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Preparing for an Interview

What is an interview?

A good interview is like a good conversation, with a purpose. Two people exchange information, ask and  answer questions, and, in the process, form opinions about each other, and about whether a relationship is likely to develop.

How should I prepare for an interview?

  • Research. Find out everything you can about the organization, so that you will know
    • If you want to work there
    • How to impress the interviewer
      • Use what you know to ask intelligent questions, e.g., “I know that 40% of your agency’s workforce is scheduled for retirement within the next three years. How will you manage the loss of expertise?”
  • Practice. Contact Office of Career Services to arrange a mock interview.
  • Appearance. Do not make your appearance an issue. You want to be remembered for your keen analytical mind and good preparation, not for your short skirt or day’s growth of beard. Dress conservatively: a suit, dress shirt and tie for men; a suit or professional dress for women. Shine your shoes. Wear little jewelry. Be neat and clean.
  • Prepare answers to typical questions. Working through your answers to often-asked questions in advance will increase your confidence and help you make a more positive impression. These questions are often asked:
    •  Why are you interested in working for this organization?
    • What do you know about this organization?
    • Why should we hire you?
    • Tell me something about yourself.
    •  Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your résumé.
    • Are your grades a good indicator of your abilities?
    • Ask questions. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t get an offer. Use the research you know about the organization to create good questions; e.g., “I understand that you recently opened an office in Beijing. What led to that decision?”

Do not ask about salary, benefits, or vacation time, unless they bring it up first.

For more examples, please contact the Office of Career Services or see our Guide to Common Interview Questions (PDF).

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management created Structured Interviews: A Practical Guide. While this guide is meant to help interviewers prepare a structured interview, it also provides tips on common interview mistakes.