General Interview Guide
- Types of Interviews
- Before the Interview
- During the Interview
- Establish Rapport
- Body Language
- Respond to the Interviewer’s Questions
- Tell me about yourself: the 90-second response
- Answering Behavioral Interview Questions: The SOART Technique
- Talking about Strengths and Weaknesses
- Why do you want to work with us?
- What are your career goals 5–10 years from now?
- After the Interview
- More Practice and Information
Types of Interviews
First-Round or Screening Interviews
These initial interviews can be as short as 10 minutes or up to one hour in length, and are sometimes conducted over the phone or video.
The purpose of a screening interview is to determine quickly if there is a match between you and the employer. Questions about the your interest in and preparedness for the position may be asked, as well as behavioral questions, which are explained below. For more on screening interviews, read The Muse’s article.
Many employers use behavioral interviews, often at the initial interview stage. Behavioral interviews primarily focus on asking job candidates to describe specific past instances in which they have demonstrated certain knowledge or skills that an employer deems important. These interviews can also involve hypothetical situations necessitating the utilization of specific knowledge and skills that a candidate has to respond to. Behavioral interviews are meant to help employers discern, based on your past experiences or hypotheticals, how you will perform on the job in the future. For further guidance with these types of interviews, see below on answering behavioral interview questions.
Recorded Virtual Interviews
Some organizations use recorded virtual interview platforms, such as HireVue, to connect with more candidates in less time. For the interviewee, this generally means you will be prompted to record yourself answering interview questions for the employer to review. Be sure to read the tips and instructions provided by the employer prior to recording the interview. Just because an interview is pre-recorded does not mean you should prepare for it any less than you would an in-person interview. You should prepare just as much for how you will answer interview questions, and think about your wardrobe choices. And make sure your computer software is updated ahead of time to avoid any last minute surprises. You can use our online interview tool, Big Interview, to practice answering questions on video.
For more tips, visit this article on one-way video interviews.
Several industries, particularly management consulting, use case interviews to assess candidates. In a case interview, you are given a business problem, or case, to work through in front of the interviewer. Because case interviews are designed to test your problem-solving abilities, employers are more interested in how you arrive at an answer than whether the answer is “correct.”
For more information, check out our case interview guide.
Phone and Video Interviews
Phone and video interviews are common. Virtual platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and WebEx are often used in these situations. Because of this, it’s important to know the etiquette for these types of interviews. Treat this interview seriously, as it will determine if you will be invited to continue to the next step in the process.
It is sometimes hard to gauge how a phone interviewer feels about your answers, given that you cannot read their visual cues on the phone. There may also be pauses in conversation as the interviewer takes notes. The point is, it may be harder to tell how a phone interview is going, compared to an in-person interview. Be prepared for this ambiguity, and if they sound “cold,” know that you still might be invited to the next stage. Below are some things to keep in mind when conducting a telephone or video interview:
- Print a copy of your resume and the job description beforehand and write down the interviewer’s phone number, Zoom meeting ID, or other connection line somewhere. These hard copies will come in handy if your internet fails.
- Dress the part still. Wearing something you feel professional in changes the way you interact with others. And wear the full outfit, just in case you need to stand. If you are using video, we recommend wearing dark clothes with a pop of color (e.g., tie or blouse). Keep in mind that some clothing details may not look good on screen.
- Arrange to be in a quiet place at least 15 minutes before the scheduled call time in case you are called earlier than expected. If it’s a video call, make sure the room is well-lit and that there is nothing in view of the camera that you do not want a potential employer to see (inappropriate posters, for example). If possible, use the video call preferences to blur your background.
- Avoid technical difficulties by making sure your internet connection is reliable. If you are using Zoom, familiarize yourself with its features in advance (and choose a professional sounding username), and do a test run to ensure your connection is stable. Make sure your headphones are plugged in securely or your bluetooth is functioning properly. Ensure your computer has had all relevant software updates.
- If your interview is a phone interview, answer the incoming call with your name. This lets the interviewer know they have the right number and person. Know in advance exactly how you will greet the caller and start the conversation (for example, “Hi, this is Jack”).
