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Interviewing

There are many different types of interviews, from the traditional format in which the interviewer asks questions and you answer them to group or panel interviews with many interviewers or candidates.

In addition to asking questions about your background and qualifications, interviewers may also ask theoretical questions about situations in the workplace (e.g., "What would you do if…") or may ask you to perform specific technical tasks. If you have a lot of work experience, and especially if you are changing careers, interviewers may ask about the progression of your career and how you ended up in different roles. First-round job interviews may be conducted by phone or Skype; second-round or later interviews are usually conducted in person.

During the course of the interview, the interviewer will assess your level of preparation, personality (based on perceived level of confidence, poise, and friendliness), communication skills, level of experience, and career goals to see how well you might fit in with the culture of the company or organization. At the same time, you should assess the interviewer as a representative of the company or organization and decide whether or not you think it would be a good fit for you.

What to Wear

Your interviewer will form an impression of you within a few seconds of meeting you, based in part on your appearance.  Here are some business professional attire suggestions for your interview.

Men

  • Conservative business suit in a dark color like navy blue, gray, black, or dark brown
  • White or light-colored long-sleeve shirt, with an undershirt if shirt material is thin
  • Properly knotted tie in a small pattern or stripe; a bright color is okay
  • Leather or leather-look belt worn at—not below—the waist
  • Dark socks that coordinate with your suit
  • Clean, polished dress shoes in black or another dark color
  • Briefcase or messenger bag made of leather or another good-quality material, in a neutral color

Hair should be trimmed above the collar, if short. If you have long hair, wear it pulled back and out of your face. If you have facial hair, make sure it is neatly trimmed and clean. Remove visible piercings and hide tattoos, if possible. Avoid cologne or aftershave, since many people are allergic to strong scents.

For examples of business professional looks for men, check out our Professional Dress—Men board on Pinterest.

Women

  • Conservatively styled solid-color suit with either a knee-length skirt or pants
  • Coordinated blouse or shirt that isn’t tight, sheer, lacy, or low-cut
  • Neutral or light-colored hosiery
  • Clean, polished dress shoes that coordinate with your suit; avoid peep-toe styles or anything with a heel higher than 2”
  • Purse or bag made of leather or another good-quality material, in a neutral color

Hair should be neat and out of your face, regardless of its length. Keep makeup low-key and natural.

Nails should be neatly manicured. If you wear nail polish, choose a light-colored shade and make sure your polish isn't chipped.  Wear minimal jewelry and be sure what you choose isn't jangly or distracting. Remove visible piercings other than earrings and hide tattoos, if possible.  Avoid perfume, since many people are allergic to strong scents.

For examples of business professional looks for women, check out our Professional Dress—Women board on Pinterest.

Tips for Success

Before the Interview

  • Review your résumé or CV and make note of the points you want to emphasize during the interview.
  • Review basic information about the employer (size, major products or services, and competitors) on its website.
  • Follow the company on Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter to get the latest news and announcements.
  • Practice your responses to common interview questions. Be careful, though, not to over-rehearse—your answers need to sound honest and natural!
  • Prepare some good questions to ask the interviewer.
  • Make sure your interview suit is clean and pressed and your shoes are shined.  
  • Go to bed early the night before the interview.

At the Interview

  • Arrive 10–15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Have the interviewer's phone number with you so that you can call in case of an emergency.
  • Be friendly and polite to everyone you encounter, including reception staff.
  • While you are waiting for the interview, review your notes one more time. Be aware of your body language during this time—avoid sending the message that you are nervous by tapping your foot, playing with your hair, chewing gum, etc.
  • Turn your phone off or at least silence the ringer until the interview is over.
  • When the interviewer comes out to greet you, use a firm handshake, make eye contact, and smile as you introduce yourself.
  • During the interview, answer all questions truthfully and concisely, be positive, be specific, and ask questions. Sell yourself!
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what the interviewer is asking.
  • Request the interviewer’s business card before you leave.

After the Interview

  • Follow up with a thank-you note or email message to the interviewer within 24 hours. Use a professional communication style and watch your spelling and grammar.  Remind the interviewer of your qualifications for—and strong interest in—the position. If you forgot to mention any important details about yourself in the interview, the thank-you note offers a final opportunity to do so.
  • If the interviewer asked you to provide any additional information that you did not have with you during the interview, make sure you do so in a timely way afterward.
 

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032