Interviewing 101

Once employers have reviewed applicant resumes, they will select students for an interview. This could take many forms – an initial screen/interview could take place via phone, an asynchronous or live video platform, or in person. There are also many different styles of interviews, which will be addressed in the next sections. This is also just one step of many on the journey to landing a job.

Understanding the Hiring Cycle

A lot is happening behind the scenes to get to the interview stage. See below for a sample timeline that illustrates the steps involved in the process. Additionally, things can change at any of these stages which could influence the availability, type, and number of jobs.


Conversion Rates

It’s also important to be aware that, especially for top employers, there are FAR more applicants than there are jobs. Just because you aren’t selected to interview or aren’t asked back for a second or third round, does not mean you are not a qualified candidate. At some point in the process, it is a numbers game. In a typical hiring process, employers work backward from their hiring goals using historical offer-acceptance rates to determine approximately how many students to interview at each stage of the process.

Understanding Your Rights

As a candidate, you are protected from certain potentially discriminatory questions, however – there are many grey areas around what is and isn’t allowed. It is expressly forbidden to ask a candidate about a disability. Though laws do not clearly forbid all of these topics, those surrounding a candidate’s race, physical appearance, age, religious affiliation, citizenship, marital/parental status, gender, finances, or medical status could potentially cross into discriminatory practices and thus should not be asked in an interview, or, should be asked in a very specific way.

For example, an employer should not inquire directly about your citizenship status, but they CAN ask:

  • Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?
  • Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment visa status (e.g., H-1B, TN, etc.)?

For jobs that require security clearances, an employer could ask:

  • Do you meet the requirements to obtain a U.S. security clearance?

For further details, please see the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website outlining Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices and the section on Pre-Employment Inquiries.

Note: Please notify the Career Center of any job posting or recruiter requiring you to spend money to apply or invest your own money to begin work at a company.


Interview and Professional Attire

A career fair, information session, or an interview is where you make your first (visual) impression to the staff and managers you could potentially work with. It’s important to keep culture fit in mind, but companies are usually more impressed if you err on the formal side of the dress code. With that in mind:

  1. Understand the dress code of the company you are interviewing with.
  2. When selecting your own clothes, set your bar higher. Even if a casual work environment, you can wear a blazer and slacks or dress to show you value the opportunity and want to make a good professional impression.
  3. It is acceptable to show your own personal style (think small: accessories, top), but don’t go so far that your clothes detract from the impression YOU make. Similar to bold/bright fonts on a resume detracting from the content, you want your SKILLS and PERSONALITY to leave the mark, not just what you wear.

Think about the context of your interaction when selecting clothes. Interviews and Career Fairs will almost always require business professional dress. Even when attending a campus event hosted by an employer, put thought into your attire, and aim for smart casual or business casual. If you know the company has a very casual dress code, you can opt for business casual in place of business professional if you feel it appropriate. See below for visual guidelines.

If you need/want to borrow professional dress at no charge, visit our Campus Closet page for more information!

Basic Tips for Professional Dress

  • Do research the company’s dress code
  • Do wear a blazer or suit jacket to compliment your outfit
  • Do iron and press your clothing to make sure they are wrinkle-free
  • Do consider minimalist choices (i.e. less accessories, smaller earrings)
  • Do dress for the weather/season
  • Don’t neglect personal hygiene (comb/style your hair, wash your face)
  • Don’t wear something you’re uncomfortable in (clothes that are too small or heels that are too high)
  • Don’t wear anything revealing (no cutoff or low-cut tops; opt for knee length skirt)

See our Attire Guide or Pinterest page for further examples of professional dress.

Types of Interviews & How to Prepare

There are different types of interviews you may encounter during your job search, some more common depending on the industry you are applying to. Here are some of the most common types of interviews, and guidance on how to best prepare yourself for success.

Behavioral and Traditional Interviews

Behavioral Interviews

The thought behind behavioral interview questions is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. Employers who ask behavioral interview questions will expect specific stories that demonstrate your abilities/capabilities.