- Sit with good posture, regardless of whether anyone can see you, so that your voice will project better. Look directly at your camera (NOT the image on the screen). Do not be afraid to use your hands to be expressive, if that is how you naturally communicate. Smiling when you speak brings energy and excitement to your voice.
- Pause an additional second or two to make sure the interviewer has stopped speaking before you answer a question. This will counteract lag so you do not appear as though you are interrupting.
- Towards the end of the interview, tell them you would appreciate the opportunity to meet. This is not too forward; it is conveying interest and enthusiasm.
For more considerations on video interviewing, check out this article by Muse:
If you need a quiet place to interview, please stop by or call our front desk to inquire in advance if we have any interview rooms available.
Before the Interview
Reflect and Research
A crucial step in preparing for any interview is doing some homework on the organization you’re interviewing with and the position you’re interviewing for.
If it’s still available, review the position description carefully. Pay close attention to the duties and responsibilities of the position and the skills the position requires.
Think about the skills you have that connect to the job you’re interviewing for. For example, if a job description talks about the importance of teamwork, think about your experiences working on a team, and which of those experiences might demonstrate to an employer that you would be a good teammate. Work your way through the entire job description to map your skills and experiences to the job.
There are many tools to help you learn more about companies and their interview practices. Firsthand has industry guides that can give you some insight into how industries generally approach interviewing. Glassdoor users submit interview questions they were asked in interviews, which is a great way to get familiar with a company’s interviewing style. And LinkedIn is a good place to find Georgetown alumni who have worked for the organization you’re interviewing with and connect with them to learn more about the company.
This kind of homework almost always pays off. When an interviewer asks you why you want to work for them and not their competitors, it’s helpful to be able to answer with an anecdote about what you learned about the company in all the research you’ve done.
Dress for Success
If you want to know what to wear to make a good impression in an interview, it’s important to know the culture of the industry and the organization you’re interviewing with. Generally, the expectation in corporate environments such as investment banks or a law firms, is that you should wear a business suit. But in other industries, the expectations are often different. In tech, for instance, you might be expected to dress more casually.
Some ideas to find out about the preferred dress at the office you’ll be visiting:
- Talk to people in your network—classmates, Cawley staff members, professors, recruiters—who might know about the culture of the place where you’re interviewing.
- Check out the company online. Look for pictures and videos of their office and employees on their website, company blog or social media accounts to get a sense of how formal or casual they are. You can also look for company profiles on websites such as The Muse.
Business dress is considered standard for most interviews, even if more casual clothing is typically worn in the workplace. Below we define some dress codes you might encounter:
Typical, day-to-day office attire
- Khakis or dress pants
- Casual skirt or dress
- Polo or collared shirt
- Dress shoes, loafers or flats
A combination of business casual and business attire
- Dark jeans (no holes) or khakis
- Dress pants or skirt
- Collared or dressy top
- Blazer or suit jacket
More sophisticated and signaling a need for a suit
- Collared shirt and tie
- Dress shoes or comfortable heels
During the Interview
Whether you are interviewing virtually or in person, make sure your ducks are in a row. Check for traffic, check your internet connection, be prepared.
Whether you are interviewing in person, or virtually, it is important to conduct yourself well and make a good impression. It is important to stand or sit up straight, provide a firm handshake or smile while looking directly into the camera, and begin with some small talk before you start the interview. During this time, it can be helpful to pay attention to the employer’s demeanor. Are they relaxed or formal? Focused or conversational? You may want to adapt your strategy to the style of the interviewer, but it is also important to use this time to determine fit for the role. You are interviewing the employer just as they are interviewing you.
Be mindful of your body language throughout the interview. It is normal to feel anxious, especially in the beginning, but try to maintain a relaxed and upright posture. Speak in a clear tone and use silence when you need to — it demonstrates thoughtfulness when you take time to gather your ideas before speaking. Avoid using too many hand gestures as they can distract from your face and your response.
Respond to the Interviewer’s Questions
During the interview the employer will ask you a variety of questions to determine your level of competence and your interest in the position. Make sure your answers are clear, concise, supported by examples, and that you maintain strong eye contact. Below are some examples of questions employers typically ask and strategies for responding.
