Interviews are your chance to show recruiters what you’ll bring to the position.
It’s when prove you have the skill set they’re looking for and that you’ll be a good fit for the company. There are a variety of ways companies interview for positions, and you may actually experience a number of these for only one job.
Not sure what to expect in an interview? That’s ok. We’re here to make it easier. The best way to prepare is to participate in our mock interviews. These are held either in-person or via Handshake @ Illinois and will help you get comfortable in those situations.
General Interview Preparation Tips
- Know your skill set and prepare for specific questions. Don’t embellish, but play up your strengths. Write down your greatest accomplishments and struggles.
- Research the employer. Know what they do and why. Have a good understanding what the position entails. Study their website and review industry trends.
- Dress professionally, ideally in a suit.
- Bring copies of your résumé in a professional portfolio or binder with the questions you plan on asking.
- Be at your best during the entire experience. Anyone could have clout when it comes to hiring. Shake hands, smile, listen, answer each question you are asked while finding ways to consistently showcase your skills.
- Find out next steps in the hiring process, ask for their business cards, and e-mail a thank you letter within 24 hours.
You’ll be asked broad-based questions to determine what your skills are and if you fit into the organization. Sample questions include:
- Why did you choose Illinois / your major?
- What is your favorite class and why?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What has been your greatest challenge / accomplishment?
- Why are you interested in working for us?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Behavioral interviews look at past behavior to find indicators of how you will perform on the job. You will be asked to describe past behavior in a situation, the action you took, and the end result. This is referred to as a complete STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result).
Review the job description for desired qualifications (leadership, communication, initiative, etc.) and for each think of a complete STAR from your background that demonstrates your competence in that behavior. Incomplete STARs include answering with a vague statement with no specific actions taken, often with the noun ‘we’ instead of ‘I’; answering with opinions instead of facts; and making theoretical statements on what you would have done.
- Describe a time when you had to adjust quickly to a change in team priorities.
- When did active listening pay off for you?
- Identify a time when you handled an unreasonable request. What did you do?
- What is your greatest achievement, and what steps did you take to earn it?
- Describe how you improved productivity of an organization?
- Describe a recent decision you made that backfired.
- What has been the most difficult troubleshooting challenge you’ve experienced?
- Describe a leadership role you’ve held.
- When have you been criticized? What was your response?
This type of interview is popular with consulting firms and is designed to test your ability to think analytically and professionally, handle ambiguity, and measure your confidence and problem-solving skills. These can include brain teasers, engineering problems, and real-life situations. Feel free to ask your recruiter what type of case interview to expect.
- Utilize big picture thinking to focus on key issues in solving the problem.
- Think out loud. Provide logic and reasoning for your decisions and share your assumptions.
- Stay focused. You can ask for clarification to ensure you’re answering the question asked.
- Practice these scenarios with ECS in mock interviews.
Software engineering interviews have a very specific format focused on whiteboard coding and algorithm design, any many students struggle if they haven’t practiced that specific format. Work on practice problems and focus on how to arrive at the answers, not just what the answers were.
- Practice problems are available online at sites such as Interview Cake provide weekly practice problems and tips to successfully navigating coding problems.
- Think out loud. Provide rationale why your thought could work well and try to answer the question, even if you don’t know the answer.
Employers typically ask questions designed to narrow the field of potential applicants—and so must be guided by the applicable federal and state laws that limit the types of questions that can be posed during the interview process. Employers can ask a variety of questions, even bizarre ones, but you should also be mindful of potentially illegal questions.
Please review the questions in the chart below so that you can be aware of what is an appropriate or inappropriate question for recruiters to ask you. If you are asked an illegal question you can handle this by replying that you would prefer to stick to questions that are related to work. You could also say that this question makes you feel uncomfortable and that you prefer not to answer.
ECS is here to help you navigate through your job search process and we want to be an advocate for you. If you are involved in an interview where illegal questions are asked, please come talk to an ECS advisor and share your experience. Click on the below image to see sample questions that are illegal and legal.
Source: George C. Hlavac, Esq., and Edward J. Easterly, Esq. (2014) Legal Issues: Navigating the Interview Process and Avoiding a Legal Landmine. NACE, Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/j022014/interview-questions-employment-legal.aspx?terms=legal%20interview
Interviewing on Campus
Interviews are held in the College’s 39-room Interview Suite located on the 3rd floor of the Digital Computer Laboratory (DCL). Interviewees must check-in at the computers in Suite 3300 DCL, by swiping their I-Card. Suite 3300 is located at the top of the main stairs, down the hall from the ECS Main Office. After check-in, please take a seat in the waiting area where you will wait to be called by the recruiter.
Telephone & Video Interviews
As part of the initial screening process, companies regularly hold telephone or video interviews. Interview rooms in DCL may be reserved so that you have a quiet place to conduct these types of interviews, uninterrupted. Prepare for and conduct the interview as you would an in-person interview, including dressing professionally and providing detailed answers and examples to the interview questions. Request an interview room here!
Company On-Site Visits
When you are called back for a second interview, it is often on-site. They allow for you to see the facility, meet multiple members of the team, and provide a better feel for how you will interact and work with the company. Possible formats include:
- A series of one-on-one interviews with multiple staff
- Panel interviews with managers and supervisors
- Group interviews with multiple candidates at a time
- Tours of the facilities and meetings with potential co-workers
- Meals with employees, Receptions, Social outings
- Aptitude testing and group activities
Remember, anyone you meet may be evaluating you. Answer your questions consistently and enthusiastically and always be aware that you are selling yourself and your qualifications.
If an offer is to be extended, many times it will happen at or after the site visit. Be careful how you answer as a verbal acceptance is commitment. Ask when they need to receive your response and remember to send thank-you notes to everyone you met.
Canceling an Interview
If you need to cancel an interview, you must do so within the guidelines of the Handshake @ Illinois registration agreement which you agreed to when you established your Handshake @ Illinois account. This policy states that you will cancel at least four days in advance by contacting ECS directly or by removing your name from the interview schedule on the online job board. In an emergency situation, you must notify ECS as soon as possible so that we can assist you in both notifying the employer and attempting to reschedule the interview. Note that documentation will be required for emergency situations, including illness. Missing a scheduled interview without canceling or providing ECS notification or appropriate documentation will result in your Handshake @ Illinois account being deactivated.