Interviews

You may have heard that the resume gets you the interview and the interview gets you the job!  What are employers trying to glean from the interview, and how can you make the most of this time? See below for Interview Preparation tips and additional information.

INTERVIEW TIPS: “THE INTERVIEW GETS YOU THE JOB”

This saying in career services is popular and, more importantly, largely true. If you have reached the interview stage, congratulations! It means your resume is working. Still, much of the hard work is just beginning as you start interview preparation.

  • Stand tall
  • Sit up straight
  • Use a firm handshake
  • Keep eye contact
  • Smile

Being on time to your interview means arriving 15 minutes early. This gives you time to relax, and also shows the employer you are serious about the position.

  1. Schedule a mock interview to have an ECRC Career Advisor evaluate your performance through practice and feedback.
  2. Avoid the use of verbal filler words when you answer questions. Words such as “um,” “ah,” “like,” “you know,” and “I think” should be avoided.
  3. Spend time reviewing your experiences, formulating responses to typical interview questions, and highlighting your unique educational and professional background.
  4. You must come prepared with several questions to ask the employer. The absence of questions demonstrates a lack of preparedness and interest.
  5. After your interview, remember to send a thank-you email within 24 hours. Use the email to reiterate your enthusiasm for the position, discuss skills you neglected to mention, and your strong fit for the position.

There are three main components to a successful response to this question:

When asked this question, your goal is to share your compelling professional story by summarizing your experiences, qualifications, and interests related to the specific position you are discussing. In other words, present yourself as a strong candidate for the job.

  1. Provide basic introductory information: Your name, degree, major, and year.
  2. Highlight 1–2 skills, experiences, and/or interests that are relevant to the job/employer.
  3. Explicitly connect your skills, experiences, and/or interests to the specific job/employer.
Example Response:

My name is Mitch Igan. I’m currently pursuing a bachelor’s in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. I have a knack for making things more efficient in the world around me and I’m driven by a desire to reduce the amount of time and steps required to complete a process. This natural strength led me to IOE where I’m learning more about process optimization.

As a supervisor in a campus café, I have been recognized for redesigning two distinct work streams, which led to a reduced wait time for guests and a more efficient closing procedure. These improvements led directly to increased customer satisfaction surveys and lower overtime costs.

In addition, I have held a number of leadership roles on campus where I have facilitated large and small groups, mentored students on effective study strategies and problem-solving skills, and supported first-year students in their transition to college.

My process improvement experience combined with my leadership skills have positioned me well for the internship at Kraft Heinz. I’m particularly interested in scaling consumer goods and would love to gain hands-on experience in a manufacturing plant. I’m excited to be here today and to learn more about the opportunity.



TYPES OF INTERVIEWS

The Behavioral Interview

The behavioral interview is a common format used by many employers. This is because the behavioral interview assesses how past behavior predicts future behavior. It is assumed that you will address a situation in the future similarly to how you dealt with it in the past. Remember, you have to give specific examples from your past.

  • Responses in behavioral interviews must be specific and detailed. Employers often indicate students are not specific enough in describing their answers. Address all aspects of the STAR formula in your response.
  • Identify a variety of examples from past experiences—the more recent, the better. Use a diverse selection of examples, including positive and negative situations.
  • Give me a specific example of when you used good judgment and logic to solve a problem.
  • Describe a situation where you used persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Tell me about a time when you needed to be resourceful to finish a project on time.
The Technical Interview

In the engineering world, the technical interview is quite common because it enables employers to assess your technical skills through a demonstration of how you solve problems, reach conclusions, and incorporate novel thinking into your approach. Some technical interviews are general, meaning you may be asked to solve math problems or brain teasers. Others may be specific based on the type of work you will be doing with the company.

  • When answering technical interview questions, make sure to think out loud.
  • Pay attention to the information that the interviewer provides to you throughout the process. In many instances, the interviewer will provide clues and direction to help you find the answer.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions in the technical interview. If you are stuck or need more information to determine the answer, ask!
  • If they provide tools like a whiteboard, use them. Show them visually how you are conceptualizing your answer.
  • Please explain the concept of polymorphism in object-oriented development.
  • Why do we need to do PCC?
  • What is Petrol Calorific Value?
The Case Interview

In a case interview, you are asked to analyze a business question or case. However, unlike most other interview formats, the case interview is an interactive process. Case interviews are most often used by consulting companies. In a case interview, the interviewer is assessing your thought process—both analytical and creative—in answering the question(s) posed. Typically, the more specific and quantitative your process is, the better!

  • Many consulting firms have interview preparation sections on their Careers webpage.
  • Connect with alumni who may be employed with the company where you are interviewing. Check the Professional Network within the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan (AAUM) or the LinkedIn Michigan Engineering Alumni – OFFICIAL GROUP find a Michigan graduate who is working where you plan to interview.
  • Because the case interview is designed to be interactive, be sure to listen carefully and ask for clarification.
  • When working through the case, make sure you let the interviewer know how you are conceptualizing the problem, what evidence you are weighing (or missing) when formulating recommendations, and the recommendations themselves.

