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Northwest Missouri State University


The interview is one of the most important parts of your job/internship search. It will usually be the employer’s first chance to have a conversation with you. Likewise, it is your opportunity to convince the employer that you are the right person for the job/internship. The employer wants to learn about you, your experience and qualifications. You will want to learn about the organization, job opening and the duties/responsibilities of the job/internship. PREPARATION and PRACTICE are the keys to a successful interview. Preparation encompasses knowing yourself and your skills as well as an understanding of the position and the organization/employer.

Regardless of the format (phone/video or in-person, one-on-one or panel), most interviews take place in this common sequence:

Information: This includes introductions and a few minutes of small talk to set the tone of the conversation
to follow. Often includes a brief summary of organization and position.
Qualifications: Questions and answers about your qualifications for the position.
Conclusions: Explanation of the next steps in the selection process.


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Interviewing Information

Interview Tips

Visit Interview Tips for concise information about making a first impression, image tips and 10 ways to stand out as a candidate. The interview “Do’s and Don’ts and list of sample questions will help you prepare.

Interview Attire

Dress for success infographic

Tips to Ensure a Positive Impression:

  • Be polished and professional: clean and wrinkle-free.
  • Wear properly fitting clothing that is not too large or too tight.
  • Wear a matching two-piece suit in black, navy or dark grey.
  • Wear dark polished close-toed shoes.
  • Make sure your hair is clean, well-groomed and out of our eyes.
  • Limit exposure of tattoos and piercings.
  • Bring a portfolio or briefcase for your documents.
  • Avoid large amounts of cologne/perfume.
  • Avoid wearing too many accessories and jewelry.
  • Avoid complex and wild patterns.
  • Avoid plunging necklines and bare shoulders.
  • Be sure to take care of your personal hygiene.
  • Clean and trim your nails, look for chipped paint.

When in doubt opt for the more conservative and formal side. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Links for additional information:

Phone Interviews

Why do employers conduct telephone interviews?

Many employers will conduct first round interviews by telephone in order to determine which applicants they wish to see face-to-face.   Phone interviews may last anywhere from 15-60 minutes and are generally less expensive and time consuming for both candidate and employer.

When does a telephone interview occur?

A telephone interview may result from several different situations:

  • You are networking and the employer begins a screening process immediately because you seem interesting.
  • You are called because you applied for a position or internship.
  • You are called as a result of a “resume referral”. Employers frequently contact Career Services looking for qualified candidates. We query Hire A Bearcat for candidates that match the employer's criteria and forward the applicable resumes to the employer. Employers follow up directly with candidates. Students must complete a profile and upload a resume to be included in this service. Alumni may opt into this service by completing a profile. (No additional fee at this time.)

What are guidelines to follow during a phone interview?

  • Should an unexpected call occur when you are in a situation that would make it difficult to converse, let the call go to voicemail.  You can then return the call when you are in a quiet and private place for conversation.
  • Take a moment to compose yourself if the call comes unexpectedly. Ask the caller for a moment while you go to a quiet room, or turn off background music, for example. Take a deep breath and return to the phone with a smile. Remember, this is a REAL interview.

 How do you prepare for a telephone interview?

The unexpected interview:

  • While you are conducting your job or internship search, be prepared for the “unexpected” telephone interview. A call could come at any time.
  • Check the outgoing message on your voicemail. Is it professional? Is it the type of greeting that you would want an employer to hear? Remember, first impressions are important.
  • When you receive a call, it is appropriate to ask the interviewer what type and length of interview (behavioral, technical or both) they expect to conduct.  It is acceptable to ask about setting up an appointment for another time and date.
  • Important - Maintain easy access to your resume and your calendar whenever possible. Have notepaper and a pen to take notes during the conversation. If accessible, you may want to have copies of correspondence you have sent or received from the employer.

The scheduled interview:

  • If your telephone interview is scheduled in advance, be at your phone early, turn off call waiting, if possible, and be prepared to be available for a longer period of time than originally scheduled (e.g., call may be scheduled from 5:00-5:30, but might actually take place 5:10-5:40)
  • Whenever possible use a landline instead of your cell phone in order to ensure a good connection and eliminate dropped calls during an interview! 
  • Access your resume, and any notes or questions that you have for the interviewer.
  • Those involved in technical interviews should consider a headset.  Some technical employers will ask you to check your email for a link to complete a coding challenge during the interviews as the screen is shared with the interviewer. 

