Are You Prepared to Interview?

You've submitted your resume and are waiting to hear back. Will you be ready and rehearsed for the interview or do you plan to just wing it?! The information on this page will help you to prepare for your interviews.​


Two people sitting across from each other at a small table wearing business attire and chatting.

Step 1: Research

Why is the first step researching? You probably already know a little bit about the organization from getting your application materials, but we want you to be ready to answer questions about the organization: ​

  • ​Why do you want to work for our organization?  ​
  • Why do you think you are a good fit for this organization?  ​

​These questions are not only imperative for you to answer in the interview, but they are also good for you to reflect on and confirm if the organization is a good fit.​

Research the organization and the role using these resources

Read the job description thoroughly to understand the responsibilities and requirements of the position. Be prepared to discuss how your skills and experience align with the role.​

  • What products/services does the employer provide?​
  • How many employees work for the company?​
  • What is the company’s mission and vision?​
  • Check out the company’s annual report if they have one posted.​
  • Where is the company located? Is there more than one location? 

Search for press releases and other information about the company in the news.

Check out the organization on LinkedIn: are they posting about current projects, teambuilding, or work they are doing in the community? 

Connect with someone who currently or has previously worked at the company. Use your network of friends, family, Western faculty/staff, and alumni. There is no better way to learn about a company than talking to current and previous employees!

Have one place where you can keep all the information you gather! 

person sitting at a table near a window looking at their tablet.

Research the interviewing process

You can ask the recruiter, or your contact who invited you to the interview, what you can expect. 

  • How many rounds of interviews are there?  ​
  • Will the interview(s) be online or in-person?  ​
  • How long will the interview(s) be?  ​
  • Who will you be interviewing with?  ​
  • Is the interview behavioral, resume-based, case-based and/or technical?  ​
  • Will you be required to prepare and deliver a presentation? ​
  • What is the projected hiring timeline? 

Step 2: Prepare

General Preparation Tips

  1. Identify your skills, talents, knowledge​
  2. Describe an experience to illustrate or reinforce the above​
  3. Connect each experience to the position/organization​

Another way to answer questions is to use the SAR approach. To provide sufficient information, briefly describe the Situation, the Action you took, and the Result. You can find more information on the SAR technique in the Behavioral Interview section. 

Not asking the interviewer questions can break your interview and asking great ones can set you apart from the other candidates. You can use well thought out questions to: ​

  • Demonstrate interest in the position, organization and team​
  • Gather information about the job, organization, and what to expect from the role​
  • Show your preparation ​
  • Evaluate culture fit​
  • Clarify expectations​
  • Highlight your qualifications​
  • Engage in conversation​
  • Address concerns

There are some questions that are illegal for employers to ask at the interview stage of a hiring process. Questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, citizenship, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or legal record. It is important to know how to identify and respond appropriately to these questions. ​

The following interview questions are most likely illegal in every state (in some cases, whether an interview question is illegal or not can depend on the size of the employer and other factors):​

  • ​Do you have a disability?​
  • How old are you? ​
  • What is your native language?​
  • What is your ancestry, national origin, or birthplace?​
  • What is your sexual orientation?​
  • Are you married?​
  • Do you have any children and/or are you planning on having more?​
  • Have you ever been arrested?

If you are comfortable disclosing, you can choose to answer these questions. It is not illegal if you do. If you are not wanting to disclose this information you can choose to address the concern behind the question or can respond by sharing “Providing this information is not relevant to the position”. ​

Examples of addressing the concerns behind the questions: ​

  • What is your national origin or place of birth? “I am authorized to work in the US.”​
  • Do you have any disabilities? “I have no issues that would keep me from effectively carrying out this job.”

Don’t have anything to wear? We’ve got you covered! Visit the WWU Career Closet to find free professional clothing, shoes and accessories that you can use for interviews—and keep!​

Whether in-person or online, you’ll want to arrive early or log-on 5-10 minutes before the interview! Learn more about virtual interviews.

Preparation Tips Based on Interview Type & Format​

Behavioral interviewing is one of the most common techniques used by employers.  All large (and a lot of not so large) organizations in our region will use behavioral interviewing questions in your interview (Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon, Expedia, City of Bellingham, and Enterprise Holdings to name a few)​

​The basic premise of this type of questioning is that "past behavior predicts future success."  Interviewers will ask you to detail specific moments in which you demonstrated a particular skill or competency that they have deemed critical for success within their organization. ​

For example: “Tell me about a time when you managed multiple projects. How did you keep yourself organized an on-schedule to meet your deadlines?”​

Using the SAR (Situation – Action – Result) technique, you will be able to develop well thought out, specific, results-oriented examples.  Practice is truly the key here.  Thinking of examples of when you demonstrated the behavior beforehand is critical. With practice and preparation, the behavioral interview should be your best opportunity to shine.  And don't forget to smile and have some fun with it!