A CLOSER LOOK AT BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

The best way to prepare for an interview is to understand what the recruiters are trying to assess in the interview process and come prepared to show evidence that you have what they need. In most cases, recruiters and hiring managers want to know three things:

  1. Can you do the job (do you have the skills and experiences they require)?
  2. Will you do the job (do you demonstrate the interest and motivation to perform the job)?
  3. Do you demonstrate values and an approach to your work that match the company’s values and work style?

Your resume provides a snapshot of your accomplishments, but it doesn’t tell the reader how you accomplished these things. Interviewers need to understand the “how” to determine whether your approach is a good match for their environment. As you consider your experiences and the achievements you will describe, make sure you provide evidence of the skills they are looking for. The most commonly required skills or competencies include problem solving, teamwork/ collaboration, communication, etc.

Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a teammate on a project

First ask yourself, what do they want to know?

They want to know that you have the skills to work through conflict collaboratively, openly, with respect for others and the process, and that ultimately you are able to complete projects successfully. Your response should provide evidence that you have done this successfully in the past.

Provide evidence that you possess the skills they are looking for. In this case, the interviewer wants to know that you can successfully navigate through conflict, while maintaining focus on the team’s goal and moving the project forward. In addition, they also want to know that you will place team goals above personal objectives. Employers recognize that getting stuck in conflict can create time delays, cause the project to stall, and detract from team morale. Evidence of behaviors that interfere with progress cause concern. As you respond to the question, recognize that the interviewer is listening for evidence of your ability to work through conflict collaboratively.

  • Invites, listens to, and seeks to understand another’s point of view
  • Conveys one’s own perspective in a respectful manner
  • Facilitates an open discussion and analysis of possible solutions
  • Collaborates effectively to achieve the project goals

A weak answer suggests the candidate may lack awareness or the necessary skills to navigate conflict

  • Maintains a singular focus on his/her individual solution
  • Demonstrates a lack of respect for team member(s) and/or their ideas
  • Lacks awareness of his/her role and accountability in addressing the conflict
  • Expects a manager/leader to solve the problem for them

Utilize the STAR FORMULA to provide a brief, complete summary of the experience you have chosen to share.

SITUATION

  • Clearly define the context (when did this situation occur? Which class, team, internship, etc.?)

TASK

  • Explain the specific task you were asked to accomplish or the specific goal of your project

ACTION

  • Describe the steps you took to address the problem or task. Use “I” statements to explain the specific role you played in solving the problem or overcoming the conflict. In other words, answer “What did you do?” Demonstrates logical and/or technically sound approach to solve the problem.

RESULT

  • Don’t forget to tell them how the story ends. How did things turn out? Did you achieve the desired outcome? Make sure to reflect on undesirable results and clarify any lessons learned.
This image shows a star and explains the STAR Formula where each letter in the word STAR stands for a portion of your response. S stands for Situation. T stands for Task. A stands for Action. R stands for Result. 
When responding to questions, your Situation & Task explains what happened. Your Action explains what you did. Your Result explains the outcome.
Situation

Last semester in my Intro to Java class, we had a partner project that would serve as our final exam. The assignment was open-ended. Basically, we had to take what we learned in class and create something cool. The basic requirement was to incorporate networking (two computers talking) and a database (place to store data). We had four weeks to complete the project before a final presentation to our peers and professor.

Task

We decided to design a multiplayer fantasy football game simulator. Players would determine the plays and interact with opponents remotely. The code was very complex and there were a lot of features we wanted to include. Midway through, we realized we were running out of time and had to prioritize our features. My partner wanted to focus on the graphic elements to make the game visually appealing for the peer evaluation. I wanted to incorporate more complex coding to get a higher evaluation from the professor.

Action

After losing some time debating our positions, I suggested that we go through each feature one by one, and assign a point value to estimate its impact on our final grade, and then devote time to the features with the greatest impact, working through as many as we could until time ran out. My partner agreed. We assumed that the more visually appealing features were likely to have higher value. So we focused first on the team logos and player pictures. Then we incorporated more advanced coding to give players more play options. Ultimately, we were both satisfied with our end product.

Result

We presented a 10-minute demonstration to our class. The final game included a player information window with multiple images (photo, logo, etc.) and gave players more play types. The game was evaluated by our professor and approximately 100 students. We received high marks for both the visual appeal and the coding complexity, earning an A on the project.