What to expect in the telephone interview? 

Conducting a Successful Phone Interview PDF

Tips to prepare for Virtual Interviews

Video interviewing is a convenient and cost-effective alternative to the traditional in-person interview for potential employers. However, there are format-specific elements that students and new graduates need to understand and consider when preparing for a video interview.

Here are some recommendations for preparing for video interviews:
    • Understand the technology and be comfortable with itDon’t sign up for a video interview until you’re comfortable with the process. Learn what you can and can’t do with the audio and video controls. Find out what your image looks like—and how to look your best—and where to look once the interview begins. Being adept with the technology gives you credibility as an “online professional.”
    • Consider image and the interview environmentDress professionally as a video interview is an interview. Ensure the background of the interview area is consistent with the image you want to portray to recruiters. Remove or silence all distractions, such as cell phone ringers, e-mail alerts on the computer, music, pets, roommates, and more.
    • Test all settings and connections beforehandMake sure the settings are optimized and all connections are working prior to the interview to avoid any issues during the interview.
    • Be prepared for a system hiccupAnd even though you’re thoroughly prepared, have a Plan B ready in case the technology fails during a video interview. For example, have your cell phone ready to use in case the connection is unacceptable or drops. Being prepared in such a manner and making a smooth transition to another method in light of unexpected problems can impress an employer.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Big Interview

Big Interview

Northwest has a new online tool for students to learn about and practice interviewing. Use your Northwest credentials to create an account and start learning today!

Networking & Your Personal Brand

Behavior-based interviewing or situational interviewing is one of today’s most commonly used interview techniques. It's based on the idea that your past performance is the best predictor of your future performance. In other words, how you behaved or performed in past situations/activities will help the interviewer decide how you will mostly likely perform in a new position.

When you're asked behavior-based interview questions, you're expected to describe specific situations in which you've displayed the skills, abilities and personal traits sought by the employer. 

How These Questions Work and How to Answer Them

The interviewer will ask you to describe a time when you demonstrated a specific behavior (for example, leadership, communications skills, teamwork, etc). The interviewer might say "Tell me about a time you contributed to a team's success, what was your part/plan and what was the result of your efforts." 

In response, you'll describe a relevant experience you had in a job, internship, class project, volunteer activity, team, or similar situation. To answer these questions successfully, you'll need to:

  • Be very familiar with the job/internship description and the skills/qualities it requires.
  • Anticipate the questions or topics you'll be asked about. (see example questions below.)
  • PRACTICE how you'll answer these questions, or what examples you'll give. Be sure your examples illustrate the skills sought for the position.
  • Use examples that are as recent as possible.
  • Avoid using examples from your personal life (like relationships, friends, family).
  • Vary your examples—don't just talk about one project or one area of your life.

Your examples will basically be brief stories. Give each story a beginning, middle, and end. To help you do that, prepare stories that follow the STAR Technique.

STAR Technique
S - Situation: Briefly set up the situation by describing the context of your example (who, what, where, when, how).
T - Task: Explain the task you had to complete, or the problem you had to solve.
A - Action: Describe the actions you took to complete the task or solve the problem.
R - Result: Close by explaining the result of your efforts. Quantify that outcome where appropriate. (Examples: how much money you raised for a cause, how many students you tutored, how many people you helped to train, etc.)

How to Prepare for Behavioral/Situational Interview Questions

Preparation Hints:

    • Think of and make notes about several personal success “stories” that illustrate your best skills, experience and assets.  Be specific.
    • Read the job description closely and highlight what you believe are the most important phrases.
    • Cross check your best “stories” with the highlighted portion of the job description to confirm that you have examples for the most important pieces of the job.
    • Practice your “stories” using the STAR method.
    • Let others help you—use examples of quotes from bosses, customers, or faculty, i.e., “My boss gave me a good performance review, he/she liked the way I showed initiative to get the job done without being told.”
    • A good story sets the stage, demonstrates the appropriate skill action and has a positive outcome, showing how you solved a problem or overcame an obstacle.
    • Combine work experience with a non-work experience showing you can implement your skills in a variety of settings.

