Preparing for Interviews

Preparing for interviews is similar to studying for an exam. You must review and prepare! Assess your current knowledge, study the employer and anticipate difficult questions. The following are things you should do to prepare for a successful interview.

Step 1: Analyze the Position

  • Review the job description
  • Highlight the duties and qualifications of the position
  • For short or vague job descriptions, review occupational information and/or conduct informational interviews on the position.
  • Visit O*NET or Glassdoor for occupational information and utilize LinkedIn for informational interviews.
  • Do not get discouraged if you do not meet all qualifications, employers with lengthy qualifications rarely find applicants strong in all areas.

Step 2: Know the Employer

  • Learn about the employer’s mission, services and/or products, organizational structure, training program, and future prospects
  • Know the employer’s competitors
  • Obtain research from the following sources:
    • Employers website
    • Article searches (check out Google news)
    • Annual Reports (visit Gleeson library for databases)
    • Attend company info sessions (See Handshake under events tab) or off-campus professional events (See and
  • Network with USF alumni working at the company (find alumni via LinkedIn alumni tool)
  • Think about 2 or 3 reasons why you want to work for this employer

Step 3: Review Your Qualifications

  • Know your experience: work, internships, volunteer, class projects, coursework, student activities, interests & hobbies. Identify the skills and areas of knowledge developed in these areas and be prepared to say how this experience prepared you to contribute to an organization.
  • What are 2 or 3 soft skills you have to offer (i.e., organization, leadership, communication)?
  • What are 2 or 3 hard skills you have to offer (i.e., computer and languages)?
  • What are 2 or 3 adaptive skills you have that will increase your value as an employee (i.e., dependability, flexibility, creativity, sense of humor)?

Step 4: Prepare Questions

Ask employers questions to demonstrate your interest in working for their organization and help you become more informed about whether or not to accept an offer. Typically, the employer will ask you if you have questions at the end of the interview. As a general rule, questions about salary and benefits are best left until a job offer has been extended. Be sure your questions are not answered in the job description or company literature.

Possible questions to ask:

  • When and how are employees evaluated?
  • What are the best aspects of working in this group/organization?
  • If you could change anything about your department/organization what would it be?
  • What’s the biggest challenge facing this group/organization right now?
  • How would you compare your organization with your major competitors?
  • What are your plans in terms of product lines, services, new branches, etc.?
  • How would you describe this organization’s management style? How are decisions made?
  • What are some typical first-year assignments? What is the career path for my position? How does this position fit into the overall organizational structure?
  • What kind of training is given to new employees?
  • Do you have any concerns about my background that I can answer now?
  • What are four questions you would ask in an interview?

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Practice your responses to interview questions to feel more at ease and confident.
  • See Sample Interview Questions for practice questions. 
  • Schedule a mock interview with a Career Counselor via Handshake or by calling (415) 422-6216.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you practice and give you feedback.

General Interview Advice

  • Dress appropriately for the organization you are interviewing with. If you are not sure, ask the employer.
  • Arrive early (5 to 10 minutes).
  • Offer a firm handshake at the beginning and the end of the interview.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the interview (it is natural to look away briefly while you are speaking).
  • Do remember to smile and be friendly. Employers appreciate enthusiasm.
  • Sit comfortably (back straight, leaning slightly forward), don’t fidget with your hands or swivel in your chair.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Carry a briefcase or portfolio if you like. Do not bring a backpack to the interview.
  • Turn your cell phone off before you enter the interview.

When Answering Questions Remember These Tips

  • Allow yourself time to think before you answer questions. It is appropriate to ask the interviewer to repeat a question that is unclear.
  • Be specific and give examples when answering questions. This adds credibility to statements you make about your qualifications. It is better to make a few strong points than many brief, unrelated points.
  • Do not diminish your past experiences; don’t say, “I was just a front desk assistant.”
  • Try to avoid filler words such as “uh”, “like”, “um,” and “you know.”