Are You Prepared for Your Interview?

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    The Placement Exchange
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    Interview Tips

Congratulations!!! You've landed an interview. Now it's time to really sell yourself. To make sure you don't sell yourself short, just remember these three words: preparation, preparation, preparation.

You may only have 30 to 60 minutes to make an impression and get your points across during the actual interview. But you have plenty of time beforehand to get ready. There's no time like the present, so take advantage of it. The following suggestions will help make every word you say count.

Do your homework. Talk to colleagues, surf the institution's website (especially the press releases), and search the Chronicle of Higher Education website for references to the institution and its key leaders. Think about what related topics might be discussed during the interview and review potential theory and university-specific information that may relate. 

Think in threes. A good rule of thumb is to be prepared with three reasons you want the job, and three reasons they want you in the position.

Anticipate their questions. Make a list of questions you may be asked and practice your answers aloud. Some common questions include:

  • Tell me/us about yourself.
  • Describe your ideal job/boss.
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • Why are you leaving your current position?
  • When were you most satisfied in your job?
  • What can you do for us that other candidates cannot do?
  • What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
  • What motivates you? How do you motivate others?

​​Tell a story. Be prepared for behavior-based questions like: Tell me about a time when you... Give me an example of how you... To prepare your answers, consider situations where you demonstrated leadership, solved a problem, made a good/poor decision, handled change, handled criticism, met/missed a deadline, or worked as part of a team.

Know what you can't be asked. Some questions are taboo in an interview, many times because it's against the law to ask them. Go in prepared by reviewing our list of questions that can and can't be asked.

Ask questions, too. If you're not armed with your own set of questions, it may appear as though you're not very interested in the position or that you're not prepared for the interview. Many times, interviewers are more impressed by the questions you ask than the selling points you try to make. Before each interview, make a list of at least three to five questions you will ask. Always include, "How will success be measured in this position?" For additional thought starters, see our questions for interviewers.

Understand the search committee. Think of the members of the search or interview committee as stakeholders. Ask yourself: Why are they there? What is their charge? Who is the final decision-maker?


Adapted from content provided by Kate Johnson Schneider, The Spelman & Johnson Group and information available on

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