Interview Prep

If the thought of facing an interview fills you with anxious energy, rest assured that you’re not alone. Keep in mind that interviewing is a learned skill, not a talent you’re born with.

The purpose of the interview is two-fold. It is meant to determine if the candidate is qualified for the position or program and if the position or program is what the candidate is really interested in.

The Roles of the Candidate and the Interviewer


As the candidate, your goal is to make a strong first impression that could land you the offer. Show your attentiveness and interest, and respond well to the interviewer’s questions. Don’t forget to ask your own questions too! Thoughtful questions demonstrate that you’ve seriously considered the position/program and done your research beforehand. This way, you can gather the specific information needed to decide if this opportunity is worth considering, should you receive an offer.


The person conducting an interview is really interested in knowing what you can bring to the table for their organization or institution. They’ll be asking questions about your skills, experiences, and career goals to figure out if you’re the best fit. Just keep in mind that the interviewer is the one steering the conversation.

Interview Insights

Prior to the interview:

  • Read recruitment brochures, promotional materials, annual reports from the company/organization (job interview). Contact them directly to request these materials as well as the job or program description for which you are applying.
  • Read the job description. Become very familiar with the responsibilities of the position and the language used to describe what they are looking for. The questions they ask will revolve around those themes.
  • Use the organization’s website to learn as much as you can about them.
  • Use the Company Research resources at the Robert W. Woodruff to learn about the industry and the organization.
  • Talk with people within the organization or institution – perhaps Emory alumni (use Emory Connects)
  • Activate your account to sharpen your interviewing skills
  • Search Glassdoor to find resources and information on jobs and companies.
  • Brush up on your communication skills


Keep Your Answers Brief and Concise 

Unless asked to give more detail, limit your answers to two to three minutes per question. Your answers should provide a complete picture while demonstrating your ability to communicate both efficiently and effectively.

Prove Your Answers with Examples

Interviewees tend to talk in generalities failing to convince interviewers of their assets. Include information about specific accomplishments and give examples. When telling stories, use the STAR method: Describe the Situation/Task at hand, the Action you took, and the Result of that action.

Expect the Unexpected 

During the interview, you may be asked some unusual questions. Do not be caught off guard. Many times they simply want to see how you react. Surprise questions could range from, “Tell me a joke” to “What time period would you like to have lived in?” Don’t think too hard. Just provide an answer and explain why you chose it.

Image is Often as Important as Content

Studies have shown 65 percent of conveyed messages are nonverbal. Maintain good posture, eye contact, and simple hand gestures. Show your enthusiasm in your facial expressions and voice inflection.

Be Confident               

Confidence goes a long way in standing out amongst the competition. If you truly believe you are a good fit, then act like it!

It Starts Before You Even Say Hello

Make sure to arrive about 10-15 minutes early. And be nice to everyone, including the janitor and the secretary! You never know who’s opinion the boss wants. Give a firm handshake to your interviewer and wait to be asked to be seated.

Small Talk is to Be Expected

Many recruiters will begin the interview with some small talk. Topics may range from the weather to sports and will rarely focus on anything that brings out your skills. First impressions often are the most important so this phase of the interview can be very critical. Even though the small talk seems informal and relaxed, it has a definite purpose. Recruiters are trained to evaluate candidates on many different points. Stay away from controversial topics, such as politics and religion.

The Recruiter has the Floor

When the recruiter begins talking about your resume or asking for clarification, it is time to emphasize your positive traits. 

It is Your Turn to Ask Questions

By asking intelligent, well-thought-out questions you show the employer you are serious about the organization and need more information. It also indicates that you have done your homework. Focus on questions regarding company culture and vision. Interviewers love being asked about their experience too.

The Closing Counts

It is important to remain enthusiastic and courteous. Reiterate your interest in the position and ask what the next steps in the hiring process are. Then shake the recruiter’s hand and thank him or her for considering you. Follow up with a thank you note within 48 hours (see the CPD Thank You Note guide for more information).

In Summary

In evaluating candidates, interviewers are mostly concerned with:

  • Are you capable of doing the job well?
  • Are you passionate about the line of work?
  • And most importantly, are you a good fit for the organization?


A staple of the job application process, the traditional in-person, one-on-one interview is your opportunity to shine and to show a prospective employer why they should hire you. This is the most common and easiest to navigate. Just follow basic interview protocol.

Group or Panel Interview

A group or panel interview may be the most challenging type of interview. This type involves being interviewed by multiple people simultaneously. Remember to look them all in the eye, remember their names, and send thank you notes to each of them.

Phone Interview

Phone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. They are also used as way to minimize the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates. It is important to smile and show your enthusiasm since they cannot read your body language. Have your notes in front of you too!

Video Interview

Similar to a phone interview, video interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews, however can be useful at many stages of the hiring process. They are also used as way to minimize the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates.

Visit our Interview Attire page for a quick look at professional dress and business casual examples.

During an interview, you have limited time to make a first impression. Your appearance and dress can reflect how you present yourself as an employee. Follow these guidelines when selecting what to wear for interviews, and networking opportunities with alumni or prospective employers.

When in doubt, go with formal rather than informal attire. Your appearance should communicate that you are ready for a professional position. gives you on-demand access to interview practice to refine your in-person and virtual interviewing skills. Activate your interview account today!

Do you need a quiet space for an upcoming interview? We have interview rooms available for you to practice or conduct your next interview. To reserve an interview room, please complete the form below. If we have a room available for the day and time you requested, you will receive a confirmation calendar invite for the room.

Request an Interview Space