“Tell me about yourself”: the 90-second response
An employer might begin the interview with an open-ended question such as, “Tell me about yourself” or “Why are you interested in our organization?” Your responses should show how your skills, interests and experiences would contribute to the position and organization.
Don’t just rattle off a list of things you have done. Consider how you will connect the different parts of your background into a cohesive that also connects to the position you’re interviewing for.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 seconds is a good amount of time for an answer to this kind of question.
- Focus the first 15 seconds on relevant and appropriate personal information you wish to share (for instance, where you are from).
- Focus the next 30 seconds on your academic experience (for instance, what you are studying, relevant courses, study abroad experience, relevant research experience).
- Focus the next 30 seconds on your professional experience (e.g., leadership positions, relevant extracurricular involvement, internships, and part-time jobs).
- Use the last 15 seconds to discuss your interest in the position, given the background you just stated.
Answering Behavioral Interview Questions: The “SOART*” Technique
Behavioral questions ask you to describe a past experience, which gives the interviewer an idea of how you might respond to a similar situation in the future. To respond to a behavioral question such as “Tell me about a time when you were on a team and one of the members wasn’t carrying their weight,” use the SOART technique to give your answers structure. SOART stands for Situation, Obstacle, Action, Result, and Takeaway or Tie-in.
*SOART technique adapted from an article on Forbes.
S – Situation
Identify a situation that will allow you to illustrate your strengths.
Example: “I was assigned to lead a team to perform 30 hours of community service for a class.”
O – Obstacle
Describe the obstacles and challenges you encountered.
Example: “One member of the team wasn’t showing up for meetings, despite constant reminders of the importance of attendance.”
A – Action
Describe the action you took to overcome the obstacle.
Example: “I decided to meet with the student in private and explained the frustration of other team members, then asked them if there was anything I could do to help. They said they were preoccupied with another course, so I helped him connect with our Academic Resource Center for a tutor.”
R – Result
Explain the result of your action. Make sure the outcome reflects well on you.
Example: “After our discussion, they were not only able to attend the meetings, but they were grateful to me for helping them. We were able to complete the community service project on time.”
T – Takeaway/Tie-in
Sum up your answer with a takeaway or tie-in. Describe what you’ve learned and how it makes you a strong candidate for this role.
Example: “I believe my ability to respond to team members and find creative solutions would also translate well to this position.” or “I learned that being a leader includes having difficult conversations, as well as how to navigate distributing tasks on a team.”
Talking about Strengths and Weaknesses
Employers will often ask you about your strengths. Consider which of your strengths would be relevant to the position, and give examples to illustrate your claims.
Strengths could include being proactive, being a good listener, being a team player, being enthusiastic, attention to detail, being personable, leadership experience.
Example: “One of my strengths is creative communication, which I use often as I manage the social media accounts for my student group…”
If asked to name a weakness, share honestly but be sure to include concrete examples of your efforts to overcome or compensate. Interviewers want to know that you are self-aware enough to acknowledge struggles and proactive enough to take steps to improve. Consider using the ‘20-80’ rule to frame your response: 20 percent of your answer addresses an actual weakness, and the remaining 80 percent is how you are overcoming, improving upon, or learning from that weakness.
Example: “At times I have struggled with… yet I have made efforts to improve by…”
Make sure your weakness is not your strength in disguise (you can’t say attention to detail is your strength and that being a perfectionist is your weakness), and that you choose a real weakness (perfectionism is not a weakness).
We recommend that you prepare three strengths and three weaknesses in case the interviewers ask for more than one. However, if they only ask for one or two, only give them as many as they ask for.
“Why do you want to work with us?”
This question is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your homework and you understand what separates one organization from another. Reflect on the research you did about the organization and the position and discuss how your abilities, interests, and experience match the requirements. If there is something specific about the organization (maybe something from their mission statement) that connects with, talk about that. It can be helpful to think of the framework for answering this question as a funnel—from broad to narrow. Start by talking about why you are drawn to the industry, then why you are drawn to this company or organization, and end with what appeals to you about the role you’re interviewing for.
“What are your career goals over the next 5-to-10 years?”