Behavioral interview questions often start with:

  • Tell me about a time…
  • Can you give me an example…

The best way to respond is to follow the STAR model:

  1. Situation – Give background information to help your listener better understand the situation
  2. Task – what were you working on? Was it a class assignment? Internship project?
  3. Action – what specific action did YOU take? Employers will closely listen to this section of your response because they believe the way you acted in the past best predicts the work they may expect from you in the future.
  4. Result/Reflection – what was the outcome? Try to focus on the positive (completed work on time, A on a project, resolved a conflict). Reflect on how you have grown from that situation.

Example questions include:

  1. Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult teammate or customer. How did you resolve it?
  2. Can you give me an example of when you were given a project without much direction? How did you successfully complete it?
  3. Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma.
  4. Give an example of when you failed at something. What did you learn from that situation?
  5. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to get a project done.
  6. Describe a situation where you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to approach things your way.

Use this STAR Story Worksheet or Interview Prep Worksheet to outline your stories.

Traditional Interviews

Traditional interview questions are the most popular interview questions. They do not require a specific way to answer the question, but it is always important to reflect on the position to which you are applying to select your best responses. For example, if you are asked about your strengths, you may choose to select one that is job-related. For weaknesses, it is recommended you do not mention a weakness that would be detrimental to the role.

Example questions include:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
    • Strategy: Intro, then go through your past, present, and future (end on goal or summary statement) You can include the below information:
      • Knowledge: Coursework and certifications
      • Skills: Technical (C ++, Java, etc.) or Transferable (teamwork, leadership, etc.)
      • Experience: Internships, volunteer, involvement
  2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    • Strategy: Have concrete, career-related goals established before the interview.
      • Think about what you would like to accomplish with the organization you are interviewing with if hired. Don’t mention plans for marriage, kids, or other very personal goals. They are asking this because they want to know your CAREER goals.
  3. Why are you interested in this position/company/field?
    • Strategy: Be specific- refer to the job description, info you found online, previous interactions with the employer, etc. Don’t just focus on what you will get out of the position; think about what you can bring to them.
  4. How would you describe your ideal job/supervisor?
    • Strategy: They are trying to figure out whether or not you would be compatible with their supervision style. If you state you enjoy constant feedback and the job description states you would work a lot independently, they would wonder if you would be capable of doing the job.

Additional Questions:

  1. What are your 3 greatest strengths and 3 greatest weaknesses?
  2. What do you know about our company/organization?
  3. Why should I hire you over any other candidate?
  4. How does this position fit into your short-term and long-term career goals?
  5. What are some of your greatest accomplishments and things you are most proud of?
  6. How would your previous supervisors and colleagues describe you?
  7. What ideas do you have for this position?
  8. How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends and news?
  9. What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
  10. Are you willing to relocate?
  11. Are you willing to travel?
  12. What motivates you?
  13. What would you like to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days?
  14. What are your salary requirements?
  15. Are there questions you wish I would have asked you or additional information you would like to provide?
  16. What questions do you have for me?


Technical and Case Interviews

Technical Interviews

Technical interviews require that you demonstrate technical skills, usually linked to coding and system design related to the specific job. Technical interviews are used by companies hiring computer science, engineering, and IT professionals.


From the College of Computing:

Case Interviews

Case interviews are most frequently used in the management consulting recruiting process and by some other large corporations. In a 30-, 40-, or 60-minute time frame you duplicate the consulting process of six to nine months, supporting your case with data and logic.

Firsthand (formerly Vault), accessible on the Career Tools page, is a platform the Career Center subscribes to specifically for its resources on the consulting industry. Use your Georgia Tech email to create an account. The rankings of consulting firms (and other sectors) can be informative; the Firtshand Guides to consulting and case interviews are also instructive.