Typically used within the consulting or banking fields, the case interview is becoming more popular in a wide variety of organizations. The case interview involves you being presented with a business problem that mimics what you might encounter in a real-life work situation or in many cases, a brain teaser or game of logic.  They ask case questions to determine self-confidence, discover the interviewee's personality and to see if problem solving is something you enjoy.​

​Case Interview Tips:​

  1. Work Slowly But Surely:  Don't respond with the first thing that comes to your mind.  Wait, consider the questions, take and refer to your note, and feel free to ask questions if something needs clarification.  ​
  2. Answer the Question That Was Asked:  It may be helpful to summarize the question or verify with the interviewer the crux of the question asked before even beginning.  From there, formulate your strategy and framework.  ​
  3. Demonstrate a Logical Thought Process:  This is one of the few times in life where it is okay to give the wrong answer.  In many cases, the interviewer may not even know the "right" answer. Instead, it is critical that your response appear logical, thoughtful, and articulate.  Always summarize your findings and recommendations so that your reply contains a clear beginning, middle, and ending. ​
  4. Don't Forget to Communicate the Details:  Do your best not to go off on tangents. Take cues from your interviewer, but often providing the details of your solution provides a confidence in your response.  Also, when possible, try to use numbers in your answer.​
  5. Relax and Have Fun With It:  Remember, the business problem you are given will often mimic a real-life work situation.  If you aren't enjoying the case interview, one might think you won't enjoy the job. Don't forget to smile :)

Resume-based interviews are geared toward determining one's communication skills, attitude, competence and "fit" within the company, as well as one's skills and abilities. It focuses largely on the candidate’s experience and educational history. ​

​Resume Interview Tips:​

  • Know your Resume: Be sure you can confidently speak to every point on your resume.  Students often cite various achievements or volunteer work on their resume but, when pressed, cannot expand upon these experiences.  Have a short anecdote or explanation for every bullet point and never, ever, list something on your resume that you cannot effectively expand upon. ​
  • Practice: Many of the questions you will be asked will seem very conversational in nature.  Be ready for such ambiguous statements as, "Tell me about yourself" (this is an important question to practice - and one that you can count on being asked in most interviews.) Think about how you want to approach such conversational questions.  Test yourself.  Are your responses a bit long or too short? Do you go off on tangents?​
  • Ask Questions: Be thorough researching the company in advance and listening well during the interview itself, you should be able to ask some thoughtful, intelligent questions. Don't wait until the end of the interview.  Feel free to raise points or ask questions throughout, as appropriate.  A good resume-based interview should feel like a dialogue between you and the interviewer. ​

Technical interviews involve testing the applicant on systems knowledge or processes necessary to be successful in the position.  Although most popular in the IT field, technical questions can also come up in a variety of other fields as well.  Oftentimes, you will find that the technical interview will be employed in conjunction with a resume-based interview or behavioral interview. ​

Be prepared to answer questions about how to build a particular application or tackle a specific problem.  If you don't know the answer - say it. It is not unusual for an interviewer to ask a difficult question that no student could reasonably answer.  Simply respond that you do not know but list the various avenues you might pursue to figure it out.  Note that even if you don’t know the answer, showing your work, or showing your thinking and problem-solving ability is also valued.​

To apply to on-campus interviews go to Handshake. Select the “Jobs & Interviews” tab. Then, under the “Show Me” filter select “All Interviews” or “Interviews I Qualify For.”​

Pre-select Interviews:

  • Employers "select" interviewees based on their review of application materials candidates submit ahead -- usually two weeks prior to a scheduled interview date. Public accounting firms usually prefer this format, but other employers choose this option as well. ​
  • Employers may request a variety of materials for review, including a resume, cover letter, unofficial transcript, application, etc. Some employers require all these items; others only want a resume. ​
  • It will save you time and money to request one copy of your transcript from the Registrar's Office, upload it to your Handshake account and make yourself several good copies to have ready. ​
  • Bring hard copies of your resume on good bond paper and copies of all other application materials at the time of your interview.

Career Fair Interviews:

  • Many employers choose to conduct on-campus interviews the day after career fairs. ​
  • These employers may ask you to apply to their company website or email a resume if you had not already applied to their job posting on Handshake. ​
  • They may even ask you about your availability for an interview the next day. ​
  • Be prepared! Know which employers are conducting on-campus interviews and ask them for an interview if you are interested in learning more or would like to be considered for a position with their organization

Step 3: Practice

Prepare in advance with a practice interview! The Career Services Center can help you present the best version of yourself by conducting a practice interview with you.​

​The practice interview is designed to increase students’ understanding and confidence in preparing for the real interview. The interview environment is simulated by a member of our team asking the student a set of questions (usually lasting 20-30 minutes) followed by a period of feedback and an opportunity for the interviewee to ask questions, which consumes the remainder of the appointment.​

Two people sitting at a table, face to face, talking.


Want to practice on your own first and/or get feedback from your network? Try LinkedIn’s Interview Prep Tool on the LinkedIn Jobs tab. Watch this brief video to learn how to use this powerful tool!​

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