Creating a Strong First Impression

Interviewing is one of the most dynamic forms of business and professional communication. The interview gives you a chance to prove to a potential employer that you are capable, competent and qualified. Therefore, it is important that you learn as much as you can about interviewing in order to effectively market yourself during an interview.

Greeting and introduction

The first few minutes of an interview usually consist of a firm handshake, a quick and professional introduction and some small talk to develop a rapport between you and the interviewer. Make sure you smile and that your initial presentation of yourself is positive. It has been said that an employer spends the first minute of the interview developing an impression of you and you spend the rest of the interview confirming their impressions or changing those impressions.

Overviewing the position and interview

After the greeting, the employer may begin the interview by giving you an idea of how the interview will proceed. In some cases, the interviewer will briefly describe the position and/or the organization. This may last about three to five minutes.

Answering the interviewer's questions

This is the "heart" of the interview where the interviewer asks you questions. This section of the interview will typically last about 15-20 minutes. In a good interview, you will be talking about 70% of the time and the interviewer will be listening. Remember that this is your chance to elaborate on your qualifications. Refer to the Answering Questions section of this article to learn how to handle interview questions effectively.

Asking the interviewer questions

In most cases, the interviewer will turn the tables and give you an opportunity to ask questions. Always ask questions. Before the interview make a list of about 20 potential questions you would like to ask. Some of these questions may be answered during the course of the interview. However, you should still have a few good questions remaining in your list. Plan to ask three to five questions that reflect your genuine interest in the position or organization. You may also want to ask the interviewer to provide additional information about a topic discussed during the interview or refer to information you learned during your employer research. This will communicate to the interviewer that you were listening and prepared for the interview. You will have about three to five minutes to ask questions.

Closing the interview

It will take about three to five minutes to bring the interview to a close after you have asked your questions. The interviewer may outline what you can expect to happen next in the employment process and/or invite you for a second interview. Thank the interviewer for his/her time and end the interview with a friendly smile and another firm handshake.

Types of Interviews

As an interviewee, you may find yourself in several different interview situations. Here are a few examples of potential types of interviews and a few guidelines for each.

The one-on-one interview

Probably the most frequently used interview, this meeting incorporates an individual approach to the interview process.

The panel interview

In a panel interview, you will be interviewed by several individuals at one time. Interviewers may take turns asking you prepared questions. If you are being interviewed by a panel, relax, get a feel for the group dynamics, and keep communication lines open by periodically making eye contact with all panel members as you respond to questions.

The satellite or online interview

In an effort to save time and money, many employers are conducting satellite or online computer interviews. Typically, in this type of interview the interviewee is sitting in front of a camera that is attached to a computer or television and communicates with the interviewer who communicates using similar technology.

The group interview

The Group Interview is almost the complete opposite of the Panel Interview. In the Group Interview there is one interviewer and several interviewees. Basically, interviewees "compete" to see who will surface as the leader of the group. The person who answers questions professionally and diplomatically wins the competition and the right to continue in the interviewing process or to get the job. This is frequently used when an employer has many people to interview and few people to conduct the interviews.

The meal interview

Frequently utilized by business professionals, the Meal Interview will give the interviewer a sense of your ability to function in social settings. Brush up on your table manners and rules of professional etiquette, order non-messy foods, treat your server with respect, and order a moderately priced meal. Avoid drinking alcohol because even a few ounces can lessen your ability to maintain a professional demeanor.

Behavioral interviewing

This type of interview is becoming more and more popular as employers seek to determine whether or not you can actually demonstrate the skills needed for the position. In a Behavioral Interview you may be asked to give specific examples of instances when you have demonstrated a particular skill. The premise behind the Behavioral Interview is that past performance is an indicator of future performance (if you did it before, you should be able to do it again). To be successful in the behavioral interview, relax and think quickly drawing upon specific examples from your education and experiences.

The telephone interview

Employers typically use the Telephone Interview as a screening interview before deciding who to interview in person. This can be a very simple interview but the interviewee must be careful to speak clearly, listen attentively and communicate sincerely on the telephone since the interviewer does not have the ability to read body language on the telephone. Be careful to eliminate speak ticks such as "um," "and," "ok," "ya know," etc.

The follow-up interview and on-site visit

If an employer is interested in continuing the employment process with you after the first interview, you may be invited for a second interview or on-site visit. A tour of the facilities, staff introductions, and multiple interviews typically characterize this type of interview. During tours, give the tour leader your undivided attention and ask interesting questions.

Answering Questions

The way you respond to interview questions tells the interviewer whether or not you are qualified and can handle the position. Therefore, it is important to know what types of questions may be asked and what responses are appropriate. Before formulating an answer to an interview question, consider applying the following four P's to your response:

Ponder. Ask yourself why the employer has asked a question. This will help you determine what skill, trait, value or ability is being measured. Try to respond to the question by highlighting the criteria that is being evaluated.

Prove. Prove every statement you make. If you say that you have developed excellent communication skills give examples of situations where you utilized these skills. If you claim that Millikin University has provided you with an outstanding, well-rounded education, discuss the curriculum requirements.

Practice. Practice interviewing. One good way to get started is to obtain a list of sample interview questions and write your responses to these questions on paper. Edit your responses until you are comfortable with them. Call our office to schedule a mock (practice) interview with a staff member.

Project. Project a positive image even when the questioning gets negative. If you are asked to state one of your weaknesses, do so. However, explain what you are doing to eliminate that weakness and what you have learned in the process.

On-Campus Recruiting

Take advantage of the opportunity and convenience of interviewing on-campus through our On-Campus Recruiting Program. Employers screen resumes from Millikin University students and alumni, and choose candidates to interview for vacancies.

Schedules of all companies coming to Millikin each semester are available in our office reception area and are posted on our website. You may also submit your resume for interview opportunities at various campuses in Illinois via CCCI (formerly ISCPA) Interviews (go to and click on “Students”).

Interview no-show policy

We maintain a firm policy for students who miss interview appointments with on-campus recruiters. This No-Show Policy is necessary for the following reasons:

  1. The recruiter has been advised in advance of the number of students who have scheduled interviews and has planned his/her time accordingly.
  2. The failure of a student to keep an interview creates a negative impression of the student and of Millikin University.
  3. By scheduling an interview, you are reserving interview time which might have been given to another student.

Because there will be unforeseen emergencies which may cause a student to miss an appointment, each student will be allowed to cancel interviews by contacting the Center for Academic & Professional Performance 24 hours in advance by phone. You may not cancel an appointment through another student.

A student who signs up for an interview and then fails to keep the interview appointment without canceling is recorded as a "no-show." Students who fail to appear for an interview will be denied any other on-campus interviewing privileges during the current semester. Students missing interviews will prepare a letter of apology for the employer and deliver it to the CAPP to be emailed to the employer.

Mock Interviews

Let us help you develop and refine your interviewing skills. Mock interviews are a great way to prepare for this critical aspect of your job search. Call the office or stop by University Commons 312 to schedule your one-hour mock interview with a professional staff member.