Sample Interview Question and Answer

STAR Technique:

"Tell me about a specific project that required you track
small details while still managing the big picture."
Situation I worked as a Peer Advisor at Northwest during my junior year. I was responsible for helping 30 incoming freshmen in their adjustment to college life. Peer Advisors work in conjunction with the faculty to help students have the skills and resources to be successful in their college experience.
Task I was asked by my supervising faculty to develop a new presentation about time management and learning skills. To do this, I worked with a fellow Peer Advisor to create new materials, and a follow-up assessment. My goal was to ensure the new students received all the information they'd need to be effective in their first year.
Action I identified and worked on materials needed, created a schedule, identified and contacted appropriate speakers, and created fun and interactive training activities.
Result In the end, the presentation was a success. It was well-organized and stayed on schedule. The feedback from the students was very good, and all students reported that it was informative and fun.
"Tell me about a time you failed."
Situation My first semester in college I received a grade that I was disappointed with in my History class.
Task I am very committed to excellence and set a goal for myself to earn an A on the next exam. My understanding  and comprehension of the material was even more important than my grades, so I resolved to comprehend the information.
Action I began to review my notes on a daily basis and used timelines or charts to organize the information. I met with the professor to communicate my commitments to his class and identify if he had any additional suggestions. I created flashcards and formed a study group . We each identified possible exam questions and then pooled them together to create a practice test.
Result I earned an A on my next exam and in the class. More importantly, I learned how to better teach myself difficult material, manage my time, and be persistent. The experience also cultivated a sense of empathy for students who are failing and about to give up. Since that time, I have been satisfied with my academic achievement and, have made the Dean's list every semester.

Examples of Behavior-Based Interview Questions

As you read through these sample questions consider how you would answer them.  Be familiar with the skills and qualities interviewers commonly look for in candidates.

    • Tell me about a time you solved a difficult problem that could have had a significant impact.
    • Describe the most difficult decision you've made in the last 6 months.
    • Tell me about a time you took initiative to do something that needed to be done, even though it wasn't really your responsibility.
    • Describe an important goal you have achieved, and how you achieved it. Tell me about set-backs you experienced.
    • Describe a time when you had difficulty communicating your thoughts clearly to an individual or group.
    • Tell me about a time you voiced a concern or disagreement to a coworker, supervisor, or professor.
    • Tell me about a situation in which you had to collaborate with several people to achieve a goal.
    • Describe your most disappointing experience. How did you cope with it? What did you do to move beyond it?
    • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that required coping skills.
    • Give me a specific example of a time when you convinced your supervisor or professor of an idea. How did you accomplish this and what was the result?
    • Tell me about a time when you took on a leadership role.
    • Tell me about a time you provided excellent customer service.
    • What kinds of project planning did you do in college?  Tell me about one of these projects.  What were your planning steps?  What worked and what did not work?  What was the final result of the project?
    • Tell me about a time your worked with a team member who wasn’t actively participating in the work.  How did you personally deal with this team member and what ultimately happened within this group?
    • Describe a situation from work, school or campus organizations where you demonstrated leadership qualities.
    • Give a specific example that demonstrates your creativity.
    • Even customers have bad days.  Tell me about a difficult customer your have dealt with in the past.  What was the situation? What did you do to empathize with the customer?  What was their reaction to your approach?
    • Describe the duties and/or responsibilities from your work and/or academic experience that demonstrate your ability to do this job.
    • Tell me about a time when unforeseen problems cropped up during a project or assignment.  What was the situation?  When did you first realize there were problems?  How did you decide to handle these problems?  What was the final outcome?
    • Learning a new knowledge or skill can be challenging, even difficult.  Tell me about a challenging learning experience you have faced.  What was the situation?  What learning demands were placed on you?  What did you do?  What was the outcome?

On Campus Recruiting

Informational Interviews

An informational interview is a highly focused meeting with someone to gain a better understanding of a career, industry or occupation of interest to you.  You are the interviewer so be ready to take the lead.  Research the person and their organization in your preparation of potential questions.  Beyond the advantages of gaining valuable career information, the informational interview provides the opportunity to build self-confidence, improve your ability to handle a job interview and build your professional network.