When employers ask a question like this, they don’t expect you to want to be in the same job years from now, or to know exactly what job title you want to have. They want to see that you have thought about how this position would fit into your larger career goals. So you might discuss long-term goals such as what skills you want to develop, or what type of impact you want your work to have.
Sample Interview Questions
- Why are you interested in this industry?
- As described to you, what about this position appeals to you?
- Why did you choose to attend Georgetown? Why did you choose your particular major?
- What have you gotten out of your extracurricular activities?
- Describe your most rewarding college experience and tell me why it was so rewarding.
- Relate your studies and/or experience to this job.
- Tell me about a time when you showed initiative.
- Give me an example of a time when you dealt with pressure.
- Tell me about a time when you solved a difficult problem.
- Give me an example of your analytical skills.
- Tell me about a time when you persuaded a group to do something they were opposed to.
- Tell me about a time that you had to organize and plan for a major project.
- Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult person.
- How do you manage stress?
- Tell me about a time that you had to handle criticism.
- When have you failed?
- Do you prefer working independently or on a team?
- What is one lesson you have learned from a previous job?
- In what ways has college prepared you to take on greater responsibility?
- What personal characteristics are necessary for jobs in this field?
- What is your biggest accomplishment?
- What is the most difficult situation you have faced?
- What would you like to be doing five years from now? Do you plan to attend graduate school?
- Why do you think you would be successful in this field?
- Tell me about a book you have read recently.
- Do you make your opinions known when you disagree with the views of your supervisor? How?
- Why should I hire you?
- What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in the field?
- Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and subordinates.
Ask Your Questions
As the interview winds down, the employer will ask whether you have any questions. You can ask questions that will help you decide if this opportunity will be a good fit for you. Think back to your career goals and values and decide what information you need to make a well-informed decision should you be offered the job.
Asking good questions will also show the employer that you have thought a lot about the job and the organization.
Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask:
- While researching your organization, I have learned ______. Have you found this to be the case during your time here?
- What are three words you would use to describe the company culture?
- Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?
- Outside my department, who else will I work with?
- What makes you proud to work here and what are some things you like least?
- What challenges would I face during the first three months on the job?
Do not ask questions regarding compensation or other benefits until an offer is pending. You’ll have more context and leverage for this sort of discussion once you’ve received an offer.
As the interview concludes, the employer should tell you how the selection process will continue from this point. If they don’t, take the initiative to ask. Many employers will also request references, so have yours ready. Reaffirm your interest in the position and thank the employer for their time.
After the Interview
Send a thank you email as soon as possible. Thank your interviewers for the opportunity, maybe refer to something specific about your conversations that you liked or enjoyed, or maybe follow-up on a topic that came up in the interview that you’d like to elaborate on.
Here are some thank-you note tips:
- Keep it brief.
- Consider writing a handwritten thank-you note too. A handwritten note can make a really good impression.
- If you interviewed with multiple people, you may want to write to them all.
There is a delicate balance to be found between being proactive and being a nag. Here are some suggestions to help you find the right balance:
- One week after the next step date (or, if a next step date is not provided, after the position closing date OR one week after you were interviewed): Follow up by email. Ask about your status, and couch your question in language that expresses your interest for the position and the company. Offer to provide any additional information that might be helpful.
- Two weeks after: If you have not received a response, send another email. Always express your enthusiasm and not your frustration. Do not be demanding.
- Four weeks after: If you still haven’t heard from them, we don’t encourage you to keep reaching out. Unfortunately, employers have no obligation to inform you when or if they’ve decided not to hire you.
The staff at the career center is more than happy to talk with you about your interview experiences and help you develop your interviewing skills.
For More Practice and Information
Practice Interviews & Workshops
Sign up in Handshake for a 30- minute behavioral mock interview with a staff member. Our staff and some employers also facilitate interviewing workshops. Check the Handshake events calendar for details.
Visit Hoya Gateway to sign up and start connecting with alumni for interview preparation.
On-Demand Practice Interviews
To practice on your own, use Big Interview. Big Interview is a self-guided interview practice tool that lets you learn about interviewing, develop a strategy, practice answering questions and share your answers with others to get feedback.
Stop by our office for drop-in hours to ask about your upcoming interview or practice a question or two. No advance sign-ups required.