayed, and critiqued immediately afterward by a Mock Interview Mentor. 

Students can: 

  • Practice interviewing
  • Communicate skills clearly
  • Create a good first impression
  • Reduce nervousness before an actual interview
  • Discuss interviewing style and develop strategies. 

Attend the Interview

Be On Time

It is better to be a few minutes early than one minute late for your interview. If you are late, you will potentially make a bad initial impression.

Dress Appropriately

When seeking a professional position, you must look like a professional! A good guideline to follow is to dress as others do in the same occupation. Remember, the first impression is a lasting one, and you want it to be great. For more on business dress, read how to to  dress to impress .

Break the Ice

Interviews are unpredictable, and no two interviews are alike. Much depends upon the interviewer’s personality and experience. Remember that your interviewer is in control, and your responses should reflect this dynamic.


Interviewers usually try to make you as comfortable as possible once the interview begins. Often, they start with basic questions from your resume. Since this information is familiar to you, the interview will become less tense. Be ready when the interviewer starts to concentrate on specific facts, however.

Anticipate the Interview Situation

The interview situation can vary from one-on-one contact between you and an employee of the organization (human resource manager, etc) to a panel composed of several different employees or department heads representing various level or functions. It is also possible that you will have a single interview with an organization representative or a sequence of several interviews on a given day.


Performance interviewing is another technique some organizations use. In this case, you will be asked to perform tasks which your possible job will entail in a limited amount of time. Mistake are expected! The employer is looking at the way you handle yourself. In other situations, especially academic settings, you may be asked to lecture or present in your area of expertise.


Another type if interviewing is called behavioral interviewing, where the employer seeks to predict future behavior by examining past behavior. Employers often use the STAR approach to gauge past behavior. When answering questions about previous jobs or responsibilities, be able to describe past work Situations, Tasks at hand, Actions you took to complete the tasks, and the Results you achieved.


Remember, you need to respond and actively participate in each interview. Don’t assume what you have told the first interviewer will be communicated to others in the organization.

During the Interview

Answer the Interviewer’s Questions

After the introduction, the interviewer will usually get to the point. The interviewer will attempt to assess your motivations, as well as the way you operate. While a resume provides the facts, the interview provides the “why’s” and “how’s”During the interview, the most important thing to remember is to be honest! Telling the interviewer what they want to hear is not the purpose of the interview. If you are deceitful and interviewers sense this, the chance of being invited for a second interview is slim.


Be prepare to back up what you say! If you state that you have certain skills and abilities, cite specific examples where you have demonstrated them.


Some interviews might include stress questions which usually involve problem-solving and have no right for wrong answers. The purpose of this type of questioning is to see how you think and react under pressure.

Ask the Interviewer Your Questions

During your pre-interview research, you should prepare some intelligent questions to ask your interviewer. Examples include: 

  • How do you measure the success of a trainee?
  • What is the normal progression of a trainee over the first few year?
  • How much travel is required?
  • Do you encourage continuing education?
  • What are your goals for this position?


NEVER ask about vacation time or retirement! These are nit work-related activities. You must talk opportunity not security, although you can ask for more information regarding benefits.


During the interview, you should be sensitive to signs that it has run its course. Campus interviews are usually schedules for 20 or 30 minutes. Interviews end in different ways. Some interviewers might look at their watch, which is a cue for you that the interview is nearing an end; some interviewers are blunt by holding out their hand and thanking you for coming. Most employer representatives, however, expect you to sense the proper time to leave on based on subtle indications. 


When the interview is over, that the interviewer for taking time to talk with you. Re-emphasize your interest in the position and your appreciation for being considered. This is important, since many candidates mistakenly assume that interviewers sense their interests.


If the interviewer does not offer you a job (this is rarely done in the first interview) or indicate when you might receive word, ask when you might hear about a second interview or an actual offer. 


Interviewers are less likely to keep you waiting if they specify a deadline date. If the interviewer is impressed with your performance, you will probably be invited to visit the organization, meet other personnel, and go through more extensive screening. The main purpose of an initial interview is to qualify for a follow-up! It is usually after the second interview that a job offer is given.

Sample Interview Questions

  • What are your short-and-long term goals and objectives? 
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  • What are the most important rewards your expect in your career? 
  • What are your greatest strength and weaknesses?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How do you think a friend or professor who knows you well would describe you?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What qualifications do you have that will enable you to be successful in this field?
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in an
  • What do you think it takes to be successful in an organization like ours?
  • In what ways do you think you can make a contribution to our organization?
  • Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and those reporting him or her.
  • What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? why?
  • What have you learned from your previous jobs or extracurricular activities?
  • In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • Why did you decide to seek a position with this organization?
  • Why do you think you might like to live in the community in which our organization is located?
  • What have you done that shows initiative?
  • What major problem have you encountered, and how did you deal with it
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • Describe an example where you worked as part of the team. 


Be Prepared to Talk About Salary (But Don’t Bring It Up First)

One question you should be ready to address is expected salary. On your resume, it is not proper to mention salaries, but in an interview, you might be asked to state a figure.  


By knowing the rate beforehand, you can be realistic in your terms. Candidates whose rates are too high might price themselves right out of the job. If you are too low, the interviewer might not be given further consideration.


One way to handle salary questions is to give a range. Be prepared to back up your salary request with specific information about your experience! Generally, it is recommended that candidates allow employers to address salary. 

After the Interview 

Write a Thank you Letter 

Ask for the interviewer’s business card and write a letter of appreciation either as an email or a handwritten note. Previous communication with the organization will give you an idea of the best format to use. 


Make the letter more than just a plain thank you note. Tell the interviewer you are still interested in the position and review some of your qualifications so that his/her memory will be refreshed. 

Make Each Interview a Learning Experience

As soon as possible after the interview, write down what you have learned. Ask yourself:

  • Which points interested in the employer? 
  • Did I present my skills and qualifications well?
  • Did I talk too much? Too little?
  • How can I improve my next interview?
  • What questions did I find more difficult versus easier to answer? 

John Flenderson

321 Pensacola Street

Tallahassee, FL 32021

(850) 987-6543

[email protected] 


November 15, 2014







Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:


Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me about the ____________ position with __________________company. I appreciate your time and consideration in interviewing me for this position.


After speaking with you (and the group), I believe that I would be an ideal candidate for this position, offering the quick learning and adaptability that is needed for a diversified position. In addition to my enthusiasm for performing well, I would bring the technical and analytical skills necessary to get the job done.


I am very interested in working for you and look forward to hearing from you once the final decisions are made regarding this position. Please feel free to contact me at any time if further information is needed. My cell phone number is (850) 987-6543. 


Thank you for your time and consideration. 




Your Handwritten Signature


John Flenderson 

Realizing Career Goals 

The USTP Career Center guides the students in identifying career opportunities that will match with their skills, interests, personality and values leading to meaningful and purposeful contribution to the global industry.