Interviewing and Networking

Behavioral Interviewing 

Behavioral interview questions are the most popular among recruiters. The purpose of behavioral questions is to identify how a potential new employee would act in future situations. The premise of behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.

Behavioral questions elicit specific, detailed responses. Tell the interviewer about a particular situation rather than providing a general response. Keep your answer succinct and focused, while providing enough relevant detail. Preparation and practice is essential. The following typical behavioral questions can help you practice.

The STAR Technique 

To effectively and completely answer behavioral interviewing questions, use the STAR technique.

S – Describe the Situation
T – Describe the Task presented
A – Describe the Action you took (not the action the group took if describing a group interaction)
R – Describe the Result of your action (if negative, what did you learn from this experience?)

Typical Behavioral Interviewing Questions: 

  1. Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or fellow student on a project. How did you handle the situation? What were the outcomes?
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to persuade someone to see your point of view. What tactics did you use? What were the outcomes? What did you learn?
  3. Tell me about a time when you had a list of things to do and your supervisor/instructor came to you and said “I need this project/assignment completed by 5 o’clock”. How did you handle the situation?
  4. Tell me about a time you were involved in a project with a group.
  5. Give me an example of a time when you had to supervise someone.
  6. Tell me about how you keep yourself organized so to meet deadlines or goals.
  7. Give me an example of a time where you failed to meet a goal. What did you fail to do? What were the consequences? What was the outcome?
  8. Give me an example of a time when you used creativity to complete a project, work with someone else, or develop a new idea.
  9. Describe a time when you were a team leader. Who did the team consist of, and what did you do to help your team be successful?
  10. Describe a time when you were assigned a task but were provided little direction for how to complete the task. What steps did you take to complete the task? What was the outcome?
  11. Describe a time when a co-worker or student approached you and criticized your work. How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  12. Provide me with an example of a time when you had to motivate others. What were the outcomes?
  13. Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision that affected those with whom you worked. What was the outcome?

Informational Interviewing

What is an Informational Interview?

  • The informational interview is an opportunity to learn about a career which interests you, by meeting and talking with someone who is working professionally in that field.
  • In a question-and-answer session, you will learn first-hand about a job directly from someone who performs the tasks on a daily basis.

Arranging the Informational Interview

  • Your Career Counselor at the VCU University Career Center can help you "brainstorm".
  • Use your networking skills to create a list of prospective interviewees. Contact friends, family, current and former supervisors, professors and alumni and ask them for referrals.
  • Prioritize your list, based on areas of greatest interest to you and convenience of arrangements. Select two or three prospective subjects to contact.
  • Contact the person(s) you wish to interview. Identify yourself as a student at VCU, state that you are interested in the career they have chosen, and ask if they would mind meeting with you for 20-30 minutes to discuss their career and to answer some questions.

Preparing for the Interview

  • Consider what you want to learn during the interview, and select questions accordingly (see below).
  • Dress appropriately for the job you are investigating.
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • Bring a copy of your resume with you in case it is requested. However, don't approach the interview as if you are looking for a job — your purpose is to gather information. Only provide a resume if requested.

Evaluation and Follow-up

  • Evaluate your experience. What did you learn from it? Do you have new questions? Did the interview reinforce your interest in this career? How does this career "fit" you?
  • Keep names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your contacts for future reference.
  • Send a brief thank-you note to each person you interviewed, thanking them for their time.
  • Talk with your Career Counselor about your experience.

Suggestions for Informational Interview Questions

  • What is a typical day like for you?
  • What is the most satisfying part of your job? Least?
  • Describe your career path.
  • How happy are you with your job here?
  • Would you choose to enter this field again? If not, what other field would you choose?
  • What would you most like to change about your position?
  • What is your educational background?
  • What courses best prepared you for this position?
  • What professional organizations do you recommend?
  • Knowing what you know now about your field, what courses or training would you do differently?
  • What are the most valued skills in this field? How can I best obtain these skills?
  • What is your biggest responsibility, and how much pressure do you feel from this responsibility?
  • How do you feel your salary compares to other occupations with the same educational requirements, skills, and level of responsibility?
  • How much travel and/or geographic relocation is required in your field?
  • How difficult would it be for you to change to a similar job in another business, industry, or setting?
  • What are your future career plans? Are these typical goals for your field?
  • What is the most common entry-level position in this field?
  • What was your first job in this field? What was the progression of jobs you had in order to get to your present position?
  • What is a lesson that you have learned as a professional in this field that you wished you had known when you were a student and/or new professional?
  • Can you suggest other people I might be able to interview who have similar career interests?