Phone, Virtual, and In Person Interview Tips

Phone Interviews Tips

Some employers may choose to conduct a phone interview, phone screen (usually focused on verifying details, gauging interest), or other conversation via phone during your interview process.

  • Before the call, confirm your details, including the date, time, who you will be talking to, and who is calling – you or the interviewer.
  • Locate yourself in a quiet room with no distractions.
  • If you’ll be using a cell phone, be sure it’s charged and you have good reception.
  • Have your resume and paper/pen for notes in front of you.
  • Treat the call like a conversation, you don’t have to jump right into your pitch if the interviewer asks you “How are you today?”
  • Some experts recommend standing and smiling as you talk, indicating that it conveys confidence and positivity in your voice.
  • Listen carefully, and take notes during the interview. Ask for the question (or parts thereof) to be repeated if necessary.
  • Acknowledge a pause (they can’t see that you have your thinking face on!) by saying “Let me think about that for a minute…”
  • Turn off any notifications/other sounds in the room so you are not interrupted.

Virtual Interview Tips

It has become more and more common to encounter a virtual interview at some point during an interview process. These could even be asynchronous (meaning you have to record a video response to a prompt, and submit it for review).

  • Dress the part! You are still making a first impression, treat it as you would any in-person interview. (See Interview Attire below.)
  • Locate yourself in a quiet room with no distractions and ensure you choose a simple, clutter-free background or virtual background to present yourself in a professional way.
  • Test your technology in advance (aim for at least 30 minutes, to give time to troubleshoot if necessary), be sure your internet connection is strong and your username on the platform is appropriate.
  • There may be delays, despite your best efforts – be mindful of your internet connection during the call and pay attention to any delay coming or going so you don’t talk over your interviewer.
  • It’s still a good idea to have a copy of your resume and paper/pen on hand to take notes during your call. (If you prefer to take notes on your computer, acknowledge that to the interviewer in the beginning of your meeting so they know what to expect.)
  • Smile and make good eye contact with your camera! Do your best to mimic an in-person conversation during your call and don’t obviously track your eyes to pre-written notes – it is noticeable when someone is reading in a virtual interview.

In Person Interview Tips

A face-to-face interview will likely occur at SOME point during your interview process. If on campus – you may have your initial interview in person. If off-campus, it will more likely be a later/final round. It’s important to prepare yourself for all aspects of the interview day, from planning transportation to appropriate attire.

  • Know where you are going, anticipate traffic or other travel delays, and plan to arrive early to avoid any unforseen circumstances causing you to be late. Some experts suggest doing a dry run, practicing getting to the interview site ahead of time so you know where you’re going.
  • Dress your best, but be comfortable. If you are squirming or uncomfortable in your skin it will be noticeable by the interviewer. See Interview Attire below.
  • Bring a copy of your resume, paper and pen for taking notes. Ask if it’s ok for you to take notes during your interview but do not refer to them before you answer a question. It’s best to refer to notes at the end, when you are asked if you have questions or want to follow up on any previous part of the conversation.
  • Remember that an interview is just a form of conversation. The most successful candidates are those that make a personal impression on their interviewer, not just the candidates that can recite the most skills and accolades.

Put it Together

Now that you know more about the company, the type of interview you’re preparing for, it’s time to practice.

Big Interview and Mock Interviews

Of all the preparation and research that you can do for your interviews, the #1 most important thing is to PRACTICE! Don’t read notes, don’t prepare too many specific scripts – just practice articulating your experience, skills, and interests OUT LOUD as they relate to the job you are interviewing for. You can do this in the mirror, to a friend, while recording yourself on your phone, or by setting up an appointment with the Career Center.

One of the most useful tools the Career Center offers for this is called Big Interview. You can use this program to view interview prep tutorials, get guidance on industry-specific interview tips, and utilize the AI-feedback provided through a simulated mock interview. Use your GT email to start practicing today!

Once you are feeling confident with your asynchronous practice, set up an appointment to have a Mock Interview with a Career Advisor/Educator to get tailored feedback.

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