Interest in the Company/Position
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What can you offer us that other students can’t?
  • What do you know about our company?
Challenges
  • Tell me about a time you were faced with failure, and how you handled that situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t achieve your objective.
  • Tell about a time when you made a mistake, and how you handled it.
  • What were your main challenges in your last position (internship/co-op/full-time)?
Goal Setting & Achievement
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • What is your overall career objective? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Tell me about a time when you surpassed all expectations by going “above and beyond.”
Time Management
  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with multiple priorities. How did you manage that situation?
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
Leadership Roles and Group Work
  • Describe a time when you had conflict with another person. What did you do in this situation? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a group project that you were a part of. What steps did you take to achieve your group’s goals?
  • Tell me about a time you took a leadership role. Share an example of how you were able to motivate co-workers/team members.
  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
Technical Knowledge
  • Describe a class project or work assignment that challenged your skills as an engineer. What did you do in this situation?
  • What activities have you participated in to improve your technical competence and awareness over the last year?
  • Describe a time when you confronted a problem that really tested your engineering knowledge.
  • Describe a time when you used your engineering knowledge to solve a problem for which there appeared to be no answer.
Detail Oriented
  • What checks and balances do you use to make sure that you don’t make mistakes?
  • Can you describe something you worked on that involved a lot of detail, and how you handled it?

HOW TO PREPARE FOR VIDEO INTERVIEWS

Before the interview, take time to thoroughly test the technology you will be using to avoid any unforeseen issues. If the interview will be conducted over videoconferencing software, try out the software in advance if possible. Bring power cords for your devices. Test wi-fi and cell service beforehand. Make sure you have the interviewer’s phone number, just in case you lose your connection. Silence your phone and make sure no alarms are set (noises = distractions).

Check that there is proper lighting. Ensure the background is clean and appropriate. For example, no unmade beds, messy counters, or roommates walking around in the background. Try not to have a window behind you as it can create a harsh backlight on the screen. Check that you are not too close to the camera. Both your face and shoulders should be in the frame.

Dress professionally, as though it were a face-to-face interview. While this is especially important for a video interview, it is recommended to dress professionally for a phone interview, too, as dressing professionally can subtly influence how one presents oneself.

Have a copy of your resume on hand to reference key examples. In a phone interview, answer your phone professionally: “Hello, this is Betty Beyster.” In a video interview, try to look into the camera and not at the screen when talking. This can be challenging, so practice ahead of time. At the beginning, it is okay to ask if they can hear you clearly or if you should speak up. Speak clearly, concisely, and not too quickly—it is easy to rush speech when nervous. It is fine if you need a moment to think before answering a question. Don’t rush to fill silence and remember that the interviewer might be taking notes and may not be speaking during that time. For longer pauses, let the interviewer know that you need a moment to think.


QUESTIONS TO ASK EMPLOYERS

It is expected that you will ask questions throughout the interview process, especially at the end of an interview. Asking questions of the employer demonstrates that you are engaged in the interview process, and it can also help you to get a sense of whether or not the organization and role are a good fit for you. Below you will find several categories of questions you may wish to consider asking during the interview process, along with sample questions to help get you started.

Clarifying Questions

These are questions that are focused on addressing questions you have about the organization or the role for which you are applying.

  • Can you provide additional details regarding the day-to-day responsibilities of this position?
  • What type of work could I expect to do within my first year?
  • What is the organizational structure of your company?
Research-Based Questions

While preparing for the interview, it is likely that you will come across interesting information about the company (e.g. mergers/acquisitions, new initiatives, or changes in their market). Asking research-based questions can demonstrate your sincere interest in the position.

  • While preparing for this interview, I read (insert researched content). Can you tell me more about how that is impacting your daily work?
  • I noticed that (insert company) has a goal of accomplishing (insert goal) by 2025. In your view, how is the organization progressing toward accomplishing that goal?
Conversation-Based Questions

Throughout the process, interviewers may provide information regarding their experiences at the organization. Asking questions based on your conversation can be a good way to gain valuable insight that will help you to assess your fit within the organization.

  • Earlier, you mentioned (insert topic the interviewer mentioned). Can you tell me more about that?
  • You mentioned the variety of roles you have had at the organization. How did the organization support your professional development?
  • You each made several references to the collaborative nature of your work. Can you share more about how you balance individual autonomy with the team aspect?
Procedural Questions

Upon completion of the interview, most interviewers will tell you more about the next steps in the hiring process. If they do not provide this information, it is appropriate for you to ask procedural questions at the end of the interview.

  • What are the next steps in your hiring process?
  • What is your anticipated timeline for the rest of the selection and hiring process?
  • Is there any additional information you need from me moving forward?

ASSESSING COMPANY CULTURE – FIND A GOOD FIT

A savvy job seeker understands that the job search is a two-way street. It’s important to sell yourself to the employer and make sure it’s the right job and place for you. How do you do that? By gathering and assessing information about the job and the company culture, and determining whether it matches your needs.


PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES

Interviewers can sometimes ask questions of job candidates that are not legal. Any question an interviewer asks should relate to your skills, experience and eligibility to perform the job for which you’re interviewing. The categories listed below represent protected characteristics under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Questions related to these characteristics may only be asked to determine your ability and/or eligibility to perform the job. Illegal questions have no bearing on your ability to do so.


Generative AI tools can be helpful when preparing for an interview. The ECRC’s Generative AI Guide shares best practices for utilizing Generative AI, as well as sample prompts. It is crucial to review any results provided by Generative AI for accuracy and appropriateness.


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